The new lean manufacturing forum at PrintPlanet is now up and running, and it's off to a good start. Becoming lean is clearly an important objective for many printing company managers. Sustainability has also become an important topic in the printing industry. For example, WhatTheyThink.com now has a special section that contains information and resources related to environmental issues and concerns. What hasn't been emphasized enough is the close connection between being lean and being "green."
In an earlier Print CEO Blog post, I made the point that waste is the mortal enemy of lean and that the ultimate objective of lean is the elimination of waste from all business operations. Lean practitioners usually define waste as any activity or condition that consumes resources but creates no value for customers. But it is just as valid to define waste as any activity or condition that consumes resources unnecessarily or excessively. Lean has always been more about the conservation of resources than about cost-cutting.
This emphasis on resource conservation means that lean enterprises are always trying to do more with less - less human effort, less equipment, less raw materials, less facilities space, less time, and less capital. True, lean does focus more on the economic benefits of doing more with less than on the environmental impact of resource conservation. But if you're successful with lean, it's likely that you're also reducing the "carbon footprint" of your operations.
I do not mean to suggest that lean objectives and sustainability objectives will always be in perfect harmony. But I would argue that, in most cases, becoming leaner will help you become "greener."
Share your thoughts about this topic at PrintPlanet's lean manufacturing forum.