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Lean Manufacturing and Environment

The Lean and Chemicals Toolkit

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A Vision for Lean and Chemicals Efforts

Lean is all about meeting customers’ needs. In that sense, eliminating chemical wastes is a natural fit with Lean principles. As organizations evolve their operations using Lean, it can be useful to articulate a guiding vision for how chemicals fit into the following equation: make and deliver high-quality products and services that customers want, when they want them.

In their well-regarded book on industrial design, titled Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, William McDonough and Michael Braungart present a compelling vision that is highly relevant to Lean and chemicals initiatives. Two key components of this vision include:(2)

  • Produce products and services that do not consume (during production or use) or contain toxic or hazardous chemicals that customers did not ask for and did not know were included.
  • Produce products that, when their useful life is over, do not become useless waste but can be composted to become food for plants and animals and nutrients for soil; or alternatively, that can return to industrial cycles to supply high-quality raw materials for new products.

This toolkit can be a springboard for working towards this vision. It describes strategies and tools for reducing the risks, costs, and time associated with using chemicals and managing hazardous wastes, while also supporting Lean’s overall goals of continual improvement and waste elimination.

Given recent regulatory, product labeling, and consumer preference trends, it is likely that pressures to identify and eliminate harmful aspects of chemical use will increase in the future. Companies that can leverage their Lean initiatives to identify and eliminate chemical waste can enjoy significant competitive advantages as they seek to win and retain customers.

To Consider

As you read this toolkit, consider these questions:

  • Would you like to reduce chemical risks to employees?
  • Would you like to eliminate hidden costs from chemical wastes?
  • Would you like to reduce or eliminate the regulatory burden associated with chemicals and hazardous wastes?
  • Would you like to enhance the effectiveness of Lean techniques?

2. See the disclaimer regarding the definitions of wastes used in this toolkit.

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