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Lean, Green Manufacturing Intersects with Sustainable Supply Chain Management, Creates Value

16 Dec

An efficient manufacturing process is the essence of sustainability…and is by its very nature, green.  This was the gist of the business case that I posted last year and that is captured in an article published in the MIT Sloan Management Review.   MIT presents two ways of thinking:

  • Old Thinking: Companies have long mistakenly thought that adopting environmentally friendly processes adds costs.
  • New Thinking: Green practices like recycling, reusing and reducing waste can cut costs because they make a company more efficient.

Recalling Michael Douglas’ character “Gordon Gecko “ in the 1987 film “Wall Street” statement that “Greed is Good”, MIT Sloan’s basic message is a bit of a twist- “Green is Good”.  Manufacturing is showing with increased frequency, that companies incorporating lean practices in manufacturing, are (by design or accident) becoming more “green”.  In fact a 2009 study by a research group suggested that “lean companies are embracing green objectives and transcending to green manufacturing as a natural extension of their culture of continuous waste reduction, integral to world class Lean programs.”  This is especially true for companies that integrate a number of proven methods e.g. ISO quality and environmental management systems, to meet environmental compliance and stakeholder needs.  This is more rapidly accomplished with a dedicated corporate commitment to continual improvement, and incorporating ‘triple top line’ strategies to account for environmental, social and financial capital.

What is “Lean”?

‘Lean’ Manufacturing is a set of continuous improvement activities closely connected with the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Just-In-Time Manufacturing systems.  One emerging working definition of Lean is “The elimination of waste everywhere while adding value for customers”.  This definition is a natural fit with sustainability and the “Lean and Green” business ethic.  Lean manufacturing has demonstrated how companies have saved or avoided enormous operating and maintenance costs and significantly improved the quality of their products.

Lean manufacturing looks at manufacturing from a systems perspective, which includes a thorough evaluation of upstream and downstream process inputs and outputs.  Viewed this way, suppliers and customers play a critical role in successful lean manufacturing.  Heavy emphasis is placed on design and innovation and obtaining  input of from supply chain partners, individuals and organizations through a process called ‘value-stream mapping’ (hey that’s my blog name too- ironic?…not).

The Lean, Green and Supply Chain Intersect

As I have previously said, even without specifically targeting environmental outcomes, lean efforts have been demonstrated to yield substantial environmental benefits (pollution prevention, waste reduction and reuse opportunities etc.). However, because environmental wastes and pollution are not the primary focal points, these gains may not be maximized in the normal course of a lean initiative. This is because lean waste is by its nature not always in sync with typical environmental wastes.[1] I argue that by looking deep into your your value chain (upstream suppliers, operations and end of life product opportunities) with a ‘green’ or environmental lens, manufacturers can eliminate even more waste in the manufacturing process, and realize some potentially dramatic savings

Where ‘lean’ creates a positive view (future state) of a process without waste, ‘green’ creates an alternative view of a sustainable future for organizations that play in the global marketplace or offer a unique disruptive innovation.  Lean and green approaches to manufacturing not only leverages compliance issues but also puts companies on the path to going beyond compliance. The graphic below from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency applies the key ‘lean waste’ types in an environmental context, and crosswalks how lean waste issues can have direct environmental impact on an organization.

Using an example set by Subaru of Indiana,the MIT study shows how there are many proofs to the axiom that prevention of pollution and continually improving efficiencies with an environmental benefit works even in lean economic times. Subaru found that:

1.      Profits come by increasing efficiency and reducing waste—but they don’t always come immediately.

2.      Management’s leadership is vital in setting goals and getting departments to cooperate.

3.      The front line workers have to be engaged to spot opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle, and find other ways to create efficiencies.

4.      Sustainability initiatives achieve maximum benefit from involvement of their supply chain.

5.      All waste by-products are potentially new products

6.      Green initiatives foster creativity and can enhance competitive advantage.

 

Source: Green, Lean, and Global Supply Chain Strategies, Univ. of Tennessee

As previously mentioned, becoming a green organization as part of a lean initiative occurs sometimes by design, and sometimes by accident.  A research study from the Sustainable Supply Chain Group at the University of Tennessee, College of Business Administration found some interesting results when evaluating how lean manufacturing, sustainability and supply chain management may at times be complementary.   The study found, among other things that: 1) Firms tend to have more sophisticated lean strategies than green strategies, and because of this awareness of ‘sustainability’ in supply chain management circles is less mature; and 2) Lean and green initiatives overlap, where projects that meet lean objectives often provide unanticipated green benefits.

