Environmental Kaizen

Kaizen, or “continuous improvement”, means constantly working towards improving processes, no matter how small the improvement.  The idea of kaizen has famously been applied at Toyota to their manufacturing process but the concept has also been applied by GM to make their manufacturing plants more environmentally friendly.

GM’s Lansing Delta assembly plant in the the world’s only to have received Gold Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system. They achieved this goal by making many small (and some large) improvements to their processes. For example, they use bright lights were tasks are needed and dim or no lighting where light is not needed (such as where robots are working).  The restrooms use rainwater collected from the roof and the roof is painted white to reduce heat absorption. (Both the light and rainwater examples emphasize that an important resource should be used only where needed.) But more important than any single idea, the implementation of Kaizen changes how employees view their environment and motivates them to generate further ideas.

Automotive News, August 11, 2008 – GM Factory a Model of Sustainable Manufacturing

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One Response to Environmental Kaizen

  1. Tom Tan says:

    My thrifty grandpa, who grew up in the most difficult times in China, really knows how to apply Kaizen in saving natural resources, which often amazes me. He would stow a one-liter Coca Cola bottle in the reservoir of the toilet at his home. It’s simple and effective to save water and money. He would also save the water which he rinsed rice with to wash the dishes later on. He claims that this rice water has special oil-removing function. Although my mom often complained to my grandpa for being too “stingy”, I would oftentimes appreciate what my grandpa did. He might not know the high importance of “saving the world”, but what he actually did was practical and innovative for “kaizen” and reducing “muda”. As a grandson of this “stingy” man, I would use the back of printing paper as scratch paper. I am sure my grandpa would be very proud of me.

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