Katrina Appell Consulting Inc. with the University of Michigan ReMaDe group 
Beginner level
Intermediate level
Advanced level

Designing for the environment

Using lean product and process development to lower carbon emissions and other sustainability concerns


Deep Dive Session
Thursday, Oct. 21 Location Code
11:30am-12:30pm Virtual ThS/31

Times listed in EDT.


This session will share examples of companies that have lowered their carbon emissions using lean product and process development. Learn approaches you can use in your organization to lower carbon emissions and address other sustainability concerns.


The biggest opportunity to influence costs (financial and environmental) comes in the development of new products. The decisions made in development lock in ongoing costs for the entire product life cycle. These costs are often not consciously decided. They are decided for us when making design decisions without understanding or considering the environmental impacts. Lean product and process development can help you see the environmental impact of design choices across the entire life cycle, with the greatest opportunities to lower carbon emissions in the making (1/3 of man-made carbon emissions) and use (2/3 of man-made carbon emissions) of products. 

This starts in the study/concept phase of development, a combination of lean practices and modified sustainability practices can be utilized to consider the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycles, including predictive life cycle analysis, chief engineer immersion and concept papers. In the execution phase of development, the focus shifts to creating actionable plans to meet the targets set in the concept paper, including milestones and glide paths. Other lean practices that enable effective teamwork to meet the targets include synchronizing work across functions and obeya. Further building sustainability knowledge into design standards supports the teams to develop products with lower carbon emissions.


Katrina Appell Consulting Inc. supports organizations in improvement and transformation through lean coaching and consulting. www.appell.org

A top-ranked public university, the University of Michigan has a tradition of excellence in research, learning and teaching, sports and the arts, and more. The Resourceful Manufacturing and Design group (ReMaDe) is part of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Michigan. It is headed by professor Dan Cooper. ReMaDe works at the nexus between industrial ecology (IE) and mechanical engineering (ME), using IE methodologies such as material flow analyses and life cycle assessment to identify opportunities and quantify impacts, and then pursuing an experimental and mechanistic modeling approach to generate the scientific knowledge underlying those opportunities. Most engineering focuses on small-scale analysis and design of a product or process and fails to consider the large-scale (regional and global) impacts that result from these small-scale systems. In contrast, ReMaDe spans whole industry analysis (e.g., identifying material efficiency opportunities from analyzing the global flow of steel), factory level analysis (e.g., opportunities to reduce carbon emissions from car assembly plants and carbon nanotube production facilities), and process level analysis and design (e.g., metal forming and developing experiments in order to understand solid state welding). Learn more at remade.engin.umich.edu.


Katrina Appell, Ph.D., is passionate about supporting organizations in improvement and transformation and has 15+ years of coaching, facilitating, training and team development experience. Appell is president of Katrina Appell Consulting Inc. and a lean product and process development coach and faculty member at the Lean Enterprise Institute. She has experience as a senior lean consultant at Liker Lean Advisors and as a lean coach at the University of Michigan Health System. Appell holds a master's and doctorate in industrial and operations engineering from the University of Michigan and a bachelor's in general engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she was previously the president of the Industrial and Enterprise Systems Engineering Alumni and Advisory Board. Learn more at appell.org. 

Dan Cooper, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Michigan. He heads the Resourceful Manufacturing and Design (ReMaDe) group, which is dedicated to pursuing environmental sustainability through process innovations in material efficiency and optimized manufacturing and recycling supply chains. Cooper received his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Cambridge before completing a three-year post-doc at MIT sponsored by Ford Motor Company. His research, which focuses on making impactful contributions to the areas of manufacturing and sustainability, considers multiple scales: identifying significant opportunities to cut emissions and/or costs by conducting large scale analyses on processes, factories, and material supply chains, and pursuing a rigorous technical analysis to capitalize on the opportunities.