Green and sustainability have become big topics at many companies. Some sustainability practices have proven to be quite profitable, while others have been losers. Two companies that have found success in green include carmakers Toyota and Subaru, with each taking its own strategy and approach to reduce waste and boost profits.
For Toyota, sustainability principles can be found in the design and construction of a Torrance, California, facility for subsidiary Toyota Financial Services (TFS). Toyota invested a lot time and money into the design process. First, the buildings truly are functional—employees enjoy a well-lit, well-thought-out facility that enhances performance. The facility is modular and can be updated quickly and efficiently. It also features state-of-the-art, high-productive solar power collection so efficient that TFS can sell electricity back to the power company. Other sustainability and cost-saving measures include methods to reduce electrical use through smart window management and recycling water back to the grounds.
For employees, it is a comfortable, efficient, effective place to work. Toyota plans to build on this success by incorporating these technologies into all its plants and office sites. The savings from multiple Toyota facilities then can be reinvested in new products, equipment, and construction. Success building upon success is a classic lean strategy.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg Businessweek
article describes a successful Subaru facility in Indiana. I personally have used this article as a teaching tool in operations management, supply management, and strategic management classes. The authors portray Subaru as a master of kaizen in regular production, but at this facility, kaizen was expanded to encompass all waste. Specifically, Subaru wanted to reduce garbage and compost, setting the goal of becoming a zero-landfill factory.
At the Indiana location, all material is recycled, including shipping containers, boxes, scrap metal, paper, glass, and plastic. The 2 percent of material that can’t be recycled is incinerated, generating electricity that can be sold back to the power company. According to Subaru, the plant saved more than $5 million in 2010 from recycling alone and expects to generate the same savings every year. All of this is due to a commitment to reduce waste everywhere. One example of Subaru’s attention to detail can be found in its method for dealing with metal clippings from machining processes. Instead of sweeping and throwing them into the garbage can, clippings are gathered into a special barrel. Each week, recyclers bid on the collections of metal at auction. It’s not exactly what you’d call a sophisticated, high-technology strategy—but it works, and it makes Subaru money. Commitment to change
The Toyota example shows the effectiveness and rewards of incorporating solar technologies and recycling in building design and operation. At Subaru, lean thinking and kaizen were used to reduce waste and recover costs at an existing facility. The plant demonstrates the benefit of taking a hard look at every process and continuously simplifying and improving operations.
It is important for anyone looking to adopt sustainability strategy to recognize the best methods for the company. If you’re ready to make meaningful changes, a serious strategy of lean thinking expanded to consider all waste and trash is necessary. A systematic, data-driven effort to reduce waste can be reinvested in new products, tools, equipment, and training to gain an advantage in the marketplace. Green has the capability of generating a positive return on investment, but it takes critical thinking, hard work, and a strong commitment to make it happen.
Philip E. Quigley, CFPIM, PMP, is a senior application portfolio manager for Computer Sciences Corporation. He teaches at Chapman University’s Argyros School of Business and Economics and California State University at Fullerton. He may be contacted at email@example.com