Category Archives: Continuous Improvement

On the Road—Colin Neese

Colin NeeseColin Neese, Business Systems Analyst for the Office of Information Services, under the Vice President for Administration, attended the 10th Annual Tableau Conference in Las Vegas held October 9th through the 12th. Tableau is a data analytics and visualization company dedicated to transforming how people use data to solve problems. Over two hundred unique breakout sessions were offered at the annual conference in addition to hands on training sessions presented by Tableau Employees and sponsored partners. Colin will be working to enhance existing Vice President for Administration dashboards and developing new visualizations using best practices and training received at this conference.


Lean Focus—Social Media Planning Board

In an effort to organize and streamline the process of planning out social media posts, Andi Barajas in Business Operations has assigned common categories specific sticky-note shapes and colors. There are several categories that articles, blog posts, and social media posts fall into, such as “Points of Pride,” “Safety,” “Lean,” “Worklife,” “Staff/Student Spotlight,” and “Miscellaneous.” Andi has assigned each of these categories a specific shape and color sticky-note, for example, “Points of Pride” are represented by a pink heart. When an article, blog post, or social media post is needed, the title is written down on a sticky-note that corresponds to the category that the subject falls under. They sticky-note is added to the “To do” column of the Kanban board and at the end of the day the sticky-note is moved to the appropriate column that indicates where it is in the creation process.

Social Media Calendar
Photo of The Social Media Scheduling Calendar

After the post has moved down the Kanban board past the “Gather Information” phase, the “Find a Photo” phase, the “Write Post” phase, and has been reviewed by a staff member, the post is ready to publish, and the sticky-note gets taken off of the creation Kanban board and moved to a space on the social media scheduling calendar that represents what day that post will be published online. Using the various colors and shapes of the sticky-notes helps to quickly identify what category is going to be published that day. It also makes it easy to find a pattern in the categories of posts that have been created and allows for easy future planning and for consistently publishing a variety of subjects in an organized way.
Andi is happy with the Kanban board and scheduling calendar so far, and is excited to continue to improve her process in the future.


QR Code Customer Service Surveys

The Office of the Vice President for Administration is rolling out a Customer Service Survey Pilot Project using QR codes stationed at various locations around campus. Look for the code at the cash registers in the Campus Bookstore, the Portage Lake Golf Course, and the Central Ticketing Office. Please participate in this survey to help VP Administration better improve customer service, the Michigan Tech experience, and enter yourself into a drawing for a free coffee!

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Hazard Analysis—Learn and Be Safe!

Think back, deep in to your memory, when was the last time either at work or at home that you did something that gave you pause? Something that made you think, wow, that could have really hurt. Most people do not have to think very hard, or for very long. Life is full of hazards, and we all take risks.

The severity of these risks and their social, or legal acceptability is where we must stop and really think. Driving to work each day is a risk, there are countless automobile accidents every day resulting in injuries, property damage, and fatalities, yet the vast majority of us get behind the wheel and drive every single day. Am I asking you to stop driving? Maybe, depending on your driving record, but that decision is typically left up to a judge.

So maybe driving is a bad example, but now I have your attention. Think about processes in your workday that involve hazards; paper shredders, ladders, hazardous chemicals, the possibilities are endless, the next few paragraphs will outline a basic process for hazard analysis that can help you stay safer at work and at home.

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To start, think about the task at hand, let’s use shredding paper as an example. So the task is to shred paper. The hazard is the paper shredder, it is sharp, it has a motor, and its purpose is to suck things into it and destroy them, a bad place for your clothing, hair, or appendages.

After identifying the hazard we have to consider the potential exposure you may have to it, this creates risk. Risk is only in play when you have an exposure to the hazard. The paper shredder sitting the corner is a hazard, but as long as you do not turn it on or use it, there is no risk, once you engage the equipment you have exposed yourself to the hazard, and therefore have created risk.

In our example, your job requires you to shred paper, so there is a possibility of harm, thus risk. If we have risk, then we must employ controls to attempt to control the risk. There is an entire hierarchy of controls that we can put into play to control the risk, they range from eliminating the hazard completely, to wearing personal protective equipment, the hierarchy is interesting and will serve as a good topic for another blog post. In the case of the paper shredder we will put engineering controls into play in the form of guards that shield the blades of the shredder, as well as administrative controls in the form of training, procedures, and warning signs.

So have we taken it far enough, we have a task with a hazard, we have identified risk, and put controls into place? No, the final step is a standard procedure that outlines these items and describes a consistent way to utilize the controls to stay safe. That all important procedure drives consistency, eliminates variables, and keeps us all safer.

So that’s it, a basic process (evaluate the task, describe the hazard, identify risk, develop appropriate controls, establish safe procedures) that will help you analyze hazards. Give it a try, choose something simple to start, and take a few minutes to analyze the hazard, I’d love to hear about the results in the comments section of this blog.

If you have questions on safety protocols, situations, or procedures please contact the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) at 906-487-2118 or email ehs@mtu.edu.


