Challenges for lean thinking in food waste recycling management in a Swedish supply chain
Paper in proceedings, 2019
Recycling and waste management industry is important for future circular material flows. The food waste logistic and recycling operations need to be managed efficiently both in terms of material efficiency and cost of operations. Supply chain challenges include extraction of the residual material, retaining material quality with low contamination, and to produce a marketable material. Consumer waste/residual material is particularly challenging in these respects. Lean is a management concept with focus on quality, flow and improvement for customers. Important lean management principles for are; Continuous improvement, Respect for people, Standardised way of work, Just in time and Right from me quality. These principles can be simulated in lean games to facilitate discussions on improving the system. Benefits from using lean management in manufacturing have been lower costs, improved customer value, and competitiveness, reached through less transport, handling and inventory losses. The recycling and waste management industry differs from manufacturing by having less value of the products and a system providing simultaneous services and products to different customers.
This study used literature, process data, including observations and operator interviews, and a workshop using a lean simulation game to initiate lean thinking discussion concerning improvement measures in food waste collection and recycling. The aim with this paper is to find in what areas (if any) there is potential for lean management implementation and the challenges for implementing such management in the food waste recycling chain.
The results showed several applicable lean principles in the recycling industry. The industry has focus on flow and in many respects the transportation sub-system of the studied chain is efficient, although carrier return is a significant system loss. Information flow and goal settings have improvement opportunities. Disturbance in the information flow is not unique to recycling industry but give challenges. Paying customers in each end of the value flow with various requirements adds complexity for food waste recycling. Using the lean simulation game and value stream map were appropriate to enhance understanding of the value chain. Distinguishing value-reducing activities from other non-value adding activities may be important in waste management processes. This study contributes with a case study applying lean management tools in municipal waste management of food waste and with conceptualisations for further green lean, and sustainable supply chain management research in recycling and waste management industry.