Case Study

Aerospace company uses Lean Go and See approach to reduce electricity in large manufacturing facility

When I worked at Rockwell Collins (now Collins Aerospace), I participated in a Green Team to work on improving sustainability across the company. The team was established because the large aerospace manufacturer was getting requests from customers, through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), to report its carbon emissions. CDP requires companies to set and achieve goals, but they were not seeing the commitment and progress from the company they expected.

The headquarters served as the beta site for the two-pronged approach to sustainability implementation: Six Sigma’s data gathering and analysis through DMAIC projects, and lean’s gemba walk, or Go and See approach.

The Go and See approach was developed based on benchmarking other companies, reviewing of the EPA Lean and Six Sigma toolkits, and alignment with the existing Lean Electronics initiative. The event format is similar to a kaizen event, where a team of people tackle a big issue over multiple sessions or days. Departments within the facility were selected based on leadership support, total electricity usage and ability to obtain actual electricity data for their department or work area. An event preparation worksheet was created for each department conducting an event to increase the chance of success.

During the event, attendees are split up into smaller groups (at least one person from the work area and the rest from outside the area). Each group takes notes and makes detailed observations about what could be wasting electricity using a template with pre-defined items by type of work space. This session lasts about two hours, and is done at different times over multiple days to capture the facility during working and non-working hours. I was one of the co-facilitators to keep things on track and provide guidance on the approach.

If you’d like to learn more about Go and See events, listen to the podcast episode from June 2016.

Typical observations made by the team included:

  • Air leaks
  • Compressed air issues, where we were using two sets of compressed airs [tanks] and we probably could get have gotten away with one, if we had addressed some of those issues.
  • General equipment left on. We have a lot of test equipment and those would just be left up and running.
  • Fans left on
  • Lights left on (of course)
  • Ovens left on
  • A lot of manufacturing equipment that are left on for various reasons. Some seem legit, others are just, there’s really no expectations around what should be left on or not.

Over a two-year period, six events were completed in four different facilities within Cedar Rapids. The events identified over $200,000 in opportunities, and more than 50 employees were trained.

Based on the observations, some common solutions appeared that were observed and implemented across the site:

  • Training on how to report air leaks
  • Oven shutoff timer installations
  • Visuals on how the lights align within the control panel
  • Equipment shut off decision stickers

There was also a Six Sigma electricity project conducted at the facility level, which resulted in tangible savings of over $300,000 USD per year.

A summary of this approach was shared in the September 2014 edition of ISE Magazine:

Another summary of the work was written about in the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association magazine in Sept 2016:


Want to learn more about Lean and Six Sigma tools, and apply them to an improvement projects? Check out these low-cost online courses and certification programs



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