By Helen Kuhl

The road to “lean” manufacturing is a continuous one, and the key to a successful journey is employee support and buy-in. Those were two of the major points shared by presenters at a “Linking Lean and Green” seminar presented as part of the AWFS Vegas Fair’s College of Woodworking Knowledge program. The seminar was held Wednesday afternoon, the first day of the show.

It was one of several seminars presented as part of the CWWK during the 4-day show. About 2,000 attendees in total were registered to take some sort of educational program.

Presenters included Dave Dellarco of the Environmental Protection Agency, who commented that the EPA became interested in lean manufacturing when it realized about 10 years ago that waste reduction is a major part of the process. “Waste reduction means the same thing as pollution prevention to us,” he said.

Dellarco and fellow presenter Nigel Moore, COO of Washington Manufacturing Services, both were involved in a lean manufacturing project at Canyon Creek Cabinet Company in Washington state, which was successfully driven by Canyon Creek’s Environmental Manager, John Earl, who was a third presenter.

Using the real-life experiences of Canyon Creek, the three described how generation of waste runs throughout every area of any company, and reducing waste becomes a process of continual improvement. It becomes possible to achieve such continuous improvement, as long as there is support that starts from the top level of company management and an active interest among all employees to work for it.

The key to successful employee involvement is to build efforts around their feedback from the beginning. They are the people who can make realistic assessments of what works and what doesn’t on the shop floor and suggest how to implement change.

For practical help on implementing lean procedures and reducing waste, the EPA has developed a series of toolkits for manufacturers. They are available at epa.gov/lean.

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