In manufacturing, lean and green can coexist, researchers say

Posted by
On September 15, 2008

Manufacturers’ efforts to cut costs and reduce waste through so-called “lean” manufacturing techniques haven’t always taken the environment into account. But two Missouri S&T researchers hope to show that manufacturers can be both lean and green by incorporating processes designed to conserve energy and minimize environmental impact with a lean manufacturing philosophy.

Cudney_Grantham-Lough-web.jpgDrs. Elizabeth Cudney (left) and Katie Grantham Lough will discuss the benefits of meshing lean manufacturing with green initiatives. “Going green is a must for companies to stay in business,” says Cudney, an assistant professor of engineering management at Missouri S&T. “While the stigma of green initiatives is that they are costly and uneconomical, that is simply no longer true.”

Cudney and Grantham Lough, an assistant professor of interdisciplinary engineering, will present on this topic this fall at the Institute of Industrial Engineers’ 2008 Operational Excellence Conference and Expo. The conference is scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct.2 in Minneapolis. Cudney also serves as co-chair for the conference.

The two researchers will discuss ways industries can link green initiatives to current lean manufacturing practices and will share ways to help companies calculate return on investment for alternative or renewable power systems. “We’ll also present rules of thumb for greening manufacturing plants by economically responsible means,” Cudney says.

Some green practices, such as consolidating shipments whenever possible, go against traditional lean manufacturing processes. Typically, companies wanting to trim costs would ship only what’s needed, when it’s needed, says Grantham Lough. “In many cases, there’s a trade-off involved,” she says.

Other practices, such as purchasing from local suppliers
whenever possible, can greatly reduce the need for shipping, Grantham
Lough says.

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