Add the environmental observations during your mapping exercise

By Richard Kunst   

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Leverage your value stream mapping exercises to become more environmentally friendly.

Photo: OpturaDesign/Adobe Stock

Enterprise value stream mapping takes you beyond the traditional shop floor and dives deep into the information and communication flows of your operation. If your annual operating plan is not supported by value stream maps, your plan is just a wish.

Enhance dialogue boxes within value stream maps to capture information revolving around the three pillars:
• Inspired and motivated people (cultural);
• Robust processes (physical assets and technology); and,
• Lean operations (process DNA).

For example, maps can capture casual absenteeism, turnover, amount of people cross-trained, tenure and the 5S score. Since the power of lean is about respect for people, look at operations with high turnover to make them better.

Adding environmental observation during your mapping exercise expands the scope of opportunity. A key component of value stream mapping is walking and observing the current state by being there. I’m amazed when facilitating a mapping session, how often managers find out new attributes of how the value stream is operating.
As you walk your value stream, look at it from an environmental perspective, in addition to the other attributes. |


Begin by looking in garbage cans and do a trash audit; what and why are certain things being placed in trash cans? Also, look in your swarf container. Creating this swarf costs money, so what can be done to minimize the creation of swarf?

For example, a machine shop had an employee install a simple oil filter and collection container at the bottom of the swarf container to re-capture coolant that could be recycled back into the machine, saving the
company money.

After many iterations of value stream mapping, it becomes more difficult to find improvement opportunities; therefore, expanding your horizon to look at environmental opportunities is a natural and profitable extension of observation.

For example, what you find in the trash can may be a symptom of greater opportunities.
• Excessive use of rags or wipes can indicate that the machine has a leak.
• Fumes could indicate a toxic emission or that you are over-processing within
the operation.
• Noise is the silent killer and we need to constantly find a way to make for quieter operations.
• Compressed air leaks: visit your plant during a quiet time, turn on your compressor and listen for leaks. Sometimes just a simple tightening of a joint will fix the problem and save you money.
• Water, coolant spills, and pumps consume energy. If liquids are being pumped onto the floor, you are wasting energy.
• Amp meters can be a friend. Log the size of motors being used and the amount of current they are drawing.
• Pre-start: many operations require machines to warm up before they will perform effective operations; idle time can be costly.
• Garbage audit: dump that garbage can onto the floor and separate landfill items from potential recycling. Ask how land-fill items can be reduced or your recycling program can be enhanced.

In addition, look at what machines will be started at the beginning of shift or after the completion of a scheduled break. If several machines are started at the same time, this will create a peak in your energy consumption.

Many companies pay for energy consumption based on the peak usage determined during the day. Staggered breaks can create savings.

With diminishing resources, we see organizations trying to rush mapping exercises, when they need to slow down and observe.
Richard Kunst is an author, speaker and seasoned lean practitioner based in Toronto, who leads a holistic practice to coach, mentor and provide management solutions to help companies implement or accelerate their excellence journeys. You can reach him at


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