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Lean Manufacturing and Environment

Robins U.S. Air Force Base

Applying Lean to Hazardous Waste Management Processes at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia

Lean and Environment Case Example

Robins Air Force Base (AFB)—a major depot for repairing aircraft and producing spare parts for the U.S. Air Force—has implemented lean production since May 1999. This document describes one example of Robins AFB’s lean efforts; separate case examples profile other lean projects.

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Lean Project Scope and Operational Objectives

In December 2003, Robins AFB’s Environmental Management Division started applying lean to its waste collection processes, using methods such as Value-Stream Mapping (VSM), standard work, and 6S. Environmental Management staff initiated these lean events to reduce the lead time to collect and haul away hazardous waste on schedule.

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Before Lean

Base environmental hazardous waste personnel would pick up full hazardous waste drums at the 90-day storage facilities across the Base and take the waste to the hazardous waste management facility, Building 359. The drums were then stored at Building 359 until the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO) storage facility had space available to store the drums. Building 359 personnel would then transfer the drums to DRMO for storage before pick up by a contractor for disposal. This process left the hazardous waste facility often over crowded and disorganized.

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What Was Done

Robins AFB used VSM to identify non-value added time within the current process, and designed a new system to streamline the collection and transportation of hazardous waste on the base. This process eliminated the step of hauling waste to the DRMO by having the DRMO contractor pick up waste drums at the hazardous waste management facility, Building 359.

Through 6S, Robins AFB reorganized the hazardous waste management facility to improve flow and control the levels of work in process and inventory through visual management. Robins AFB taped rectangles on the floor delineating where wastes, equipment, and other materials belonged, and clearly labeled each space. The size of the rectangles reflected the total amount of work in process (e.g., waste drums) that would be allowed to accumulate in each area. Individual waste drums also have bar codes that help Robins AFB track its hazardous materials management processes. As a result of these activities, the facility is clean, orderly, and easy to get around in; accidents and spills are less common. A production control board displays the goals for the process as well as the activities that have occurred that week and any problems that have arisen.

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Results

Lean events conducted on Robins AFB’s hazardous waste management process have:

  • Saved 1,500 hours handling hazardous waste drums
  • Decreased the number of times operators touched the waste drums by 70 percent
  • Reduced the potential for spills and saved time
  • Improved efficiency by standardizing processes

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