By Andrew Nicholson, Managing Director of Nicholson Consultancy Ltd
A fundamental shift is taking place within a range of industries, not least, the manufacturing sector.
The traditional way of working has been in a linear fashion where resources are obtained, shaped into products, used and disposed of.
However, as raw materials diminish and become more scarce or expensive, businesses are turning their attention to making the most use of what is available.
As a result, a new model is emerging that has been dubbed the ‘Circular Economy’ where products are remade, resold or recycled in some cases many times over.
The circular economy is all about doing more with less and minimising waste with new products assembled from materials obtained from old ones through reclamation, remanufacture and recycling or the operational life of a component is extended through refurbishment.
So does this offer any opportunities for the ‘Lean Manufacturer’?
In my opinion, the answer is most definitely yes.
From an efficiency point of view, it does not matter whether what is being used as the basis for a product is from an original source or is reusing or recycling materials.
Any type of manufacturing can be scrutinised and fine-tuned so that wastes of time and effort are eliminated from the entire process – which means from the minute a customer’s order is received to the delivery of the finished product.
The scope for employing lean principles will widen as they easily and effectively can be applied to industries that decide to embrace the Circular Economy as part of their operations.
Indeed, the values and ideology behind Lean Manufacturing and the Circular Economy are comparable. The Circular Economy is about minimising waste through reusing components rather than disposing of them while Lean is about making sure that time and effort is not wasted during the manufacturing processes.
These demonstrate the compatibility of Lean and the Circular Economy. And as the Circular Economy grows, which I believe it will, the use of Lean has the potential to expand proportionately.