Extending Lean and Green to the Supply Chain

Establishing initial goals for manufacturing efficiencies include maximizing parts, machine and material utilization, human movement and of course reducing waste. This series of continuous improvement steps offer a cornerstone for reaching both a green and efficient supply chain. But how can manufacturers work beyond the ‘four walls’ of their organizations to green their supply chain?  A green focus in supply chain management requires working with upstream suppliers and downstream customers, performing analyses of internal operations and processes, reviewing environmental considerations in the product development process, and looking at extended stewardship opportunities across the life-cycle of one or more intermediate or final products.

Lean Tools You Can Use

So far, I’ve laid a foundation for Lean Manufacturing and the intersection with supply chain management. This next section presents a couple of widely accepted practices that are used in Lean design and manufacturing, which can be modified to capture supplier network considerations.

Value-Stream Mapping

A strategic approach to mapping  environmental and lean opportunities would be to map the ‘value-stream’  of one or more products as a way to seek where the greatest waste  reduction and environmental impact reduction opportunities are. Value stream mapping arrived on the business process landscape with the emergence of Lean engineering, design and manufacturing.  A process-and systems based methodology, value stream mapping can help organizations to identify major sources of non-value added time and materials resources i.e. waste that flow into the manufacturing of a particular product or (even) service; and to develop an action (or “Kaizen”) plan to implement less wasteful practices and processes.   From an environmental perspective, practitioners can also look at processes from an environmental, health and safety point of view, focusing on processes tending to use great amounts of resource inputs and that generate waste outputs.

To illustrate what I mean, a value-stream map example (presented below) in a report issued by the U.S. EPA on Lean and the Environment depicts how supply chain vendors can interact in the production of a product and the resource waste that can result.  The areas noted in green represent interaction points with environmental, health and safety and related environmental loads associated with intermediate production steps.  Clearly the four vendor points of interaction can carry their own environmental footprints just in the trucking and distribution of raw materials and products (air and waste emissions for instance).

Typical steps in value stream mapping include:

  1. Select a product or process(es)
  2. Through interviews and work observations, collect data on the ‘current state’ of the value stream (inputs and outputs)
  3. Using a cross functional team (CFT) of knowledgeable staff, develop a ‘current state’ value stream map; focus on identifying over consumptive or waste generating activities
  4. With the CFT in place, brainstorm ideas to improve resource use, production flow, waste capture and reduction, reuse and off spec material reuse, and labor/time management
  5. Create a future state’ value stream map that identifies areas, targets and key performance metrics for continual improvement.
  6. Develop a implementation plan, complete with authorizes and responsibilities
  7. Develop continual improvement measurement and monitoring program
  8. And last but not least…get started!


 

Vendor Survey and Qualification

Manufacturers also supplement their Lean efforts by surveying their supply chain partners and  asking a series of questions designed to identify where the resource consumption and waste management opportunities may lie.  These  questions will help determine if technology, operational practices,  enhanced training and awareness or other tools can make their company  more sustainable and lead them down the path to make the decision that  best meets their business needs. These questions include but are not  limited to:

  1. How can I leverage my manufacturing capabilities and processes in a way that optimizes per unit material resource consumption?
  2. Can I reduce waste generation through improving material use, scrap/off spec reuse and improved equipment maintenance?
  3. Can  I work collaboratively with my intermediate parts or materials  suppliers to use life cycle design practices and manufacture parts with  lowered environmental footprints?
  4. How  can I encourage suppliers to increase equipment efficiency, reduce  manufacturing cycle time, reduce inventories, streamline processes or  seek quick returns on investment?
  5. Can I improve my sales and operations planning to optimize production runs and reduce resource loads or generated wastes?
  6. How  can I work more closely with logistics and transportation partners to  optimize shipment schedules, customer deliveries, warehousing, routing  and order fulfillment?
  7. Can  I work with my customers and product designers to improve packaging to  optimize space reduce materials use and improve load management?
  8. How can I collaborate more closely with customers to enable reverse logistics and profitable product reusability?
  9. What  types of value-added training and development programs can I develop to  promote lean and green opportunities with my suppliers?

