Strategies to Minimize Waste and Save Money:
Manufacturing and Industrial Sectors

Businesses are all seeking efficiencies in their operating processes and wise companies don’t leave waste out of the equation. In this two-part series, we look at the strategies and technologies that can help businesses in manufacturing and industrial industries to drastically reduce their waste bills and procurement costs.

Benefits of Implementing Waste Minimization Strategies

Each year, U.S facilities generate and dispose of approximately 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste. With disposal costs and regulatory pressures continually increasing, there is a growing pressure on businesses to implement methodologies that will reduce the quantity of waste generated.

The true cost of waste is often underestimated. Typically, the cost of waste is between 4-5% of company turnover, but it can be as high as 10%. The waste reduction potential for manufacturing sites can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars, just by implementing the greatest waste reduction opportunities.

What practical strategies can be used to minimize costs? For most businesses, it starts by understanding the types and volumes of waste that are being generated.

Understand the Common Sources of Manufacturing Waste

Inventory Waste

Holding an excessive inventory requires additional storage space and packaging, and the unsold product is a liability on the books until it is sold. If it can’t be sold it may have to be discarded.

Overproduction Waste

The goal should be to manufacture to the precise demands of your customers, otherwise known as just-in-time manufacturing. However, most businesses over produce and make products too early or in excess.

Production Process Waste

Inefficient use of machinery results in excessive wastage. This costs the business time and money, and in many cases leads to an excess production of poor-quality products and additional waste.

Packaging Waste

Suppliers generally provide materials in the format that is most convenient and cost effective for them. This can result in your business receiving goods with more packaging than may be needed, which may not be recyclable. Your staff then has to de-package the goods and dispose of this material, costing your business time and money.

Defect Waste

Defects cost your business twice, since the material and processes are wasted first in the defective product and then in having to repair it or make a replacement.

Wastes of Time, Labor, Motion and Energy

As well as the physical wastes of product and packaging, manufacturing and industrial businesses must also consider the wastage in the processes themselves. Each movement beyond what is process-critical costs your business in time and money, while also causing additional stress to machines and employees:

  • Excessive movement of stock and product
  • Unnecessary motion of machines
  • Excessive travel between work areas
  • Unnecessary motion of workers

Conduct an Audit of Production Processes and Waste Generation

Once you know the main areas where wastage occurs, a thorough assessment of your production processes can serve as the starting point for your waste reduction and recycling efforts. This will show the opportunities to reduce the volume or toxicity of wastes, or to recycle.

Conduct systematic waste-reduction audits on a regular schedule to identify the areas where waste can be reduced. Audits should be recorded so that baselines and improvements can easily be tracked.

The cost saving potential (in labor, time, machinery usage and materials) of each waste reduction opportunity should be quantified, so that waste-reduction goals can be allocated an appropriate budget that can be readily justified.

Each action should be clearly assigned to an individual to ensure the task is completed optimally. A clear hierarchy should be established that breaks down the work that needs to be performed, and what the outcomes should be.

Integrate Pollution Prevention Practices

Pollution prevention practices go beyond traditional environmental compliance and begin to address the concept of sustainability in the use and reuse of natural resources. Integrating pollution prevention into operations provides opportunities to reduce not just the volume, but also the toxicity of the wastes generated.

These practices reduce waste disposal needs and provide the potential to recycle and reuse materials that previously had to be handled as waste.

In addition to providing savings on waste management costs, pollution prevention can help reduce regulatory pressures and ease some of the risks and liabilities of waste management.

Implement Efficient Inventory Management

Manufacturing waste can be reduced greatly at the very start by implementing just-in-time inventories, a process of only stocking resources and tools in the time you need them, rather than in advance.

Start by examining your inventory against sales data to reduce inventory to the absolute minimum. Then you can reset production processes so that you’re only producing the inventory necessary to meet short-term sales. Work towards the goal of producing based on customer demand rather than maintaining inventory overhead.

Engage the Entire Organization

The entire workforce and management team needs to be involved in order for waste minimization practices to be followed diligently and the appropriate funding to be assigned.

Allocate responsibilities and agree on what success looks like. Include waste management objectives in job descriptions, or add bonus targets for existing employees.

  • Involve all personnel so that they know what’s happening, and to ensure that the waste-reduction efforts are carried out collectively.
  • Establish regular, ongoing training and education in waste reduction to promote awareness and understanding.
  • Reward and publicize any waste-reduction efforts made by employees.
  • Quantify and then share the results of successes with the entire organization.

Conduct Staff Training

For effective waste minimization, it is essential that employees are well trained. Ensure that all waste programs make it clear as to how waste is classified, sorted and stored before it is collected. Give your staff an overall perspective of production waste and the associated costs and make sure that they are clear as to where waste arises.

Undertrained employees are often responsible for a significant proportion of wasted time, money, and even an accelerated depreciation of equipment, so training should also tackle workplace efficiency.

As well as significantly reducing production wastage, training sessions can help boost employee satisfaction and value.

Reduce Packaging Waste

Redesign your product packaging so that it uses the minimum amount of materials possible, while still providing adequate protection for your product.

Once you have reduced the quantity of materials in your packaging, then the next step is to investigate how to incorporate recyclable or degradable content. For example, cushioning to protect your product can now be provided with inflatable air packs or corn-based packing peanuts, rather than utilizing non-recyclable polystyrene.

Audit and Push Back on Suppliers

Audit your suppliers on a regular basis to ensure that you receive minimal defective goods and that their packaging material is kept to a minimum. Where supplier packaging cannot be reduced or reused, then explore with them if there is a recyclable alternative for any non-recyclable material currently used.

Many suppliers will agree to take back some or all of their packaging waste if sufficient pressure is applied, taking this cost away from your business entirely.

Conclusion

The cost saving potential of waste minimization is huge. Taking a systematic approach will ensure that your strategies are sustainably executed throughout the organization.

Utilize Waste Minimization Technologies

In part two of this series, we will explore the technologies that can be utilized in manufacturing and industrial facilities to streamline operations and further reduce waste generation.

An expert waste management firm can review your entire system and its processes, providing insights and suggestions that you may have missed. It can also identify the strategies that will generate the fastest ROI for your business, and then guide your sites through the necessary steps to help them achieve your minimization goals.

Need help to make your waste minimization plans a reality? Talk to our waste experts today by calling us at 1-888-692-5005, or emailing sales@nationalwaste.com

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