Lean and Sustainable Consortium accelerates efforts for all members

I recently had the good fortune of attending the Lean and Sustainable Consortium, held near London in early March 2016.

The session involved a tour of one of the consortium members, who manufactures energy equipment.

The night before the tour (called a “Gemba Exchange”), we all met at the hotel and enjoyed a wonderful dinner with drinks and dessert. It was nice to be with like-minded people, and to have some time to really get to know one another outside of a work environment. That is a very valuable part of the consortium model, since it really comes down to people at the end of the day.


In the beginning of the next day, the host company went over a presentation about what they do, and their improvements over the years. They showcased how they have taken a holistic approach to running their business, by not only implementing lean methodology to improve their business, but have engaged their employees in the effort, set an example in the community (social), and continue to reduce their carbon footprint (environment). It was very impressive to observe the triple bottom line approach in action!

The presenter was the continuous improvement (CI) and Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) manager. I found it interesting that a few of the consortium members wear both of those hats: CI and HSE. In the U.S., I haven’t seen that combination of roles very often, but it obviously makes a lot of sense, seeing as how closely connected they are.

The next step was the plant tour. There were some great takeaways for me, but I cannot share them at this time. Part of the consortium rules is that the sharing between companies needs to stay private, to protect it from their competitors, and to create an open and safe environment to share the good and the bad. Like most mature lean companies, they really wanted to hear ways they could improve, and the other members provided quite a few suggestions.

After the tour, we talked about next steps for the consortium, and how to take actions on all the learnings from this (and previous tours). Most members were almost overwhelmed with things to take back to their companies, but weren’t sure exactly how to implement.  They agreed that for the next gemba exchange, they would complement the tour with a workshop around a couple key lessons learned and topics, to figure out how they could share this within their own companies. Although I was not in attendance at any prior exchanges, I could see how easy it was to get overwhelmed, so that sounded like a great suggestion.

In summary, I was really impressed with the consortium model. It was driven by the members, and moderated by a lean practitioner, so it was a good mix of flexibility and structure. I see a lot of value of “going to the gemba,” instead of just reviewing some slides, or listening to a webinar. In addition, the social event the night before was very powerful, something that you cannot replicate without being together in person.

As a result, I plan to setup a local consortium in the Portland/Seattle area, that models the one I attended. Here is the link again to the group: Lean and Sustainable Consortium

If you are interested in setting up a similar consortium in your area, here are a couple things to do to get started:

  1. Look for companies within a 4-hour drive that are already applying lean, and determine if they are serious about their sustainability program (if they have one)
  2. Look for companies within a 4-hour drive that are serious about sustainability, and see if they are familiar with lean and six sigma methodology.
  3. As long as the company is strong in one area, and really interested in getting better in the other area, they would be good candidates for the consortium.
  4. Once you have an initial list of 4-6 companies that are interested in meeting on a regular basis, contact us to get help setting it up, including membership fees, frequency of meetings, and other best practices.

If you don’t need our help, we would still like to hear about any new groups that exist, so we can start to keep track of them and promote it to others. We’ll setup a website to keep track of them all, so we can make it easier to find them, and connect them to one another, so we can learn from each other.