waste-free guide: reduce

In the first part of the theme Why do we need to create green supply chains I explained why and how to review your choices of material, work with your suppliers to avoid bringing waste into your processes.

The second way to lower your waste is by reducing it. For some, it means to limit the wasteful practices you have such as buying 1 litre of toxic chemicals rather than 5 thanks to a new process. For others it is how can I make better choices. Could this toxic chemical be replaced by a less harmful product?

Image result for reduce

The process is daunting and looking at your supply chain from raw material to customers and returns is the best way to holistically reduce waste but it presents itself as a Herculean task. I break it down for you to feel less intimidated by the project.

“One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half.”


Where does one begin?

Start by spotting the wasteful practices or waste sources you have all along your supply chain. Review your processes to see where most of the waste is created or where it can be reduced easily. For instance, in my continuous improvement roles I looked at reducing the returns that were due to damages. I went through asking my team “What value do damages bring to customers?” Negative to be fair… I would rather receive a product in pristine condition than receive a damaged product and ask for a replacement. You may suppress the waste or diminish it.

Find the reason(s) for the waste. In my case I followed the 5 why’s method. The root cause? The packaging and palletisation of the products. It could also be a machine you use that doesn’t wrap your pallets tight enough so you redo it, a process that lacks precision and produces unsuitable products or a diluted chemical product that uses more space, packaging and weighs more than its concentrated version.

Link this waste to a cost or an importance. Think about it this way: how can I produce more with minimum raw material? What follows is minimising your waste and maximising your financial gains. This will help you on many aspects : to know which project to tackle first, find your Return On Investment, get buy-in your project etc.

present wasteful practices in the supply chain by showing a factory process

I argue that the waste your customers can see is one deemed more important even if less costly. Acquiring a new customer is more expensive and laborious than keeping a current one. The same pattern will show in your green journey. Your current customers should be easier to convince you became greener than new ones. So those are the stakeholders who are the first to notice and appreciate your green swift moves. You are also working towards being green so bringing more attention to your waste is what you are trying to avoid (that’s why you are here remember?).

Another reason to limit your waste, as obvious as it sounds, waste is cumbersome to your customers. Believe it or not I don’t like to throw the bins, pile up trash or go to a recycling point for odd items and it’s a great motivation to minimise my waste.

In my project, the lead time for damaged products to go back to shelving was too long. Besides, I found that cleaning up a ripped flour bag took around 30min. You time that by the wage of your teams, the number of returns you have and you find that waste is expensive! Moreover, the clients are disappointed to find products damaged while workers took time to prepare this order, manage the return, dispose of the unsuitable product, rebuild the pallet and send it back to stock. A long winded process when you can avoid it. So we put in place a solution that should reduce 50% of the waste. I started reviewing the packagings, trained staff on new the stacking processes putting flour in the middle for instance, assessed the reason for frequent breakdowns of the wrapping machine that lead to looser hand-wrapping and more likely to shift during handling and reduced the time products took to go back to shelves and the amount of returns for damages!

This sounds amazing right? Why don’t you start now by little steps? If greener processes is not part of your company policies or strategy, even though we explained it should, offer to reduce waste and review processes to allow better efficiency. This is an initiative that can save you a lot of time and money. It will be appreciated by the company or push for more sustainable practices within your team, office or warehouse.

In the next post, I will explain how repairing helps with your environmental impact


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