By Robert Holmes, WinWare, Inc.
Lean manufacturing is defined as an operational strategy oriented toward achieving the most operational efficiencies by eliminating waste. So, if we look at that definition, where should our focus be when attempting to achieve this goal? Simply put, operational strategies are focused on process, yet often we ignore the processes associated with indirect material, MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) supplies, and tooling.
Green manufacturing is about making things "sustainable." Sustainability can mean having less environmental impact, therefore creating operations that will exist long term. These two concepts "lean" and "green" have a natural co-existence that makes complete sense. If you are looking to eliminate waste through operational efficiencies (lean), then it is only natural that you would have less environmental impact by reducing waste (green), and thus, you make your operation more sustainable.
We can learn a lot about where improvements are needed in both the lean and green areas with a little focus on MRO supplies and tooling. I agree that, at first glance, those concepts seem far removed from managing tools and supplies, but I have learned over and over again that information about process flaws, waste, and sustainability are often uncovered at this level.