Category Archives: Continuous Improvement

Customer Service Pilot Project—Phase 2

Initiating the Pilot

Auxiliary Services within Michigan Tech’s Administration has been conducting a Customer Service Pilot Project aimed at aligning our departments with our Mission and Guiding Principles. Specifically, our pillar of Customer Service/Service Excellence which states “Our units strive to create a great Michigan Tech experience for students, employees, and visitors. We seek to continuously enhance our understanding of customer and stakeholder needs that supports institutional values.” The pilot project consisted of creating a universal means of gathering customer service data from a variety of service-oriented locations on campus in order to poll a range of customers and situations. Auxiliaries partnered with the Office of Information Services and Business Operations in order to create location specific QR Codes that are able to be displayed in a tableau dashboard on Administration’s website. This dashboard is able to display both the “big picture,” combined results of the surveys from all of the locations the surveys have been deployed to and it is able to “drill down” to the specific locations where customers interact with Auxiliaries employees.

Locations that were selected for the pilot include: the Campus Store, the Portage Lake Golf Course, University Images, and the Central Ticketing Office.

Customer Service QR Code Ad
Look for our customer service QR Code stations around campus!

The Next Step

Phase two of the Customer Service Pilot Project included improving the design for the original “Rate our Service” ads by creating vanity URLs for each location that is tied to the same survey the QR Code is on that ad. This is a way to expand the response base from those who have used QR Codes before to everyone with a smart phone. Business Operations also created a second version of the ad that has a lower profile, so each location is able to decide what type of ad is appropriate for their space. Lastly, Business Operations created two different “How To” posters, one for the customer, explaining how to download the QR Code reader and use the “Rate our Service” ad and one for the Auxiliaries employees to explain to them how they are able to help their customers give the feedback that we find so important.

How to use a QR Code poster
Look for our “How to” posters around campus!

New locations for Phase Two include: the Mont Ripley Ski Area, the Memorial Union Guest Rooms and Office, the North Coast Grill and Deli, the Library Cafe, Coaches Corner, the Campus Cafe, Fusion, Huskies Cafe, and the Par and Grill.

If you have any questions on this or any other customer service project, please contact the Office of Information Services.


Continuous Improvement: Tips to Success

Establish an enduring culture

A leadership team who embrace change and are adaptable is critical. Similarly having a team who are resilient can also pay dividends. It’s also important to gauge the impact of any improvement work on the overall culture of the organization.

Lean MeetingGet feedback from all concerned

Be open to suggestions and take on-board feedback that has been given. Also remove blame from the equation, and allow for an open discussion.


Theresa Coleman-Kaiser presented on Leadership Coaching

Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Senior Associate Vice President for Administration, presented at “The Toyota Way to Service Excellence: On-line Event” on January 31st. Her session was titled “Case Study: My Journey Developing Coaches for Leadership Excellence.” The learning objectives for her session included:

  • Why coaching for Leadership Excellence and developing leaders as coaches is a critical management function
  • How to begin, sustain, and cascade a coaching practice to create an aligned stream of leaders throughout your organization
  • How to make your Learner’s thoughts visible in order to understand mindset, skill, and will
  • The wide range of feelings associated with a coaching practice, and how to find joy in developing others

Picture of Theresa presenting a Lean Topic

You can find “The Toyota Way to Service Excellence On-Line Event” agenda at the Lean Frontier’s website and view any sessions from the on-line event until April 30, 2018 free of charge.

Instructions to enroll:

  1. Navigate to the course Website
  2. Click on “Enroll in Course for $195” (course fee will be waived in next step)
  3. Click “add Coupon Code” and enter: CORPSUBSCRIBE
  4. Click “Apply” to confirm code
  5. Enter email and click “Continue”
  6. Click “Enroll in Course”
  7. Enter name and create password
  8. Click “Create Account”
  9. Click “Continue to Course”

First Friday Social Event Management Kaizen

Auxiliaries Services facilitated a Lean event to apply a Plan, Do, Check, Act cycle to the way departments within Michigan Tech coordinate events, specifically, the First Friday Socials that many departments have participated in over the years.
Picture of Blizzard T. Husky with a fan at the Skybox Social.
Picture of Blizzard T. Husky with a fan at the Skybox Social.
Before the Continuous Improvement team applied Lean thinking to the event management process, they found that different departments were hosting similar events with unique needs. The hosting departments had to secure the services they needed to execute their event using multiple on and off campus resources. The team also found that some departments are experienced with planning events while others have little to no experience.
The team’s target state for after the event is to establish a one-stop shop for the customer to contact for all event needs. The problem the team had to tackle was the lack of a centralized location for departments to contact to gain all of the services they need to host a First Friday Social.
To solve this problem and find waste and root causes the team created a process map. This showed the breakdown of what the customer was required to do and what the MUB and Dining Services had been helping with. They brought in outside eyes and assembled a team from multiple departments on campus. After this exercise, they noticed that the customer had an excess of responsibilities and there was a gap where an Event Management Team could help to streamline and error proof the planning the process.
The team decided to breakdown the event planning process into a timeline and then a flow chart and a corresponding checklist to provide at the initial event planning meetings. This helps the customer to see what items are their responsibility and what items the team is available to help with.
The improvement team also created a walk through check list to make sure that the proposed event space is appropriate and that all needs will be met for the event. The walk through check list is still being developed and improved as the team gains experience meeting with customers at the site of the event.
Finally, in an effort to collect metrics and ideas for potential future improvements, the team created a short survey for the customer to evaluate their process, the value in having an event management team, and how they can improve for future events.
Team members included: Daryl Matthews, Laura Harry, Beth Frederick (of GLRC Facilites), Lori Weir, Austin Kunkel, Kari Price, Kari Pietrzyk, and Karen Johnson. Facilitator: Bob Hiltunen
For more information about Lean and Process Improvements at mtu.edu/improvement.

