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How to Empower Executives to Remediate Contaminated Sites

The job of a corporate remediation executive is daunting.  Not only must they transform contaminated sites into safe, useable properties, they must understand the complexities of soil, water, air, geology, and regulatory issues, just to name a few; manage numerous stakeholders, spanning community members, regulators and corporate management; predict costs; and oversee multiple teams.  All while economic pressures continue to tighten budgetary reigns.

When we consider the complexity of the remediation process, it’s no wonder that projects are often ripe with wasted effort, problems, delays, misunderstandings and overruns. Yet, sub-optimizing certain steps tends to simply increase ‘waste’ and compound errors, eventually reducing efficiency and quality while increasing costs.

This complex landscape requires new methods and thinking to streamline responsibilities and enable executives to focus on the big picture, while also ensuring that important details don’t slip.  Lean principles—typically associated with manufacturing—can help corporate remediation executives consider important aspects, such as value versus waste, and bear in mind the entire “value stream” to achieve maximum efficiency.

Although not yet commonly applied to remediation projects, the systematic application of Lean principles and tools can enable corporate remediation executives to reduce wasted time, money and effort—and create enduring results faster and more cost effectively.  Two crucial components of Lean include value vs. waste and the value stream.

  • Value vs. Waste: In its simplest form, Lean enables executives to take a strategic, high-level view over the entire project or portfolio.  He/she can use Lean tools with teams to determine what is important to customers (value), and remove obstacles (waste) impeding that effort.  This enables a shifts in focus to the end goal (e.g. site closure) and stakeholder needs (e.g. evidence that the water is safe) while removing time and attention devoted to processes that don’t add value.
  • The Value Stream: Lean also encourages consideration of how every part of the system—people, activities and information—connects to create results.  This is the “value stream”. Remediation value streams are complex and small problems create big wastes. For instance, an inadequate conceptual site model often means that the remediation design won’t be as effective as it could be.  An entire value stream view can reduce redundancy and waste, prioritize spending, and help identify and apply best practices.

Key Lean Applications in Corporate Remediation

So, how does it actually work?  A Lean advisor can help engage your teams and provide insight into Lean fundamentals and tools. When combined with strong technical expertise, corporate remediation executives can simultaneously speed things up, reduce risk, save money and, importantly, simply make their work easier.  Below are two examples that demonstrate the power of Lean in the remediation process.

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