Student Spotlight Series: Rylie Store, Office of Continuous Improvement

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Rylie Store

Rylie Store is a third-year student here at Michigan Tech who is currently majoring in both Medical Lab Science and Pre-Medicine. Rylie is also a graduate of the Young Women’s Leadership Program (YWLP). Rylie is currently working with the Office of Continuous Improvement as a Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC). A typical day working for the Office of Continuous Improvement, in Rylie’s words, “is hard to describe” because she often finds herself engaging in different activities almost daily. Some days, for example, she can be in the office creating powerpoints for a report out on a past Kaizen, and on others, she might be out at meetings facilitating a Lean improvement process. One thing is always consistent though whenever she is working, Rylie is always trying to help improve the school and campus. Working at the Office of Continuous Improvement comes with a lot of responsibility but Rylie likes the challenge and is overjoyed to be working with and learning about Lean Improvement.

Working in the Office of Continuous Improvement involves using and practicing Lean principles on a daily basis, and Rylie has been involved in designing Lean training events around campus and coordinating the events to run effectively and efficiently. Since the Office of Continuous Improvement has started coordinating Lean events the office has hosted over 240 successful kaizens. The Office of Continuous Improvement is proud to have facilitated or been involved with a large number of successful events that have improved a wide range of processes around campus, from a process to check out keys to improving the commencement ceremony for graduation.

Rylie is originally from the Houghton/Hancock area and has explored much of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and is always looking for new and exciting places to visit. Over this summer, Rylie has plans to cross off more U.P. destinations from her bucket list that she hasn’t had the opportunity to visit yet. During her free time, she enjoys downhill skiing, photography, hunting, fishing, and pretty much anything else outdoor related. Rylie is also part of the Ski and Snowboard Club of Michigan Tech and has traveled with the club out west for spring break this past semester. Skiing has been a big part of Rylie’s Life, she grew up downhill ski racing and training in Colorado before college. She has also obtained her Professional Ski Instructors of America Level 1 Certification her senior year of high and is hoping to achieve her Level 2 certification this winter to better help instruct her students at The Mont Ripley Ski Area.

Before college, Rylie started her own photography business as a junior in high school. A big portion of her business was photographing senior photos for fellow students at her school. Rylie shot senior pictures for over 50 clients in the first two years of establishing her photography business. She also shot weddings, shooting 20 wedding as a second photographer at the events to capture the more candid shots and participating in a few weddings as the main photographer.

Rylie in front on the Improvement Office Kanban Board.
Rylie in front on the Improvement Office Kanban Board.

Working in the Office of Continuous Improvement, Rylie gets to meet with many new people every day from across campus and enjoys the diverse amount of people she gets to interact with and, as Rylie said, “how everyone is unique.” Her favorite things about Michigan Tech go hand in hand with each other; she loves the community and the people, she appreciates that everybody is readily accepted at Tech and that there are not people considered “outcasts” here. She believes that there is a place for everyone to fit in and make new friends and she believes that she has found that in the Michigan Tech community.

Children are a big part of Rylie’s life. Over the past few years, she has taught over 100 kids at Mont Ripley, babysat for over 50 others, and has been a Summer Camp Counselor for a Girl Scout Camp for the past three years. She loves being around kids, their imaginations, their language, and how they see the world.

As for Rylie’s plans for after graduating, she has deemed it the “Magical Question” and is currently torn between going to medical school or into the research field for medical lab science. Above all else, she knows that she wants to be a mother when she is ready.


Handling In-house Immigration Work

As Michigan Technological University continues to lead as an influential university, recruitment of exceptional professionals sometimes means bringing talent from outside the country. Hiring a foreign national employee differs significantly from hiring a U.S. citizen, as it requires Michigan Tech’s hiring department to obtain an employment-based visa before the individual can work in the United States.

Immigration and Visa Services assists by handling or co-counseling foreign faculty and staff in the areas of immigration, employment, relevant governmental regulations, and procedures. This area of Human Resources prepares and files normal and complex immigration petitions with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, monitors and updates expiration information and documentation regarding immigration status, and provides a high level of service to campus on a variety of immigration issues.

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The University has immigration counsel on retainer for immigration support. However, with the in-house services provided by the Immigration and Visa Services Specialist, we are able to assist with the employment of foreign nationals. More specifically, TN visas, H1B visas; H1B portability; green card (EB-2) petitions, and other immigration related requests.

A combination of in-house immigration services with outside immigration counsel means significant savings on legal fees for the University and the employees as well as higher level of customer services for the departments, applicants, and employees. For the last three years, the savings in attorney’s fees have been between $30,000 and $35,000 annually. This is a cost effective, and efficient approach to handling immigration procedures for the University.

Immigration issues are a major concern for employees and potential employees and it can have a direct impact on our University’s recruitment and retention efforts. Having immigration counsel on retainer as well as the Immigration and Visa Services Specialist has had a positive impact for our Institution, faculty, staff and their families.

For more information on this and other immigration news, please visit the Immigration Services website at http://www.mtu.edu/hr/current/immigration/


Updated Facilities Management Capital Request Form

The capital project request process has been in place since May 2011 and applies to remodeling, building additions, landscaping, or exterior site work. The Capital Project Request (CPR) Form begins the process and should be used for all new projects.

