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Honda of America Manufacturing, INC.: Lean Manufacturing and Environmental Management at Honda

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James Maxwell, Forrest Briscoe, Brian Schenk and Sandra Rothenberg

World Resources Institute 

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Honda of America Manufacturing Inc: Lean Manufacturing and Environmental Management at Honda

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Last year covered in case 


Wendy Stockley, Environmental Manager for Honda’s two Ohio-based automobile manufacturing plants, was about to be visited by Mr. Suzuki, the most senior environmental official from Honda headquarters in Japan. The company had recently taken a strong interest in certification under the new ISO 14000 environmental management standards. Suzuki had asked Stockley to evaluate the environmental practices of the Ohio plants in light of the ISO standards. In particular, he was interested in whether lean production practices, the cornerstone of Honda.s high-quality manufacturing operations, were helping to achieve environmental performance or whether they were a hindrance.

Suzuki believed that ISO 14000 would increase in importance as a benchmark used by consumers, governments, and local communities for judging manufacturing plants. If he was correct in his view, understanding whether the Honda production system was complementary or antagonistic to meeting these standards would be critical to many of the company.s decisions.

Although the manufacturing plants of other automobile companies in the United States had explicitly designed their environmental policies around federal and state regulations, Honda had tried to design policies that followed from, and were integrated with, its lean production philosophy. These policies were generally more flexible than traditional approaches and focused more on the end goal of efficiency than on meeting regulations. Stockley hoped to find the Honda approach better adapted to the ISO 14000.

Teaching note

  • YES 

Key Management Reading

  • Ambec, S. & Lanoie, P. (2008). Does it pay to be green? A systematic overview. Academy of Management Perspectives. 45-62
  • Reinhardt, F. (1999). Bringing the Environment Down to Earth. Harvard Business Review. July; 149-157 

    Other Readings

    Audio/Visual Material

    • N/A 

    Discussion Questions

    Source: Honda case, complementary materials

    • Because water-based paints are more difficult to separate than solvent-based products, special chemicals must be used to remove them from wastewater before it is discharged. 
    • What implications does this have? How would you evaluate the tradeoffs? 

        Green Chemistry Principle

        • Principle 1 Prevention (see complementary materials: new coatings allowed for thinner application, and reduced VOC emissions)
        • Principle 4 Designing Safer Chemicals (see complementary materials: use of water based paints reduces VOCs)
        • Principle 6 Design for Energy Efficiency (see complementary materials: drying ovens and coatings development increase energy efficiency)

        Automotive and transportation

        Teaching Topic
        Environmental issues
        Business-government relations
        Global/Transnational issues
        Technical change and development
        Corporate citizenship
        Workforce Management/Employee relationship

        Management Discipline
        Human Resource Management

        Business Logic
        Relations with external stakeholders
        Reduced cost
        Managing environmental risk

        Environmental Issue
        ISO 14000
        Air pollution (VOC emissions)
        Toxicity (VOC) 

        North America

        Self Identified as Green Chemistry?

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