For the last 30 years Darryl Minty has been an advocate of the “lean and green” approach towards the day to day operation of businesses - even before it was called lean and green.
With a background in environmental health and safety in the manufacturing sector, Minty’s role has been to ensure that the companies he worked for adopted what are now commonly known as lean and green practices.
The concept has different names depending on the company (including “world class manufacturing”), but the basic principles are the same.
Minty, a vice-president with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), spent 22 years with CNH Global and its predecessor company, followed by four years with Saskatoon-based and family-owned Standard Machine, a manufacturer of specialty gear boxes that is now owned by the giant Timken Company, a manufacturer of bearings and power transmissions.
Overall, he spent almost 30 years in the manufacturing sector and in that time became convinced that businesses need to view their environmental performance as a key contributor to the bottom line, which is the basis of the lean and green concept.
The belief is that businesses can lower their operational costs and become more efficient and productive by reducing their energy requirements, water use, materials, garbage, transportation and emissions.
The lean and green approach to business was so compelling to the Alberta branch of CME that it worked with leading consultants, including Minty, to develop its Lean & Green 101 workshop and training program. This is designed to help Alberta companies improve their environmental performance and develop a sharper competitive edge.
“This program isn’t pie in the sky,” said David MacLean, vice-president of CME’s Alberta branch. “There’s an impression anything to do with environmental performance adds costs. We’re here to change that impression.”
Although CME represents manufacturers, he said the program has a broader target.
“This is about real cost reduction. This isn’t just about manufacturers. Any company with an environmental footprint can benefit.”
Lean & Green is “bottom line driven,” he said.
For instance, CME estimates companies engaged in the process can reduce their energy use by 15-20 per cent, cut water use by as much as 15 per cent, lower garbage use by 15-20 per cent and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by as much as five per cent.
All of those reductions benefit the bottom line, MacLean points out.
Minty presented the Lean & Green workshop along with Brett Wills, founder and president of the Green Enterprise Movement and the author of books on the subject.
“The feedback was overwhelming,” said MacLean.
He said CME has already seen the commitment that is required from 14 participants, representing companies in the Edmonton and Calgary areas, who attended the first workshop.
“The feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” he said.
While many of the participants in the May 9 workshop are involved in oilfield services, MacLean said CME wants to see the program extended across all business sectors.
Wills has previously been involved in introducing the initiative to those in Alberta food processing, for instance.
Lean & Green, which is a pilot program at this point, will be an ongoing initiative of CME. The next workshop will be held in Edmonton on Sept. 26.
Achieving energy savings is fairly easy to achieve and sometimes overlooked as an option to become profitable as an organization, Minty says.
Some of the quick wins include understanding how energy is consumed, where and when. Simple solutions such as low-flush toilets, converting to LED lighting and understanding inputs and outputs can result in significant savings.
While larger companies are often able to have their own versions of lean and green programming, small to mid-sized organizations really benefit from CME’s Lean & Green offering, Minty says.
“Even if you’re a smaller company, with 50 employees, there can be real cost savings using the lean and green approach. Any business can benefit.”
He cites an example of a manufacturing firm that has 63 overhead doors. Given western Canada’s cold winters, the frequent opening and closing of those doors led to high power bills. It also made the working environment unpleasant for the firm’s employees. The solution was to install air curtains on all of those door, at a minimal cost. That has led to significant cost savings and a more pleasant work environment, with a payback on the investment of less than two years.
MacLean says that because CME received a grant from Energy Efficiency Alberta to launch the program, participants can enrol in the workshops for only $150 per individual. Without the subsidy, he estimates the cost would be at least $600 for the eight-hour workshop.
There are three stages to the program, beginning with the workshop.
The next stage is what he terms the “diagnostic phase,” when a facilitator conducts an assessment of a participant’s operations.
“It’s almost like an ROI (return on investment) audit,” he says.
Finally, there’s a coaching stage, where consultants provide on-site coaching. This can take up to 40 hours.
“Involvement in all three stages of the program is an intensive process, spread over months,” MacLean says.
He believes the lean and green approach can help a company attract younger skilled workers.
“Younger workers value environmental performance. If a company becomes involved in an initiative like this it helps it retain and attract workers.”
That’s a view shared by Minty, who cites an example of a seed manufacturing company in Saskatchewan that became involved in a lean and green project, which allowed it to distinguish itself from two nearby competitors.
“The millennials are environmentally conscious, so it gives them a competitive advantage in recruiting staff,” he says.