Kohler Believing In Better Blog: We Believe In Taking Time to Process Our Processes

May 8, 2014 4:00 PM ET
Kohler Believing In Better Blog   How do you determine the environmental impact of a product? How it functions is just one consideration (e.g., the amount of water a toilet flushes). But how about an accurate measure of its entire life: what it’s made from, how it’s designed, how it’s manufactured and what happens to it when it’s no longer functional for the consumer.   It’s complicated, but working to understand the environmental impact of our products is exactly what a small group at Kohler is doing. And these associates’ efforts are both positively contributing to our sustainability strategy and strengthening our business acumen.   It’s a process called Life Cycle Inventory, or LCI. The members of our LCI team go into our manufacturing plants to learn the processes, collect loads of data on how products are made, analyze this “inventory” and create a model that outlines recommendations for change.   In LCI, we pay particular attention to how the processes and product design decisions made can affect humans and the environment. Decisions to alter the aforementioned are made together – hand in hand – with the plant associates, based upon our findings.   Our LCI journey began in 2011, at our stainless steel plant in Reynosa, Mexico. By measuring electrical usage, we discovered that an aging air-conditioning system was the largest consumer of electricity in the plant. These findings are helping to justify an updated system that will not only reduce plant greenhouse gas emissions, but also the standard cost of every sink.   While the practice is growing, it’s still in its infancy. It’s time consuming and labor intensive, but for us, the benefits are clear. LCI gives us one more piece of information to make the right decisions for enhancing operational efficiency, fostering new product development and credibly sharing our sustainability story with our consumers.   “What we collect now is just the beginning. The more data we have, the more opportunities we’ll discover and the better our environmental footprint will be,” adds Senior Staff Environmental Engineer Jeff Zeman, who is leading our LCI team.   Zeman and his team are spending this next year going into all of our North American potteries to conduct LCI, with the intent to take our efforts globally soon thereafter. Through these efforts, we are answering those tough questions since, well, we truly believe the answers can make a difference.    


          Mirjam Lippuner                                           


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