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E3: Economy, Energy and Environment

E3 Success Story - Holding Lean and Green Assessment Instead of Kaizen Event: Sermatech Connecticut

Assessment Details

  • Date: 2006
  • Team:  CONNSTEP, Inc., a NIST MEP

Sermatech Connecticut, a Green Suppliers Network Partner, specializes in developing and applying engineered, high-performance protective coatings for the aerospace industry. Sermatech initially planned for a lean kaizen event to coincide with the purchase of new equipment, but after learning about the Green Suppliers Network, the company decided this would be a good opportunity to address lean and green in a single event. The facility general manager, John Whalen, noted that "We, at Sermatech, had not yet looked at waste minimization as a cost reduction opportunity. It just made sense to hold a Green Suppliers Network review in place of the scheduled lean kaizen event."

The Situation

The Green Suppliers Network team reviewed a Sermatech surface coating process line that sprayed helicopter rotor hubs. The process required the parts to travel a considerable distance, which increased the risk of damage to the coating and required large amounts of rework. The rework cost Sermatech approximately 2 percent of its profit margin, or about $46,000 annually. Wastes identified for this process included coating overspray, air emissions, spray booth filters, solvent, masking tape, and protective gloves.

The Solution

To improve product movement and reduce travel distance for the parts, the Green Suppliers Network review team recommended that Sermatech install an enclosed environment workstation. This workstation would include new "controlled environment" spray booths that would optimize the facility work space and eliminate the need for the part to travel in the ambient air. By installing these new workstations, Sermatech expects to reduce rework by 75 percent.

The Results

Sermatech estimates it will reduce hazardous waste, including hexavalent chromium and aluminum from the coating and acetone solvents, by more than 30 percent, equal to 2,000 pounds; it will also save more than $600 in disposal costs. Furthermore, Sermatech expects to reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions by 66 percent, or more than 32 pounds per year per booth, by installing the new spray booths. Sermatech expects to realize more than $35,000 in annual savings from implementing these recommendations.

Whalen stated that an unexpected benefit of undergoing the Green Suppliers Network review occurred when one of Sermatech's major customers learned of its efforts through a manufacturing forum. Previously unaware of Sermatech's efforts to reduce environmental risk, the customer has now signed a preferred supplier agreement with Sermatech.

"Once OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] recognize that you put in additional effort to reduce their environmental footprint, it gives you a leg up on the competition—and you can't place a dollar value on that!"

— John Whalen, Facility General Manager, Sermatech