Based on customer feedback, the CPR form is a revised version that replaces the three separate forms that were required prior to the revision. The new digital form allows for electronic signatures as well as the ability to attach any supporting documents. The electronic process keeps all relevant documents together and allows for easy retrieval for project information, up to date tracking, and early notification of potential projects.

00-15-04AdminSidewalkdrawings_Page_1The electronic process also allows the documents to be shared electronically via email, and will eliminate the need to print hard copies to then circulate through campus mail for signatures. People out of the office are now able to electronically sign the documentation, saving the submitting department’s time and avoiding costly delays in the project. The new process eliminates hard copy documents and keeps the workflow from being lost or misplaced, which would require re-submission and result in a potential delay of the project.

The CPR form requires the approval from a department director or dean from the requesting department. Further, the financial requirements and indexes are requested up front which encourages the customer to think about budgets and timing. This requirement guarantees that the project has been vetted and that the estimated cost has been discussed and approved.

Finally, a section at the end of the form allows for notes to be added to help track the process or describe any changes that occurred during the process.

The form and instructions are located on the Facilities website.


On the Road—2017 Michigan Lean Consortium

A number of Michigan Tech staff and students attended the 7th Annual Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC) Conference that was held on August 2-4 in Traverse City, Michigan. The conference was well attended and focused on topics including: enabling organizational improvement through effective change management, business engagement in Lean Facilitation through participant centered learning, coaching for professional performance improvement, and a workshop called “The 7 Quality Tools for Steering to True North” taught by Ruth Archer, Director of Continuous Improvement at Michigan Tech. Also, Michigan Tech student Process Improvement Coordinators from the Office of Continuous Improvement prepared materials for a display table and met with MLC leadership to brainstorm on the start-up of Student MLC Chapters.

Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, associate vice president for administration, participated in a pre-conference Board of Directors meeting and has been elected to the position of Vice Chair of the MLC. She is entering her last year of a three-year term of the ten-member board. The MLC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that is governed by an all-volunteer board, with a membership that is dedicated to spreading Lean principles throughout every public and private sector industry in Michigan.

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Conference attendees include Theresa Coleman-Kaiser; Ruth Archer; Brenda Randell, Executive Assistant for the Associate Vice President for Administration; Colin Neese, Business System Analyst for the Office of Information Services; Andi Barajas, Communications and Media Specialist for the Business Operations office; Annelise Doll, Scholarly Communications and Repositories Librarian for the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library; Laurie Stark, Staff Development and Lean Initiatives Coordinator for the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library; and three Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC) student employees from the Office of Continuous Improvement, Rylie Store, Matt Chard, and Ari Laiho.

Staff and students alike were very pleased with the quality of presentations and the wealth of new information and perspectives on Lean methodology that the networking events and active learning sessions provided.

If you would like more information on this or other Lean events, please contact the Office of Continuous Improvement at 906-487-3180 or email improvement-l@mtu.edu.


New Initiatives—Allergen Awareness

AllVerticalSome people have allergies that can be life threatening and Dining Services, along with Michigan Tech, strives for a safe and inclusive environment. Part of process improvement in Dining Services is to identify that our customers (faculty, staff, students, and general public) require allergen information as many people suffer from food related allergies. In an effort to create a safe environment, Dining Services has begun the task of identifying the “big eight” food allergens (eggs, wheat, soy, fish, shell fish/crustaceans, tree nuts, peanuts, and milk/dairy) in their recipes and convenience food products. Dining Services has created icons to help identify these allergens in an effort to communicate the food allergens in a graphic based, non-textual manner.

The process involves going through every recipe, reading every product ingredient label and identifying which foods contain the “big eight” allergens. During this process, Dining Services has discovered that they must read all of the labels and not just the allergen information as they have found the allergen information to be incorrect or incomplete. An example of such an incomplete allergen label was found when the allergen listed for wheat tortillas was “wheat” but when all of the ingredients were read through, Dining found that the tortillas contained “soybean oil” as well. The FDA exempts highly refined soybean oil from being labeled as an allergen. Studies show most (but not all) individuals with a soy allergy can safely eat soy oil that has been highly refined (not cold-pressed, expeller-pressed or extruded soybean oil). However, Dining Services wants to have all of the allergens listed no matter how small the risk to the customers.

Another part of the process consists of identifying the ingredients or products that may list the product allergen as “may contain” which means the product may be produced in a factory that also process products that contain one or several of the “big eight” allergens, such as peanuts. Dining Services is listing these products as it contains that allergen as we wish to be safe rather than sorry.

Dining started this process in the residential dining halls about a year and half ago, listing the allergen icons on the food lines. The next step being the addition of the food allergens on the Dining website.


Lean Focus—Fishbone Diagrams

Fishbone Diagrams, or an Ishikawa diagram, is considered one of the Seven Basic Tools of Quality. They are used to breakdown, in increasing levels of detail, root causes that can potentially lead to a specific problem.

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The diagram above shows how to identify the factors of Equipment, Process, People, Materials, Environment and Management, all affecting the overall problem. Smaller arrows connect the sub-causes to major causes.