Lean-Green Synergies Are Not Without Challenges

The  same University of Tennessee authors who explored the intersect of  lean, green and supply chain also discussed found that some potential  conflicts with certain types of lean strategies leading to changes in  supply change management.  For instance, they noted that  “lean strategies that require just-in-time delivery of small lot sizes  require increased transportation, packaging, and handling that may  contradict a green approach. Introducing global supply chain management into the green and lean equation increases the potential conflict between the green and lean initiatives.”

So  as companies begin to implement lean and green strategies in supply  chains, especially large and complex global supply chains, manufacturers  need to explore the overlaps and synergies between quality-based lean  and environmentally based ‘green’ initiatives, and understand the  various trade-offs required to balance possible points of conflict.  If  your organization been reluctant to engage your supply chain or  implement or maintain environmental initiatives in your product  manufacturing because of the perception that you can’t afford it, then  think again.  It is more likely that you cannot afford to ignore it.


[1] Typical classifications of environmental ‘waste’ nodes include: Energy, Water, Materials, Garbage, Transportation, Emissions, and Biodiversity

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What Motivates Suppliers to Meet Sustainable Sourcing Requirements- The Carrot vs. The Stick?

17 Aug

Are you old enough to remember the opening lines of the Buffalo Springfield song  For What it’s Worth? “There’s something happening here/What it is ain’t exactly clear/There’s a man with a gun over there/Telling me I got to beware”. I am thinking there is a green supply chain revolution in play, just as there was political unrest and turbulence of the mid to late 1960’s from which this song originated. Methinks Walmart may be “the Man”, but are they really holding a gun to suppliers?  I’m not so sure.

Walmarts efforts internally to establish its sustainability index continue to slowly progress along (I still predict a 2-3 year process before anything tangible emerges).  But, the company is as I predicted last year, changing the rules in how sustainability is felt up and down the supply chain- mostly for good.  Many companies in the retail and electronics sectors, such as Proctor and Gamble and IBM have most notably stepped up to the plate, but many others are learning from Wal-Mart’s green supply as well (see “The surprising success of the green supply chain” http://bit.ly/digXmH).  So how is this “cat herding” happening at such a rapid pace and what are the key issues being driven through the ‘value chain’.  Is this just a matter of keeping up with the next guy?

First- the ‘drivers”.  There are a number of factors and issues, both internal and external that can be attributed to this hot phenomenon in the supply chain space. In a 2009 study by GTM Research, sustainability was clearly a driving topic in supply chain management, ranking behind only three factors:  improving customer service, reducing supply chain risk and managing and optimizing an extended supply chain network  (Greening The Supply Chain: Benchmarking Sustainability Practices And Trends- GTM Research 2009 http://bit.ly/cl1QlU ).   The same study found that several factors were driving the greening of the supply chain across a number of vertical markets, notably:

  • Lost sales (projected to be in the billions of dollars) because products in the supply chain were not “green” enoug
  • Increased energy and transportation costs (accounting to over 50% of the cost increases)
  • Damage to reputation and
  • Supply disruptions

In response, Walmart and other major retail and industry giants are driving upstream and downstream performance based changes, designed to reduce suppliers environmental footprints and focused on several key areas:  energy management, fuel cost containment, carbon emissions, water use and waste generation.  New issues also factoring into the mix include green chemistry and management of restricted materials, depending on the geographic reach of global markets served.

To that end suppliers, from Tier One on down through the chain are responding to varying degrees and the early results appear favorable. As I reported last week, companies like Herman Miller, Walmart, P&G and Johnson and Johnson (http://bit.ly/cFBzjD) are showing marked reductions in most of the key metrics that they have been focused on, with much of the credit due to those suppliers who have found business sense in sustainability.

Now to that you may say that suppliers are goaded, cajoled, forced, strongly encouraged, or perhaps threatened to comply, or else risk losing millions in contracts.  Actually, what I am seeing with the likes of Miller, IBM, Hewlett Packard and others continues to be more of the carrot and less of the stick- more collaboration and performance based incentives coupled with onsite verification- that’s all good because it encourages accountability.  But that’s a topic for a future post.

In the meantime, to paraphrase another line in that Buffalo Springfield tune:  “Stop [vendors] what’s that sound /everybody look what’s going round”.  Until next time.

