• United States Environmental Protection Agency

Environmental Benefits of Lean Methods


According to the EPA, adopting Lean Methods can have positive effects on the environment. Find out more below:

Potential Environmental Benefits

Kaizen Rapid Improvement Events

  • continual improvement culture focused on eliminating waste

  • uncovering and eliminating hidden wastes and waste-generating activities

  • quick, sustained results without significant capital investment

  • more info on Kaizen here

5S (or 6S)

  • decreased lighting, energy needs when windows are cleaned and equipment is painted light colors

  • spills and leaks noticed quickly

  • decreased potential for accidents and spills with clearly-marked and obstacle-free thoroughfares

  • reduced contamination of products results in fewer product defects (which reduces energy and resource needs; avoids waste)

  • reduced floor space needed for operations and storage; potential decrease in energy needs

  • less unneeded consumption of materials and chemicals when equipment, parts, and materials are organized, easy to find; less need for disposal of expired chemicals

  • visual cues can raise awareness of waste handling/management procedures, workplace hazards, and emergency response procedures

  • more info on 5S here

Cellular Manufacturing

  • eliminates overproduction, thereby reducing waste and the use of energy and raw materials

  • fewer defects from processing and product changeovers- reduces energy and resource needs; avoids waste

  • defects are noticed earlier, preventing waste

  • less use of materials and energy (per unit of production) with right-sized equipment

  • less floor space needed; potential decrease in energy use and less need to construct new facilities

  • easier to focus on equipment maintenance, pollution prevention

  • more info on Cellular Manufacturing here

Just-in-Time / Kanban

  • eliminates overproduction, thereby reducing waste and the use of energy and raw materials

  • less in-process and post-process inventory needed; avoids potential waste from damaged, spoiled, or deteriorated products

  • frequent inventory turns can eliminate the need for degreasing metal parts

  • less floor space needed; potential decrease in energy use and less need to construct new facilities

  • can facilitate worker-led process improvements

  • less excess inventory reduces energy use associated with transport and reorganization of unsold inventory

  • more info on Just In Time here

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

  • fewer defects-reduces energy and resource needs; avoids waste

  • increased longevity of equipment decreases need for replacement equipment and associated environmental impacts (energy, raw materials, etc.)

  • decreased number and severity of spills, leaks, and upset conditions – less solid and hazardous waste

  • more info on Total Productive Maintenance here

Six Sigma

  • fewer defects – reduces energy and resource needs; avoids waste

  • can focus attention on reducing the conditions that result in accidents, spills, and malfunctions, thereby reducing solid and hazardous wastes

  • improving product durability and reliability can increase product lifespan, reducing environmental impact of meeting customer needs

  • more info on Six Sigma here

Pre-Production Planning (3P)

  • eliminates waste at product and process design stage, similar to "Design for Environment" methods

  • nature (inherently waste free) is used as a design model

  • right-sized equipment lowers material and energy requirements for production

  • reducing the complexity of the production process ("design for manufacturability") can eliminate or streamline process steps; environmentally sensitive processes can be targeted for elimination, since they are often time-, resource-, and capital-intensive

  • less complex product designs can use fewer parts and fewer types of materials, increasing the ease of disassembly and recycling

  • More info on 3P here

Lean Enterprise Supplier Networks

  • magnification of environmental benefits of lean production (reduced waste through fewer defects, less scrap, less energy usage, etc.) across the network

  • environmental benefits are more broadly realized by introducing lean to existing suppliers rather than finding new, already lean suppliers


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