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Six Sigma Can Drive Environmental Management Programs

The current ISO 14001:2004 standard for environmental management systems has explicit requirements for defining and establishing objective targets and measures as part of an organization’s commitment to sound environmental management. Meeting these standards can be made easier when Six Sigma is applied in complement to an organization’s environmental management system. The presence of a robust Six Sigma program – including work completed and documented during DMAIC projects – also can help demonstrate compliance to ISO 14001:2004. The following example illustrates the benefits of using Six Sigma to meet environmental goals.

Transforming Transportation

A popular environmental objective for many organizations is to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, which is an element of their overall carbon footprint. To reach this objective, the organization in this case study examined its transportation habits. A team assessed the organization’s land, sea and air transportation use and collected baseline data. The organization then determined a reduction target to demonstrate its commitment to prevent pollution by reducing its overall impact on carbon generation. They also started a Six Sigma project to make improvements in order to meet the target.

To begin, the Six Sigma team needed to identify and analyze the drivers for individuals requiring transportation. A force field analysis contrasted the driving and restraining forces to show alternatives that could be considered as ways to reduce transportation (Table 1).

Table 1: Force Field Analysis
Driving Forces to Reduce Individual Transportation Driving Forces to Sustain Individual Transportation
Lower cost to reach destination More convenient to drive
Lower cost for parking More flexibility for scheduling
More time for business by reducing time spent on travel Need for privacy
Less wear and tear on personal vehicle Security concerns
Carpooling in common transportation can provide a meeting forum No penalty for cancellation
Cheaper alternatives to travel (i.e., web conferencing) Accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Company provides financial incentives and rewards for taking public transport Vehicle is part of professional image

Employees undertake transportation for meetings, deliveries and other job requirements. To reduce transportation, the Six Sigma team evaluated the merits of these reasons for transportation and brainstormed alternate options. In preparation for a design of experiments (DOE), the team determined the options for instituting these alternatives (Table 2).

Table 2: Initiatives to Reduce Transportation Impact and Levels for DOE
Input Factors Level 1 (-) Level 2 (+)
A. Meeting at sites accessible by public transit No Yes
B. Increasing technology options for remote meetings (i.e., webcams and video conferencing) No technology Technology
C. Telecommuting from home No Yes
D. Reducing or simplifying agendas and content to reduce meeting duration and frequency No change Simplify
E. Reducing items requiring delivery or transfer No change Reduce items
F. Modifying schedules to travel in off-peak hours, reducing travel times No change Adjust schedules
G. Providing employee incentives for using public or shared transportation No incentives Incentives

The team performed a DOE to find the positive effects of switching over to more environmentally friendly methods (Table 3).

Table 3: DOE for Environmentally Friendly Transportation Alternatives

Input Factors

Outputs (Results)

Test

A

B

C

D

E

F

G

Pass

Score

1

No (-)

5

2

+

+

+

+

No (-)

10

3

+

+

+

+

Yes (+)

15

4

+

+

+

+

No (-)

11

5

+

+

+

+

Yes (+)

17

6

+

+

+

+

No (-)

14

7

+

+

+

+

No (-)

9

8

+

+

+

+

Yes (+)

14

The pass/fail pattern appeared to correlate with giving employees the ability to telecommute from home and providing an incentive to use public or shared transportation. Meeting at sites accessible to public transit also was a contributing factor.

The team conducted a full factorial experiment to compare the transportation levels relative to the baseline for different groups as these alternatives – changes in meeting sites (M), telecommuting from home (T) and incentives for public or shared transportation use (I) – were applied (Table 4). The solutions shown to have the most impact were then recommended for companywide adoption.

Table 4: Full-factorial DOE
 

Interactions

 
Exp M T I MxT TxI MxI MxTxI Result

1

No

No

No

+

+

+

11

2

Yes

No

No

+

+

15

3

No

Yes

No

+

+

9

4

Yes

Yes

No

+

14

5

No

No

Yes

+

+

11

6

Yes

No

Yes

+

16

7

No

Yes

Yes

+

10

8

Yes

Yes

Yes

+

+

+

+

14

With full factorial experiments, practitioners are able to deduce which effects or interactions contribute most significantly to a result. In this example, the interactions were negligible, and the most significant change was the selection of the meeting site accessible by public transit (M).

To maintain the adoption of sound environmental practices, the team established operational controls within the organization’s environmental management plan, and monitored and reviewed the controls according to the ISO 14001 requirements (Table 5).

Table 5: Operational Controls
Alternative Method Operational Control
Meeting sites accessible by publici transport Meetings required to be booked at publicly accessible sites. Establish metric comparing total meetings booked to meetings booked at sites accessible by public transportation, with the target of 100 percent.
Option to telecommute Provide qualified users with access capabilities. Establish metrics comparing total eligible workers with workers actually telecommuting.
Incentives for public transit use Direct employees to register for public transit incentives. Document their trips to measure the amounts paid compared to total eligible employees and a reasonable allotment. Contrast with the amount saved in costs to transport individuals (i.e., gas, parking, mileage allowances).

Using the DMAIC Model

The ISO 14001:2004 standard for environmental management imposes that organizations must demonstrate a cohesive program for defining objectives and targets, measuring performance against those targets, analyzing outcomes, achieving continual improvement and establishing operational controls. Essentially, this is the same approach as Six Sigma’s DMAIC roadmap, making the method a good fit for this environmentally productive work.

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