For what some people are saying is the first time, “greens”—persons interested in greater movement to sustainable resources—and “leans”—those interested in manufacturing improvements—are making a point of talking together and sharing ideas. In mid July, 110 greens and leans gathered in Boulder, CO, for the first Lean & Green Summit.
Dwayne Butcher, who helped organize the conference, said there were a number of take-away points. One was that most of the participants thought the discussions were worthwhile and that the leans and the greens should continue talking with one another, to formalize their dialog into some sort of consortium. Another was that they should organize kaizen events [based on Toyota’s rapid improvement practices] attempting to advance both industrial efficiencies and sustainable technologies at the same time. A third was to work out ways of developing performance measures for environmental improvement.
Some of the companies attending were: Brand Hydraulics, Dare Foods, Harley-Davidson, New Belgium Brewing, Walt Disney, and Adolfson & Peterson Construction. Speakers included: Mike Gnam, executive director of the Lean Product Development Initiative of the National Center of Manufacturing Sciences; Jeff Harvey, CEO of Burgerville (food processing); Prof. Robert “Doc” Hall of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence; Dave Gustashaw, VP Engineering for Interface America; and Tim Hunter, chief engineer of fabrication and assembly at Harley Davidson.
After the conference, Gnam said he was delighted that “the breadth and depth of manufacturing companies across America have made the management commitment to incorporate their green journey with their lean journey. It is clear from this conference that there was a great thirst on the part of newly minted practitioners for knowledge on how to begin the journey.”
As relates to valve makers, Gnam said, “It seems that the low-hanging fruit for achieving green benefits is becoming accomplished in the process industries. Because valve makers and equipment manufacturers play such an integral role in the process industries, they will be in the forefront of green conversions.”
Another speaker, Prof. Robert Hall, said after the conference, “Specifically for valve manufacturers, there should be big opportunities in leak prevention, and in designing valves to minimize fluid flow resistance—drag. About 20% of all electricity generated is used for pumps that move stuff through valves; any little improvement in pumping energy could become significant if they play that strategy smartly.”
Check out these websites/resources to learn more on the subject of lean and green:
- Lean & Green Research Initiative at Penn State
- Lean & Green Sustainability Tech Group, sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers
- Lean Manufacturing and the Environment, an initiative developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency