A proven 4 step guide to implement cleaner production in your workplace
The aim of cleaner production is to reduce waste and business costs. Waste is commonly accepted as inevitable, and perhaps some of it is. However, much of your waste is probably out of sight and out of mind – a hidden cost.
I offer a simple methodology to reduce waste that may yield surprising cost-saving results. The methodology is made up of 4 steps:
- Detailed study
- Improvement plan
- Repeat the process
Find out what your main process inputs are (excluding labour) eg. energy, water and raw materials, and estimate the approximate annual cost of each.
Select the top one or two inputs by cost – in the above example, this is clearly RM1. The reason for choosing the highest cost input is because even a small saving on RM1 will be worth more than a much larger saving on RM2 or electricity.
2. Detailed study
Carefully watch and then flow chart the main steps in your manufacturing or other process(es) for your highest cost input(s). The “watching” is necessary because the actual process sometimes doesn’t follow the “prescribed” method. Then, for each process step, show where your chosen input(s) enter the process and all related outputs (especially waste).
It’s good to note here that waste is not only material that is thrown in a bin. It is all material which leaves the site in any form other than as the final product. This includes, but not limited to, defective products, “seconds”, material lost as emissions to atmosphere, or material lost as suspensions or dissolved salts in waste water.
Try to quantify the main inputs and outputs in this flow chart using mass balances calculations. You might have to implement some innovative means of measuring some inputs and outputs.
3. Improvement plan
So far you have collected and analysed data. Now, develop options for reducing the waste you’ve identified. This may need some more innovative thinking and you may well be surprised at what you come up with and potential cost savings. While it is beneficial to involve workers in all the cleaner production steps, it is essential that staff be involved in this step because they know your process(es) better than anyone, and probably have some untapped ideas.
Once you have developed improvement options, set some cost-saving targets and develop an improvement plan. The plan might include: changes to be implemented, budget, performance targets, timeframes, monitoring and accountabilities. Then go for it!
4. Repeat the process
Having been through this cleaner production process once, and hopefully having some cost savings to show for it, you will have confidence to go through it again, this time with more ambitious targets. Your skills will improve with each cycle and perhaps your company will eventually join the growing list of companies in Australia that have zero waste to land-fill. Yes, they do exist!
I acknowledge the contribution of my colleague, Ian Fraser, for the development of this methodology many years ago.