Written by David Crowfoot, Director of Footwork First
The key principals of value and waste in lean apply directly to energy. Energy being consumed in a non-productive state is often proportionally higher than when adding value. In addition, the non-value adding activities (or wastes) in lean all directly apply to energy usage. This supports the laws of lean in the need to reduce or eliminate waste first, before focusing on the value adding activity.
By taking a more balanced view of energy and other lean metrics ensures that any improvements are holistic rather than just focused on one area at the expense of another. For example, an oven in a bakery should, from an energy perspective, be turned off between batches. However, from a lean perspective, if heating up the oven increases set up times, which in turn increases batch sizes this might not be the best solution. As an alternative, ovens can often be reduced by a few degrees without having any impact on set up times. By factoring the two metrics together, an even more optimum solution has been found.
Lean, and in fact any improvement technique, needs to be driven by robust data and analysis - if you don’t measure it, how do you know you have improved it? Manufacturing companies need to understand where energy is being consumed, and where specific areas are inefficient. Individual machines or areas need to be monitored, which is relatively inexpensive. Energy data, in return, can be used to drive a number of established lean techniques.
To put the theory to the test, a group of manufacturers recently identified a staggering £175,000 and 826 carbon tonnes of savings, with some companies potentially saving up to £30,000. The exercise took place at a series of three energy saving workshops for manufacturers hosted by Footwork First, in conjunction with MAS SE and environmental specialists Ecopare.
The workshops were designed to look at a manufacturers own facility, and the energy they use throughout their production process. Factors such as equipment, shift patterns, down time and products were taken into account and delegates complete both group and individual exercises to highlight their biggest energy users and ways in which they can reduce their energy spend – both short term and long term.
Most of the manufacturers identified huge savings they could make very quickly by adopting some simple changes in their facility such as managing machines appropriately during down time (whilst value is not being added) and that the equipment is the right size and used efficiently .
By not including energy within lean improvement strategies and programmes, companies are not only often missing additional benefits but also some crucial data that can identify valuable improvement opportunities and where to prioritise focus.