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Lean & Energy Toolkit: Executive Summary


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed this Lean, Energy & Climate Toolkit to assist organizations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and energy use while improving performance through Lean manufacturing activities. Drawing from the experiences and best practices of industry leaders, Lean and environmental service providers, and government partners, this toolkit provides practical strategies and techniques for improving energy and environmental performance while achieving Lean goals such as improved quality, reduced waste, and increased customer responsiveness.

There are many reasons to integrate Lean, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction efforts including:

  1. Cost Savings: Reducing energy costs has a significant impact on business performance, though costs may be hidden in overhead or facility accounts.
  2. Greenhouse Gas Management and Environmental Risk: Proactively addressing the environmental and climate impacts of energy use is increasingly important to industry and society. Failure to do so is a potential business risk.
  3. Competitive Advantage: Lowering recurring operating costs, improving staff morale, and responding to customer expectations for environmental performance and energy efficiency increases your competitive advantage.

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Linking Lean and Energy Use

Considerable energy savings typically go hand-in-hand with Lean activities because of Lean’s focus on eliminating non-value added activities (waste). Without explicit consideration of energy wastes, however, Lean may overlook significant opportunities to improve performance and reduce costs. Companies such as Baxter International, Eastman Kodak, General Electric, Toyota, and 3M, as well as many other manufacturers, both large and small, have successfully used Lean methods to reduce energy use, risks, and costs (see Box 1).

Example Results From Lean and Energy Improvement Efforts (Box 1)

Lean manufacturing and its relationship to greenhouse gas management is also addressed in this toolkit. Manufacturing companies who commit to reducing energy use are in turn committing to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, therefore reducing their impact on the environment and mitigating climate change. This toolkit describes a range of strategies for identifying Lean and energy improvement opportunities and reducing energy use with Lean methods. With the use of this toolkit, manufacturing companies can discover ways to lower their energy costs, improve their energy efficiency, and reduce their impact on the environment. It is not necessary to implement all the techniques in the toolkit to succeed; instead, select and adapt the approaches that make the most sense for your organization.

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Integrating Lean, Energy and Greenhouse Gas Management

To be most effective, Lean and energy efforts should be proactive, strategic, and systematic. Adopting an energy management system and building an energy program that aligns with and supports your organization’s Lean initiatives will enable your organization to achieve the greatest improvements in operational, energy, and environmental performance. Ideas discussed include:

  • Energy In-Line Management
  • Guidelines for Energy Management
  • Lean Windows of Opportunity for Energy Savings

In addition to explicitly using Lean methods to target energy wastes, facilities can take advantage of other windows of opportunity for energy savings that arise during Lean, including opportunities to install energy-efficient equipment, switch to less polluting fuel sources, and design products to use less energy. To be most effective, Lean and energy efforts should be proactive, strategic, and systematic. Adopting an energy management system that aligns with and supports your organization’s Lean initiatives will enable your organization to achieve the greatest improvements in operational, energy, and environmental performance.

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Assessment Strategies

Lean, energy, and greenhouse gas assessment strategies involve observing shop-floor activities to identify signs of energy waste and greenhouse gas emissions, measuring actual energy use and costs over time, and implementing energy savings opportunities through short, focused events. Strategies described in this toolkit include:

  • Energy Treasure Hunts: Conduct a multi-day plant-wide assessment of energy savings opportunities using a cross-functional team of employees.
  • Greenhouse Gas Inventories: Create a greenhouse gas inventory to help your company understand your emissions reduction opportunities.
  • Value and Energy Stream Mapping: Integrate energy-use analysis into the Lean value stream mapping process to identify improvement opportunities within the context of the entire “value stream” of a product or service.
  • Six Sigma: Use statistical process analysis and control tools to find and address root causes of greenhouse gas emissions and energy wastes and variation.

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Emissions Reduction Strategies

Many energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction best practices can be implemented without extensive analysis or planning. The Lean and energy reduction strategies in this toolkit describe ways to reduce energy use and greenhouse gases through Lean activities such as the following:

  • Energy Kaizen Events: Identify and implement employee ideas for saving energy and reducing wastes through rapid process improvement events.
  • Total Productive Maintenance (TPM): Incorporate energy reduction best practices into day-to-day autonomous maintenance activities to ensure that equipment and processes run smoothly and efficiently.
  • Right-Sized Equipment: Identify and replace oversized and inefficient equipment with smaller equipment tailored to the specific needs of manufacturing cells.
  • Plant Layout and Flow: Design or rearrange plant layout to improve product flow while also reducing energy use and associated impacts.
  • Standard Work, Visual Controls, Employee Engagement and Mistake-Proofing: Sustain and support additional Lean and energy performance gains through standardized work, procedures and visual signals that encourage energy conservation, and by making it easy or “mistake-proof” to be energy efficient.
  • Transportation Efficiencies: Look at your company’s transportation fleet and mobile equipment to see if there are opportunities to improve routes, reduce idling, minimize the number of trips, and improve overall efficiency of the fleet.

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Going Further with Lean and Energy

Companies are increasingly taking additional steps to reduce and offset the environmental and climate impacts of their energy use. These activities look beyond standard operational practices. A few ideas for going further include:

  • Purchasing Green Power: Many utilities offer customers the opportunity to purchase power that is generated from renewable sources or “green power.”
  • Carbon Offsets: Some organizations have committed to supplement their efforts to reduce energy consumption by offsetting the carbon emitted to the atmosphere by the energy that they do use.

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Toolkit Navigation

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