Achieving sustainability through lean production
A Nestlé case study

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Page 2: Lean production

Nestle 18 Image 7Lean production, an approach developed in Japan, aims to reduce waste. Waste is looked at in terms of time, money and quantity of resources used in production. Reducing these elements aims to increase productivity and efficiency. For example, reducing product defects will reduce costs through savings in the inputs used to make goods. It will also help reduce environmental impacts by using less materials and reduce the time wasted in dealing with poor quality products.

Lean production focuses on minimising resources used in the production process. Production should therefore aim to take place using the most efficient use of space, machinery, labour, materials and, crucially, be in the shortest time period. At Nestlé this lean approach is called Nestlé Continuous Excellence (NCE).


Nestle 18 Image 8Kaizen is another idea developed in Japan. It supports lean production by introducing the idea of continuous improvement. Kaizen is a concept that makes improvement the responsibility of everyone involved in production. Improving efficiency becomes a continuous process, not a one-off activity. Kaizen implies that even the smallest improvement should be made, as many small improvements can lead to big savings. Before building the new factory, Nestlé Waters used various techniques to see where the current factory could be made more efficient. Nestlé Waters used a lean production technique called Value Stream Mapping (VSM). VSM illustrates the flow of materials and information required to bring the finished product to the consumer. Lean training sessions helped employees to determine where the production process could be improved to reduce waste, for example, by combining or removing elements of the process.

The outcome of the VSM at Nestlé Waters was then used to plan the new bottling plant, ensuring the processes were as efficient as possible. Nestlé’s commitment to the environment and sustainability was a key factor throughout the planning process. The site for the new factory, called Waterswallows, was a previously undeveloped Greenfield site. Nestlé Waters worked closely with the local community through a consultation process to ensure plans fitted in with local community development plans. The site has great transport links, something that was very important to Nestlé to ensure its carbon emissions are kept as low as possible. Good transport links are vital, both in building the new plant and in the day-to-day running of the factory for goods in and out. The new site is large enough to enable Nestlé Waters to expand production to meet demand. It also allows Nestlé Waters to combine for the first time offices, warehousing and production on one site, something the old site did not allow due to size constraints. Bringing all warehousing onsite saves time and reduces the need for transporting stock, improving the site’s environmental impact.

Nestlé | Achieving sustainability through lean production