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Environmental Professional’s Guide to Lean and Six Sigma: Chapter 7


Reflections on This Guide

As this guide has described, Lean and Six Sigma are powerful improvement methods that are growing in importance to businesses worldwide. Lean and Six Sigma improve environmental results by eliminating production “wastes” and variation. However, on their own, Lean and Six Sigma can create environmental health and safety problems or overlook opportunities to address environmental wastes. Furthermore, Lean, Six Sigma, and environmental professionals often operate in “parallel universes,” using different languages and involving different people, despite having synergistic goals and using some similar tools.

There are compelling benefits from linking Lean, Six Sigma, and environmental improvement efforts. Environmental health and safety professionals can leverage the continuous improvement culture fostered by Lean to improve environmental results and deliver greater business value. There are multiple successful models for integrating Lean and environmental improvement efforts. These include ways that organizations have linked Lean to environmental efforts at facilities, as well as partnerships between Lean and environmental technical assistance providers.

Getting started with Lean and environment is as simple as learning about Lean, building relationships with Lean practitioners, and trying it out, even if that means starting small. There is no single “right” way to do Lean and environment—do what makes the most sense for your organization.

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Your Lean and Environment Journey

Lean practitioners often talk about Lean as a journey. In many ways, Lean and environment represents one stage in that journey. In the long term, we hope that Lean practitioners will commonly consider environmental wastes as one of the “deadly wastes” targeted by Lean and will see environmental professionals as key partners in improving operational performance. Similarly, we hope that environmental professionals will see the value of Lean for achieving environmental objectives and will integrate Lean into their core activities.

We hope this guide has given you ideas for getting started with integrating environmental initiatives into Lean efforts and provided some strategies and guidance for being successful in those efforts. EPA welcomes your stories and feedback as you embark on your Lean and environment journey.

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