The role of lean and Six Sigma in organizational survivability and environmental sustainability, by Clyde Parker

As we struggle to keep a solid footing on the tight wire of global completion, gale-force winds of economic uncertainty pose a new risk to our balance. The skillful navigation of tomorrow’s fiscal minefield depends on our ability to master a new generation of “best practices.” Coming under scrutiny is our capacity to minimize process wastes and the prudent consumption of environmental resources.

Lean sustainability and green sustainability, the minimization of our impact on environmental and ecosystems, is a key factor in tomorrow’s survival. Of paramount importance is our concern over major global problems relating to climate change and the depletion of fossil fuel reserves.

Our goals require us to reexamine and radically redefine our core competencies. Tomorrow’s balance compels us to become Leaner and green sustainable as we maintain the increasing demanding growth of our profit margins. This requires the formulation of a new generation of values, principles and initiatives, including the intelligent utilization of human capital and natural resources. We must maintain this equilibrium as we continue to create value for our customers and stakeholders.

Developing a green scorecard

In consideration of the corporate vital signs and balanced scorecard, let us “measure what matters.” Our balanced operation must be an appropriate mix of equal financial and non-financial metrics. This will drive the deployment and achievement of strategic objectives from the perspective of our stakeholders and customers. We understand these metrics include sustainability of the economic and ecological performance of the enterprise. Additionally, neither the economic nor the ecological system will survive without a new Lean emphasis of “doing more with less.” Simply stated, we need to become proactive rather than reactive by introducing counter measures to ecological imbalances before they become a problem to the organization’s economic and ecological performance.

Considering all this, tomorrow’s competencies require a focused expansion of ideas and imagination. Corporations that maintain their position on the ever-moving tight wire will learn to rely on new concepts of energy innovation. This will not “just happen,” as we must be the catalyst of change. We must force change in areas such as bioenergy and more efficient utilization of biomass fuels. Closed loop recycling and closed loop supply chains will become key earmarks of tomorrow’s winning organizations.

As Lean Six Sigma professionals, we can blend the environmental conservation opportunities into each area of our work. Environmental Sustainability is as commonsense as Lean–it must enable us to quickly identify and eliminate wastes that may well include energy consumption, landfill avoidance and much more. Ideally, we should strive for an environmentally sound workplace.

Lean, Six Sigma and environmental protection

Routine Six Sigma projects should have an awareness of environmental protection and regeneration built in to the DMAIC system, if possible. Lean principles are a natural fact of our existence. Our perception and natural balance of “Mother Earth” is both efficient and effective in creating value while producing zero wastes. Any “waste” subsequently produced by nature creates value for something else in our ecosystem and food chain.

As we focus tightly on these facts and consider the scope of our work, we find that environmental sustainability is the true essence of lean processing. In working to eliminate all waste and continue to create value, organizations will naturally gravitate towards our environmental protection and integrity. We see this very clearly in direct cost savings. As managers, we keep a sharp eye on operational expenses. One key component of green is our potential for cost saving. We easily see savings in cycle time compression, inventory reduction and operational costs reduction with green production. This includes manufacturing and administrative costs as well.

The logic is glaringly apparent and clear. Efficient utilization or recycling of raw materials results in a positive environmental impact. Subsequently, we realize a significant operational cost savings, and we reduce our demand for fossil fuels and natural resources such as treated water. This results in less garbage to process. Lean principles such as reduced transportation obviously results in a substantial savings in energy costs to your organization. Your professional commitment to Lean sustainability and green practices is a key factor for success on your specialized career track. With environmental protection consideration of Lean sustainability as a way of life, your ability to balance on the tight wire will become much easier.

Clyde Parker is the president of STARsixsigma.

The article was originally published by Six Sigma & Process Excellence IQ.

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