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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - DuPont Yerkes Plant

DuPont Yerkes Plant, Tonawanda, New York

Background

DuPont Yerkes, employing more than 700 people, manufactures Corian®, a solid surface acrylic used by the building industry for wall cladding and counter top installations. DuPont Yerkes incorporated Six Sigma, a business management process, to achieve an annual reduction of 867,000 pounds of landfill material and a documented business savings of $2,051,200.

Methodologies and Procedures

While it has long been recognized that waste reduction and material re-use or yield improvement could reduce environmental impact and save business dollars, the generally accepted method to measure benefits is to demonstrate a savings in disposal costs. This approach has achieved some success but it lacked business visibility and subsequent support due to disposal costs being valued in "pennies per pound" and an accepted mindset that waste is a cost of doing business.

To increase business visibility and support, DuPont Yerkes incorporated Six Sigma, a methodology that applies a rigorous analytical process to put a quantitative value on manufacturing defects. In this case, the defect was identified as the generation of waste, and the purpose was to reduce the defects to six sigma or 3.4 defects per million units. With the application of Six Sigma, the facility was able to demonstrate to business managers that good environmental sense can also make great business sense and managers began supporting what in the past had been seen exclusively as "environmental" projects. Once a defect was accepted as a Six Sigma project, manufacturing engineers were assigned and a rigorous approach to the reduction of defects was undertaken including: a specific description of the project, defined benefits, stepped deliverables, a schedule and extensive fiscal validation. At the conclusion of the project, the sigma value indicating how well that process is performing is calculated. While the goal to achieve six sigma is rarely achieved, even incremental sigma changes can yield significant economic and environmental benefits.

In 2000, DuPont Yerkes Plant initiated five individual waste reduction projects that contributed to earning this award. While each project focused on a different aspect of manufacturing, each used a similar process, similar test methods and a variety of solutions that included:

  • Extensive data collecting on different process and formulation variables
  • Product run testing
  • Extensive testing to ensure that results did not alter the final product

The program illustrates two important messages for other industries. A company can achieve significant environmental reductions and fiscal return if they integrate Six Sigma into their manufacturing operations. Since Six Sigma is a process, rather than a technology, it is readily transferable to other facilities and it does not require extensive capital outlays. Also, even if a company chooses not to implement Six Sigma, its rigorous analytical approach and the team effort (i.e., engineers, operators, accountants, etc.) can be used by anyone to demonstrate to business managers that environmental responsibility can actually lead to significant fiscal returns.

Benefits

Through this project, DuPont Yerkes realized an annual reduction of 867,000 pounds of landfill material. This material was redirected or prevented from ever leaving the manufacturing process and resulted in a documented:

  • Business savings of $2,051,200
  • Avoidance of millions of pounds of environmental pollution from the production of replacement product (based on draft life-cycle analysis data).

Any comments or questions?
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