EC 050: Update on Lean Six Sigma and the Environment Progress

In this podcast, I share an update on my recent work to apply Lean and Six Sigma techniques to reduce environmental impacts.

I discuss the following topics:



Hi, everybody. This is Brion. Every month or so, I put on a coaching call. If you’re interested in getting on the invite for that, send me an email through the website at and I can add you to the list. Basically, the idea is to just be available and answer questions for people who are looking to apply their skills to an environmental issue or maybe they already have a good background on the environment and they want a little bit more education and support on Lean and Six Sigma, either one, that’s what that is intended for.

I encourage you to join. It’s free, there’s no cost to it. I just want to reach out and support people who have expressed interest in the past. Some of the people have downloaded things from my website, some people have gone through the free online course. If you haven’t check that out, you can go to the website and find that as well and that will give you a good introduction to some of the basic tools and the concepts. The important thing, though, is to practice, and so I really encourage you to find an opportunity to work in your community, in your work, somewhere where you can try to practice some of these concepts.

I thought I would just give you an update on where I’m at. Today is Friday, May 24. I will be flying to Kosrae tomorrow, which is in the Federated States of Micronesia. I’m going to be spending about six weeks there and I’m going to be helping with an organization called Green Banana Paper. They make wallets and business cards and other products out of banana leaves that have been through its useful life. I think it has like a three-year life and then, basically, I think the trees are just being composted and rotting.

There was a guy that was over there from the Peace Corps from the US who saw a business opportunity and set up this organization and got 20 to 30 employees. They’re looking for volunteers and I wanted to visit there for a long time but didn’t have a good reason to go and now I do, so I’m going to go work with them on Lean and Six Sigma techniques and concepts and they’re going to teach me a lot about their culture and living on the island and lots of cool stuff. I’m really excited about that. I’ll still be able to answer emails and things like that, but I won’t be doing much work at that time except helping them out. If you want to follow my progress, you can find me at my consulting website,, or I’ll try to post on Instagram quite a bit, my handle is brionhurley. I’ll try and do a daily post, either video or photos, on just what I’m working on, a little bit more about their business and organization, and other interesting things I hope.

A couple of other updates I’ll give you. I just got back from the IISE conference, which is the Institute for Industrial and Systems Engineers, that was held in Orlando. Before each conference, we put on a volunteer service project for people attending the conference and invite them to come volunteer with a nonprofit. This year, we took on two nonprofits due to some popularity in this effort.

The first one was with Habitat for Humanity. One team went over and worked inside on a house that was near completion. The idea with these projects is to give feedback on what do we see, from a process standpoint, that could be improved. A lot of the nonprofits don’t have access to people with process improvement skills, so we thought that would be a good way to give back. We usually do part of the time is the volunteering and get to know what the process is and get familiar with it and then the other part is giving feedback.

The other group was called Rise Against Hunger. They package up meals and send them overseas to people who are not getting adequate meals and it’s a very nutritious meal. They go through a process where they kit it up into a bag and then package it and ship it out. They have a bunch of different warehouses throughout the US and there was one in Orlando. This is a connection a made through some consulting work I’m doing where I was helping one of the organizers or one of the managers of the team. She was doing a Six Sigma project and I was helping with that and got to learn a little bit more about the organization.

They had already done some good Lean improvements and so I actually suggested that they submit for the IISE Excellence In Sustainable Development Award. This is the first year that we’ve actually given out that award. Last year, we put it out there but nobody submitted anything, unfortunately. The idea is that the award is to recognize nonprofits or NGOs or not-for-profit organizations that are utilizing Lean and Six Sigma or other industrial engineering techniques to better their organization and showcase the work they’re doing to motivate and encourage others to do the same thing and then also tying it back to a sustainable development goal, with the 17 that the UN has established.

Rise Against Hunger ended up winning the award. We had four submissions and they were the ones that were voted. It was a blind voting, so there was no bias on my part. What we’ll do is try to showcase those other submissions as well and the winners were invited to attend. It worked out really well that two people were able to attend the awards dinner that we had. Courtney had come over from LA because she was now taking over the Florida warehouse location and the person we worked with was Jason at the volunteer event, and so he was able to come as well, so really cool opportunity and experience, and so hope to be able to share some of that as well.

The idea that they’re working on was really around reducing hunger and what I found that was really interesting was hunger is really tied into education as well, which is another sustainable development go. If people aren’t eating, then they don’t have the strength and they don’t do as well in school and if they know that they can get a meal at school, they’re going to more likely make the trip and get to school, which means that their attendance is higher and that means they’re learning more. So there’s a lot of system-level things that happen when you can address the root cause of a lot of issues like hunger.

That was a pretty big weekend. I also presented on kickoff of my project in Kosrae and the logistics of that, which is many, many legs above flight. There’s no direct route there; you have to go through Hawaii and then a couple of puddle-jumper aircraft to eventually get there. So hard to get to, but this should be really cool. I think there’s about 6000 people that live on the island, so secluded but still modern. It’s part of US, there’s a long history of that. I’m going to publish a video of my presentation in which I explain a little bit more on the details, and then you also see a presentation that I gave around expanding this idea of nonprofit volunteering to other cities and what my next steps are for that.

I have another website, it’s called, and that’s where I’m capturing all of the nonprofit examples of Lean and Six Sigma process improvement applied across different industries and organizations, like food banks or disaster recovery or community services or healthcare, stuff like that. I gave a presentation around that topic and then there’s a couple of other presentations that are related to that, that were at the same sessions from some friends of mine, so I’ll post those every soon.

I also gave a presentation this week to Washington County Green Business Leaders, which is the county that’s what of Portland. It houses a lot of large companies, like Intel and Nike, and these are people who are going through the county sustainability program, basically, and getting recognition for the work that they’re doing to reduce their paper usage and energy usage and improve recycling and reduce landfill charges and stuff like that and being good community stewards. I got to present to them this concept around applying Lean concepts to the environment and vice versa, taking their green teams and teaching them some concepts of Lean that they can apply and look for opportunities. I think that went over really well.

Finally, I’ve been doing some consulting work with a nonprofit this year that does some reuse activity. They work with workforce staffing services clothing staffing. I think that what they do is they rent out uniforms and then they receive them back and wash them and then return them. In order to not waste so many metal clothes hangers, they send them to this nonprofit who organizes them, inspects them, and makes sure they’re clean and of the right shape, they haven’t been dented or worked, and then they reorganize them and give them back to them. It provides jobs for people who have barriers to employment, who have struggled having full-time employment or have maybe some disabilities or issues that prevent them from getting a full-time job, so it gives them a good opportunity to get work. It’s a really cool organization and so we’re just starting to a little bit of work there to better organize their systems and collect some data and provide feedback to the team and set some goals and stuff like that. When we get some successes there, I can share a little bit more details on that.

Anyway, so things are slowly picking up, got a lot of good discussions going. If you’re interested in jumping onto a call, go to the website, or you can reach me through the podcast here and I’ll let you know how to join in. Sometimes, you can just call in and listen. I’m going to try to record those sessions, too, and make them part of the podcast so it’s not just me talking to you the whole time, you can hear some discussions we had and we’ll go from there. Any feedback you have would be appreciated and I’ll talk to you later.