Take It To The Top: Beach to Bishkek & lean environmental protection

It's been a while, but we've received word from the Take It To The Top VICE Expedition team!

Today, KMC Systems environmental engineer and mountaineer Austin Lines wrote:

Photograph of petroglyphs in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan.
This public domain image taken by SiGarb shows a petroglyph (rock engraving) in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan.

Just wanted to let you know that we got picked up by helicopter two days ago and we're out of the woods. We tried to track and send messages, but the reception in the cities is ironically bad.

Anywho, we are in a city called Cholpon-Ata. We spent last night here and we're spending another night because there's a beach on Lake Issyk-Kul nearby and there are no such beaches in Bishkek. The night before last we stayed at a hostel in Karakol after being driven out of Maida-Adyr.

I'm at an internet cafe right now so I've got to make this short. I'll write a full update when we get back to Bishkek (tomorrow).

Google Earth image shows the Take It To The Top team's location in Cholpon Ata, Kyrgyzstan.
Photo of a beach on Lake Issyk-kol in Kyrgyzstan by Stefan Krasowski.
This photo by Stefan Krasowski shows the mountains beyond the Issyk-Kul lake.
Upon further investigation, it's easy to understand why our travelers were lured to stay in this Circe's-Island-esque paradise.

According to the Cholpon-Ata Wikipedia page, the resort town's name literally means "Venus-father" - a mythological protecting spirit. "The town contains numerous large and small sanatoria, hotels and guesthouses to accommodate the many visitors who descend upon the lake in summer ... The view of the imposing alpine ranges of the Tian Shan across the lake is impressive. There is a good local museum and an open-air site with about 2000 petroglyphs dating from 800 BC to 1200AD."

While our mountaineers are basking in the brilliant beach and mountain views (a much-deserved break after being the first team to summit Kyrgyzstan's After You mountain, formerly Point 5318), we'll take a look at the efforts of climbers and lean manufacturers to maintain such environmental beauty.

Leave No Trace and lean manufacturing environmental principles

In previous posts, we discussed lean team dynamics and the lean principles of eliminating waste as they relate to mountaineering and medical device manufacturing and engineering.

Today's post relates the Leave No Trace climber's code implemented by our Take It To The Top VICE Expedition team to the environmental benefits of eliminating waste under KMC's lean manufacturing principles.

The glorious beach and mountain views enjoyed by our travelers are preserved through the efforts of individuals and businesses to produce as little waste as possible and to properly clean up the waste they do create.

The VICE team follows the seven climbing ethics principles of Leave No Trace. According to the 
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, those principles are: Plan Ahead and Prepare, Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces, Dispose of Waste Properly, Leave What You Find, Minimize Campfire Impacts, Respect Wildlife and Be Considerate of Others.

Anyone familiar with lean manufacturing principles will already recognize some similarities.

The EPA and Lean

The United States Environmental Protection Agency has recognized the benefits of lean business practices on the environment and created the Lean and Environment Initiative.

The Lean and Environment Initiative is a collection of documents offered by the EPA to help businesses reduce and eliminate waste. According to the lean page on the EPA website:

EPA's Lean and Environment Initiative has developed a series of toolkits that offer practical techniques and strategies to help lean, environmental, and other specialists on the shop-floor identify and eliminate waste. These toolkits draw heavily from the experience of organizations that have pioneered integrated approaches to lean and environmental decision-making while at the same time delivering world class performance, exerting market leadership, and achieving bottom line results. 

Lines discusses how the lean principles at KMC relate to his expedition team's Leave No Trace practices.

"When hiking, we take only pictures and leave only footsteps, trying to do as little damage as possible. That's similar to the work we do at KMC. We use appropriate techniques, fabrication methods and materials to minimize the amount of material and waste and its impact on the environment," Lines said.

Clean workstations and environment

While KMC eliminates waste and creates stable workstations, which ultimately benefits the environment, our climbers also create camp spaces that minimize environmental impact through the Leave No Trace principle of hiking and camping on durable surfaces.

"A glacier is a durable surface. You’re not impacting a living thing because you’re hiking on snow and ice."

In lean manufacturing's 5S methodology, there's a principle called Systematic Cleaning, or Shine, which involves maintaining the workspace.

The 5S Wikipedia entry describes the Systematic Cleaning process: "Clean the workspace and all equipment, and keep it clean, tidy and organized. At the end of each shift, clean the work area and be sure everything is restored to its place. This step ensures that the workstation is ready for the next user and that order is sustained."

Under Leave No Trace, the Take It To The Top team will not only clean up after themselves on the Kyrgyzstan expedition, but will clean up after others, too. In our interview with Lines about the trip, he said:

There are some small mining towns in the area so people went hiking around and just left all their stuff there. We’re not certain how much stuff there is, but we’re hoping to follow the Leave No Trace principles, which is not only don’t leave a trace yourself but also try to eliminate traces of past expeditions or past societies. We’re hoping to, if previous expeditions have left anything, clean that up, too.

Impact of environmental compliance on medical device and climbing equipment

KMC Systems recognizes the value of environmental standards, and is RoHS compliant.

RoHS is the standard that limits the amount of hazardous substance that’s in components that we buy to put into products, and some of the standards now say if components are not RoHS compliant then we’re not compliant.

Lines said, "It's impacted what components I can use in my design – they all have to meet those standards."

This limits the suppliers we can use. They must supply RHoS compliant spec sheets.

KMC Business Development and Marketing Manager Bob Evans said, "Large OEMs get measured on that so you have to provide a report of all the components and a list of all the hazardous substances and how much of those hazardous substances are in your system. It’s a summation of all the parts, so it limits the distribution of sales and products."

Similarly, complying with the Leave No Trace principles limits the equipment that mountain climbers use.

Lines said, "Climbing has progressed from people leaving pitons in the rock, which are pieces of metal that they used to anchor off of. They’ve gone away from that style and moved toward a clean style of mountaineering and climbing, which is removable protection that will be cleaned up by the follower when he follows up the route."

Take It To The Top: Medical Manufacturing & Mountaineering

KMC Systems medical device contract design, manufacturing and support engineers Take It To The Top - of medical engineering and mountains! As mechanical engineer Austin Lines takes it to the top of an unsummited mountain, his fellow engineers take your medical device to the top of ISO 13485 and FDA medical equipment standards while saving you time and money through our KMC360® program. For more information, download our KMC360® Brochure.

Topics: KMC360, KMC Systems, medical device lean manufacturing, Take It To The Top, VICE Expedition