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Applying Lean Six Sigma to the Environment

Interview with Keivan Zokaei

3 min read

As part of our expert series, I asked Keivan Zokaei to answer some questions I had about his involvement with Lean and Green activities.

How did you get started in Lean methodology?

I first began in 2002, when I was doing a Master degree at Warwick University in the UK. I had seen lean tools & techniques in my work in the oil and gas industry. However, it was the first time I came across lean as a systematic production philosophy.

When did you start incorporating the environment and sustainability aspect into your work?

In 2002, at Warwick University, my dissertation title was “Lean & Green”.

Back then Boeing, Interface and a few other companies were my case studies. I was torn between Hoshin Kanri and Lean & Green for my dissertation subject. I always loved strategy and Hoshin Kanri, to date, is my strength when working with clients. But I also loved both concepts of lean and sustainability. A couple email exchanges with Jim Womack helped me make up my mind.

What should lean practitioners do to incorporate “green” into their events and improvements?

If you are student of Toyota Production System (TPS), there is no other way. That is what Toyota does.

What should environmental professionals do to be able to apply lean techniques into their work?

Borrowing from Mike Rother, problem solving is a mentality. It doesn’t really matter in which field you apply this mentality. Environmental professionals can benefit from solid problem solving just as much as the production or marketing people.

What is the background story on creating the “Lean and Green Business System” book?

I joined the Lean Enterprise Research Centre (LERC) at Cardiff University in early 2004. Dan Jones (co-author of The Machine that Changed the World) made the first introduction. Dan was a co-director of LERC back then. My recruitment presentation was about Lean & Green. It was my own plan and LERC’s desire that we develop the field of lean into new territories.

shingo prize lean green business system

Do you have any other books or major projects in the pipeline you’d like to share?

The next book is Creating Lean & Green Supply Chains. We have mapped nearly 50 end-to-end Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) supply chains. It is a great collection of case studies. The book needs another couple months of work, at the very least though.

Another recent and on-going project is the creation of the Lean & Green Consortium. The aim is to bring together the leading companies in the world of lean and green to share their experience.

What are some of your personal behaviors for reducing your impact on the environment?

Since around 9 months ago, I do NOT own a car. Living in a big city enables me to access “car pool” services. It also saves me money.

To learn more about Keivan, or to connect with him online, visit his expert page >>>

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