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Employing ‘lean’ principles for safety and sustainability

According to Alison Cook, end user marketing manager UK, Ireland & Benelux at KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL, applying ‘lean’ principles can help companies improve health & safety at work, promote wellness among employees and boost productivity – critical components of a sustainable business.

The company is urging manufacturers to consider safety and sustainability as inextricably linked in order to maximise their performance in both areas. Many companies in the industrial world treat safety and sustainability as separate areas of focus altogether. The individuals and teams within a business responsible for overseeing them may have very little to do with each other professionally on a day-to-day basis.

‘Lean’ principles is a production practice that considers the expenditure of resources for any goal other than the creation of value for the end customer to be wasteful. “Lean principles may call to mind the stripping out of waste in a business – and this is, of course, accurate,” says Cook. “But in addition they can help make a company safer and more efficient, thereby supporting a more sustainable business.”

According to Cook, the key to successfully applying lean principles to health & safety is to discover which areas are in need of attention. “An effective way to start this process is with what we call a ‘Waste Walk’,” she says. “Literally, this means carrying out a step-by-step comprehensive site assessment to identify any areas where there may be wastage, which might be impacting on safety and sustainability, and then find specific counter-measures. It can be worthwhile to ask someone else – a third party – to help you with this task, since a second pair of credible eyes can often spot things you may miss, simply because you’re looking in areas you see every day – areas you may by now be over-familiar with.

 “A fresh perspective is always helpful and we have helped many of our customers in this way through our Efficient Workplace programme, which has been designed specifically to help companies in a range of industries eliminate hazards and enhance the sustainability of their operations by boosting their efficiency and performance,” she explains.

The Waste Walk

“When a customer requests our help with a Waste Walk, we send one of our knowledgeable and experienced representatives to visit their premises to view first-hand how their business operates day-to-day. During this site assessment, our representative advises company managers on any areas where there may be potential hazards and unsustainable procedures and suggests targeted counter-measures.”

KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL believes that a programme like the Efficient Workplace initiative can help by highlighting the best way to select, dispense, use and store equipment and supplies in industrial environments. Having identified waste and unsustainable practices within a customer’s processes, the company’s representative is able to recommend specific products and services that are designed especially for the particular needs of the company in question.

The approach is based on the principle that an efficient business is a safe and sustainable business, and that a safe and sustainable business is an efficient business. The Efficient Workplace initiative helps companies identify hazards and unsustainable practices and root them out using targeted, tailored solutions. It’s an innovative strategy focused on maximising safety, sustainability and profitability through finding the right solution for each individual company.

“Every step of the way, it is about identifying the appropriate and most effective industrial supplies for a situation – not simply the cheapest,” says Cook. “Further, once the right solution is in place, we have the service capabilities to help our customers drive and maintain full compliance. In this way, we can advise them on the best way to get a job done safely and efficiently, ultimately driving sustainable practice through waste elimination.”

One example of this approach in practice are the KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL’s G10 Arctic Blue Gloves. It is possible to fit 100% more of them in a case, compared with traditional glove types, which means a reduction in packaging waste by up to 55%. The company’s Heavy Duty Wipes, meanwhile, weigh five times less than standard wipes, creating 37% less waste, by weight, on disposal. Further, general maintenance cloths from KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL are twice as absorbent as other light dried crepe wipers, so fewer are required – saving valuable raw materials.

Another key area addressed by the Efficient Workplace is that of the toxic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in the solvents used for many important tasks, including the degreasing of surfaces. The levels of VOCs emitted by companies are now subject to strict statutory limits and companies exceeding these can expect to face stiff financial penalties and significant rectification costs. KIMBERLY-CLARK PROFESSIONAL can offer customers an innovative enclosed solvents system – called the WETTASK System – which reduces VOC emissions by as much as 20%, benefiting both the environment and the bottom line.

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