Inclusive Access—Increasing Student Success!

Student Buying BooksInclusive Access is a method of delivering online courseware (in the form of interactive materials and e-books) in place of traditional printed text. The Campus Store, in conjunction with publishers, e-book vendors, and campus faculty, is participating in the inclusive access program to help offset course material costs and increase opportunities for student success in the classroom. It was first used on our campus during the Fall 2017 semester with two Engineering Fundamental courses, students saw approximately a 33% savings (negotiated by faculty with publishers) on their course materials. For Spring 2018, we expanded the program to include select sections in three additional departments: Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering Technology. Course participants are contacted via email before the beginning of the semester explaining the program. They are offered an opportunity to opt-out of the inclusive access program at the beginning of the semester; however, students are encouraged to stay enrolled in the program. If students choose to opt out of the inclusive access program, it will require them to acquire course materials on their own. If students wish to download the digital content and access it beyond the duration of their course, additional fees may apply. The Campus Store has also experienced benefits from inclusive access in the matters of less processing and storage of inventory, reduced costs on purchasing and shipping, and an even more open line of dialogue with faculty and administrators. The Campus Store will be looking to expand the inclusive access program for the Fall 2018 semester.

If you have any questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact us at campusstore@mtu.edu.

Read more about Michigan Tech’s Campus Bookstore at https://www.bookstore.mtu.edu/michtech/


Dashboards—Best Practices

A Dashboard is a visual tool that allows you to view data in real time. When coupled with your Key Performance Indicators, you can build a dashboard that enables you to gauge the health of your organization or business unit at a glance.

An image of an example of a quality dashboard.
An example of a good quality dashboard.

Best Practices for Developing a Dashboard

Dashboards normally have limited visual space, so choosing which metrics are displayed is a key decision. Remember that the goal of a Dashboard is to display only the most critical data and metrics to provide your staff with an “at a glance” view of how well they are meeting the business objectives.

“A picture is worth 1,000 words.” This is a great rule to use when trying to make your dashboards. Try to keep things as visual as possible with different chart types, colors, shapes, or interactivity and try to avoid turning your dashboard into a big spreadsheet.

When you start developing your dashboard, think about how you are going to keep it up-to-date. Your dashboard is only as accurate as the data it’s based off of, so determining the refresh rate of your dashboard should be taken into consideration.

The easier your dashboard is to access and use, the greater the chance that your staff will buy in to this new idea.

An image of an example of a poor quality dashboard.
An example of a poor quality dashboard.

Avoid the following Pitfalls

Adding in too much complexity during your starting phase. Keep it simple at first, and build in complexity once you have buy-in from your staff and have communicated your metrics.

Ensure that your metrics have been defined and communicated to your staff so that everyone is on the same page. Displaying a metric that your staff does not understand, not only takes up precious space on your Dashboard, but it adds in a level of confusion that could affect your staff’s level of buy-in.

Avoid clutter and non-value-added visualizations. Keep it simple and only include your most important metrics.

When developing your dashboard, be sure to account for the additional time and resources it will take to maintain and modify them.

Make sure that your metrics are aligned with your organization’s goals. Revisit your set metrics periodically to ensure that you are charting the correct course to achieve success.

Displaying poorly designed charts or graphs may add more confusion than understanding to your dashboard. Avoid this pitfall by having some outside eyes review your dashboards.

Contact us for Help!

For further information or questions, please contact the Office of Information Services.


Special Operating Hours Pilot

Business Operations has facilitated a pilot project designed to gather and organize the special operating hours from the various departments on campus into a single source. This special operating hours project was initiated in 2015 when the daily Tech Today feed was overwhelmingly populated with special notices from departments across campus communicating their specific hours for the fall, winter, and spring breaks. The ultimate goal of the project is to have Tech Today serve as a reminder for departments to submit their special operating hours to Business Operations where they will be posted on the /Business-Operations main page. The ultimate list of the department’s operating hours is also linked to from Michigan Tech’s main page.

According to Google analytics, the Business Operations website has been visited over 750 times in the last month that the special operating hours report has been active.

You can find the special operating hours form and list on the business operations website at mtu.edu/business-operations.

Business Operations | Special Operating Hours
Business Operations | Special Operating Hours

Did you use the Special Operating Hours webpage?

