Going Green Using the Six Sigma Improvement Process

Environmental consciousness is increasing in importance and a key for competing in the global economy. The term often used is Going Green. Just how do you get started? This article provides a step by step guide for Going Green using the Six Sigma Improvement Process.

The most efficient approach to Going Green for any company is to follow the five-phased DMAIC improvement process of Six Sigma. DMAIC is the acronym for the five phases of the Six Sigma Improvement Process, namely Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Going Green can mean different things to different organizations. Your first task is to define what Going Green means for your organization.

  • Defining your problems with waste management and setting your goals for waste reduction and savings is the first step. The structured approach of the Define Phase in a Six Sigma project is the best approach to accomplish this. The deliverables are your Problem Statement, Goal Statement, Constraints, Assumptions, Guideline’s for the Team, Green Requirements, and a Project Plan. Types of waste that are often tackled are: Cardboard, Wood Pallets and Crates, Banding, Plastic, Rags, Cans and Bottles, Paper, Metal, and Hardware. For these types of waste establish the baseline of Total Pounds of Waste, the Good is Recycled Pounds, the Bad or Defect is Land Fill Pounds. Use this to set your process yield and process sigma level in the Measure Phase.
  • The Measure Phase for Going Green is all about establishing how you will measure your waste as previously defined and establishing your organization’s baseline performance. Without the baseline performance, you won’t be able to measure the green impact and savings from your Going Green Six Sigma Project. One approach is analogous to the Mass Balance equation where Mass is conserved between inputs and outputs which must remain equal. The Mass Balance Equation is Total of Material and Consumables Input = Output of Salable Goods and Services + Waste to Atmosphere + Waste to Water Supply + Waste to Landfill + Hazardous Waste + Recyclables. Your organization will have to determine the extent to apply this equation.
  • In the Analyze Phase, the Team evaluates the waste categories and how and where they are created. Is it a process issue, a policy issue, or just that we have always treated waste that way? Once you understand where it is coming from then you can develop the creative solutions that will transform landfill waste into recyclable waste. Depending on the scope of the project the team may also be addressing other waste components of the mass balance equation.
  • In the Improve Phase, the Team investigates alternatives for how to handle the multiple waste categories and how to minimize their creation. Many items that were always sent to the landfill if separated can become recyclable. In many cases, recyclables can generate revenue. The costs of storage and hauling can then be reduced. This, in turn, changes the ratios of Total Waste to Recyclable Waste and to Landfill Waste. Going Green has significant cost reduction and revenue enhancement benefits.
  • In the Control Phase, the Team implements the policies, procedures, and work instructions to handle the waste categories. Arrangements are made with waste and recycling organizations to handle the waste categories per the improvements identified. Ongoing measurements are put in place to continue to drive landfill waste reduction and increase recyclables. Similarly, if the project scope was larger the other categories of waste in the Mass Balance Equation would be included as well.

This is how Going Green is accomplished with the Six Sigma DMAIC approach to solving problems.