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CLean and Green: How SunPower Used Lean to Address Sustainability

by Lean Leaper
July 28, 2016

CLean and Green: How SunPower Used Lean to Address Sustainability

by Lean Leaper
July 28, 2016 | Comments (0)

Lean thinkers such as Doc Hall argue that “today’s challenges demand an approach that stretches Lean and other disciplines into unexplored integrative territory.” Take the challenge of sustainability, for example. It's certainly a common ambition (and by extension, challenge) in today's environmentally-conscious society.

Can lean help you get there? It can indeed - but not necessarily on its own.

One company that took an approach similar to Hall's observation is SunPower, a solar-device manufacturer out of San José, Cali. SunPower CEO Marty Neese shared his organization’s journey in a keynote presentation and a later Learning Session at the 2016 Lean Transformation Summit in Las Vegas. Being a manufacturer of green technology, Neese and his executive team wondered what lay ahead of them after years of lean practice. What should they reach for next? They decided that they wanted to practice what they preached. At the time, SunPower was following a “Linear Economy” model – which Neese describes as an economy in which “we extract raw materials and transform them into products, which we then use and discard.”

But being the renewable-energy company they were, SunPower started to explore greener and more eco-friendly models of operating. They started with the “Circular Economy,” which dictates that an organization constantly reuse, recycle and remanufacture their products and raw materials to reduce waste. Over the next year, after redefining their True North to “change the way our world is powered,” conducting numerous kaizen events, and gathering and evaluating countless employee suggestions, among other measures, they reached their goal. Their final solution was as unique as it was successful – they called it “CLean” (Circular Economy + Lean). From building a composting garden for cafeteria scraps, to seeking out companies that had a need for SunPower’s leftover raw materials, to adding an andon light to their production line; a newer, leaner, greener, CLean-er SunPower emerged.

We are pleased to offer the full case study of SunPower’s CLean journey at lean.org’s Knowledge Center, which includes videos of Neese’s talks at the Summit. Take a look, and don’t forget to leave a comment.

The views expressed in this post do not necessarily represent the views or policies of The Lean Enterprise Institute.
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