This post was originally published on my New Green Supply Chain Blog, which can be found at https://community.kinaxis.com/people/DRMeyer/blog

A Green Supply Chain Starts with a Promise, But Needs Verification Too

26 May

In the past month, a number of large-scale products manufacturers (IBM, Ford, Intel, Proctor & Gamble, Puma) and service providers (Kaiser Permanente) have issued sustainability focused supply chain related announcements.  As noted by Green Advantages’ Andrew Winston, a common theme of each of these mandates focuses on “transparency” (http://bit.ly/a8Tjfq).  Also, new reports are emerging that companies are taking climate change programs to their respective supply bases (http://bit.ly/bbNCya) as means to support corporate responsibility reporting.

But, while a “Green Supply Chain” starts with a promise and a goal or two, what I have heard from many logistics and sustainability professionals that the hard work centers on actually requiring and monitoring supply chain compliance.  Most practitioners believe, as I do that sustainable sourcing and green supply chain effectiveness must include supplier monitoring and “verification” to truly be effective and sustainable.  This need was also underscored recently by reports out of China that many IT suppliers to major global electronics manufacturers were in “gross” violation of many of China’s environmental regulations (see China’s IT Poisons in the Huffington Post http://huff.to/a3mlcx).

That is why the mandates from IBM, Proctor & Gamble and Kaiser Permanente stand above the rest and offer great promise.  Each of these programs includes a verification element to supplier conformance.  In addition the IBM and Proctor & Gamble initiatives contain a component that rates individual vendors on the basis of maintaining a proactive environmental management system and other key environmental performance metrics important to each company.  This data in turn is rolled up to support company-specific corporate sustainability performance criteria.  Monitoring and verification through demonstrated performance metrics is strongly encouraged through implementation of proactive management systems (such as ISO 14001-2004 or other continual improvement based certifications).  This step assures that the information provided by suppliers is accurate (so as to not compromise what is reported and to avoid reputational risk in corporate social responsibility reporting).

There is no doubt in my mind that green supply chain management 1) improves logistics agility by helping company’s mitigate or leverage risks and speed innovations; 2) increases adaptability by fostering innovative processes and continuous improvements, and (most importantly) 3) promotes alignment, by creating a platform to negotiate policies between suppliers and customers, thus resulting in better alignment of business processes and principles.

Last month I spoke at the Aberdeen Research Group Supply Chain Summit in San Francisco (http://bit.ly/d7e856 )on strategic and tactical steps that companies can take to green their supply chain.  A key takeaway from many of the presentations at the conference was the critical importance and value of “collaboration” and optimized value chain management to leverage supply chain positioning.  These two elements are critical elements to successful supply chain “greening” as I recently noted (http://bit.ly/93C2Xp).  Three tactical tools that I discussed at the Aberdeen Summit include:

1) Prequalification of suppliers

  • Require/encourage environmental criteria for approved suppliers
  • Require/encourage suppliers to undertake independent environmental certification (ISO 14001)

2) Environmental requirements at the purchasing phase

  • Build environmental criteria into supplier contract specs
  • Incorporate 3BL staff on sourcing teams

3) Multi-tiered supply base environmental performance management

  • Supplier environmental questionnaires
  • On site supplier environmental audits and assessments

Finally in order to be successful in implementation of sustainable supply chain practices, it’s vital that suppliers are engaged early in the supply chain development process by : 1) working with industry peers to standardize requirements; 2) informing suppliers of corporate environmental concerns by issuing statements related to triple bottom line priorities to suppliers or distributing a comprehensive green supply chain management policy ; and 3) promotion of exchange of information and ideas through sponsored supplier events and mentoring programs.

I summed up my presentation (can be viewed here http://slidesha.re/9fY6mz) with a few key points, which I offer for your consideration:

  • Look for the win-win and make the business case, both internally and externally
  • Consider the holistic supply chain – engage your key suppliers that are most vital to your most important product
  • Consider all aspects of your business & innovate
  • Consider the Extended Enterprise both up and downstream of your organization (several tiers deep)

Perhaps most importantly, get started today and engage your supply chain to implement green practices.  Improving sustainability in the supply chain and implementing verification practices may be the key to pulling away from your competitors and establishing your company as sustainability-focused, “best-in-class”  leader.