You can see it here! Let us know how we did! Please respond here: mtu.news/2E37DQ1


Mont Ripley Kids Kaizen

—Written by Rylie Store, Office of Continuous Improvement

Two students in Michigan Tech’s Office of Continuous Improvement, Ari Laiho and Rylie Store, initiated a kaizen with the university’s ski hill, Mont Ripley. During the winter, Ari and Rylie also work at the ski hill as instructors.

The kaizen group identified the “current state” using a process mapping tool called swim lanes. Once the process was mapped out, the group was able to clearly see areas of waste, or inefficiencies. The team discussed each area of waste to determine its root cause and then moved forward by establishing counter measures to tackle the given waste.
After all of these improvement efforts, the hope is to have a program that flows smoothly on all levels. This would allow for flexibility to incorporate some fun days into the lessons, increasing customer satisfaction. The improvements would also promote a higher level of consistent progression of ability for each student. Next to creating a program that flows and satisfies all that are involved, the desire is to also align the program more heavily with the mission of the Professional Ski Instructors of America association by inspiring a lifelong passion for skiing and snowboarding.

Mont Ripley Kids
Mont Ripley Kids

Some of the areas addressed included:

Problem: Information that the Ripley Kids Coordinator receives from the registration forms tends to be incorrect. Solution: Define each area of the registration form so that there is a clear understanding of what is being asked.

Problem: Customers are unaware of the details of the Ripley Kids program. Solution: Host a Meet and Greet session for parents to come to the ski hill and meet the staff and receive a packet containing all of the details & FAQ’s

Problem: It’s difficult to keep track of all students at all times, or to point them out from a child skiing through general admission. Solution: Purchase helmet covers, each group will have a different color (including instructor). Vibrant, and easy to spot from a distance while promoting safety.

For more information about this or other Lean Events, please contact the Office of Continuous Improvement or visit their website at mtu.edu/improvement.


Parent Ambassador Training

Danielle Davis
Danielle Davis, Business Operations

Danielle Davis, Office Assistant for Business Operations and Michigan Tech’s representative on the Copper Country Great Start Collaborative (CCGSC), along with four other parents from the community participated in Parent Ambassador training through the Copper County Great Start Collaborative. The Parent Ambassador training provided the parents with information on the local resources and services that are available for families in the community in times of need or crisis. Part of the training included a two-day intensive Strengthening Families Framework Training that was presented by the Early Childhood Investment Corporation (ECIC). This is the first time this training has been offered locally and it was free for area family service providers and parents. If interested in future training sessions, please contact the CCGSC for more information.

Participants in the Strengthening Families Framework Training learned how to integrate what they learned into existing programs, strategies, systems, and community opportunities. Strengthening Families is a research-informed approach to increase family strengths, enhance child development, and reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect. The ECIC is focused on engaging families, programs, and communities in building protective factors into everyday life such as parental resilience, social connections, and knowledge of parenting and child development.

The newly trained Parent Ambassadors have already assisted many local families in finding resources and services in the community. The CCGSC, along with the current Parent Ambassadors will be training another group of parents in the future. If you are interested please contact the CCGSC or Danielle for more information.

Danielle also participated in the Strengthening Families Assessment with the CCGSC. The assessment helped the Great Start Parents Coalition set goals for the next year. They are currently working on “Welcome to the Community” folders that will include community resources for new employees and students with families who participate in orientation at Michigan Tech. Danielle will be adding community events to the WorkLife website in an effort to further network Michigan Tech’s community outreach and the CCGSC’s efforts to provide resources to parents in the community.


Lean Focus—Supply Room 5S

Cleaning Up!

Photo of the Fifth Floor Supply Area 5S Team (left to right): Colin Neese, Andi Barajas, Cayce Will, Danielle Davis, Ann Kitalong-Will, and Lean Facilitator Laura Harry.
Fifth Floor Supply Area 5S Team (left to right): Colin Neese, Andi Barajas, Cayce Will, Danielle Davis, Ann Kitalong-Will, and Lean Facilitator Laura Harry.

Business Operations and the Office of Information Services completed a 5S of their supplies area. The previous state of the supply area was unorganized, full of items nobody wanted or needed, and staff couldn’t find the supplies they need easily. The new, current state has an organized supply area, having supplies on hand that are needed, removing unused items, eliminating waste and to created an easy order process. The improvement ties into the University’s Strategic Goals by promoting safety, effectiveness, and efficiency and creates an aesthetic and sustainable infrastructure. A Kanban system was created for reorder and to determine inventory levels. Weekly audits of the space are posted in the supply cubicle that staff and students are included in to sustain the area.

Photo of the Fifth Floor Supply Area Before the 5S.
Fifth Floor Supply Area Before the 5S.
Photo of the Fifth Floor Supply Area During the 5S. “Keep, Return, and Rid”
Fifth Floor Supply Area During the 5S. “Keep, Return, and Rid.”
Photo of the Fifth Floor Supply Area After the 5S.
Fifth Floor Supply Area After the 5S.