Sustainable Manufacturing


Lean Six Sigma (aka Toyota Production System) focuses on combining waste reduction with measurable continuous improvement.  While some companies have used the Lean Six Sigma approach solely as a mechanism for workforce attrition, this is  not the designed purpose or best use of the technique.  


Sustainable manufacturing is driven by the Voice of the Customer (VoC).  This does not mean the Voice of the Business (VoB) is silent, it just means the business views and uses its voice as a service to its customer base.  The customer base may have a human voice (such as paying customers, investors, the local community and other stakeholders) or a silent voice (such as plants, animals and insect species whose existence is equally important in the balance of our planet's ecosystem).  Coining a phrase from Gary Lagenwalter, in sustainable manufacturing, Life is the customer.


While there is no easy button for sustainable manufacturing and the transformation involved is not simple, there are successful business models:


Marlin Steel is an example of a small manufacturer that has been able to reduce waste, grow profitably AND pay employees more.  


Belgium's Umicore switched from raw materials mining to urban mining in order to jumpstart a failing business.


Toyota has been growing food plants in its Tsutsumi plant without any loss in productivity.  Is your manufacturing plant and area safe enough that you would eat food grown at the facility?


For those looking for a "quick" answer, here are specific ways in which Lean yields Green results.  For those who like "deep dives," since most examples focus on large companies, here is a compilation of techniques small manufacturers can use (again not easy but doable when taken 1 step at a time).


By now you have already guessed the answer is yes, Bill of Materials management must also be sustainable


You need to check your BOM regularly for hazardous materials.


Finding green chemistry substitutes can be done using this tool from MIT.  


Awareness of hazardous materials can help you perform above regulatory compliance levels.


Materials exchanges can help you reduce waste.


EPICS codes can help with asset management as well as facilitate global traceability.


The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) Materiality Map (TM) can belp with disclosure issues.


Resource groups with additional insights: 


European Commission Sustainable Development portal


Canada Sustainable Manufacturing Gateway


American Sustainable Business Council


The Sustainability Consortium