Category Archives: Continuous Improvement

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.


Student Spotlight Series—Stephen Butina

Stephen Butina is a fourth-year student at Michigan Tech currently majoring in Management with a concentration in Supply Chain & Operations. Stephen is currently working as a Logistics co-op in the Logistics department at Greenheck Fan in Wausau, WI. While at school, Stephen works in the Office of Continuous Improvement as a Student Process Improvement Coordinator.

According to Stephen, “no day is typical” as far as his job in the Improvement Office is concerned. There are a multitude of tasks and projects that are a part of his job. In the mornings, Stephen checks the Improvement Office’s Kaizen event board to make sure he is up to speed with what he will be doing for the day as well as checking for different events on campus that people are working on to see if they need help coordinating their Lean event. He then goes on to check his emails and to check his personal Kanban board. Stephen’s personal Kanban board includes recurring tasks, various deadlines, and items that need to be checked at a later time. Using this tool helps Stephen organize his thoughts and spend more time doing “value-added” work for the Improvement Office, rather than wasting time trying to figure out what he is supposed to do. Lastly, he finishes up any blog post detailing the Improvement Office’s work that he publishes on the mtu.edu/improvement website.

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Originally from an area ten minutes south of Houghton, Stephen has had the opportunity to explore the Keweenaw a great deal before coming to Michigan Tech. Stephen enjoys golfing, snowboarding, hunting, walking his dog, and hanging out with his family. Stephen is also an active member of the Leaders of Continuous Improvement. Stephen’s favorite thing about Michigan Tech is that he has met so many new people and feels as though he has grown as a person. Finding “friends that will be around forever” and getting to see new faces every day and meet new people has made Tech the perfect place for him.

From his time working for the Improvement Office at Tech, Stephen has had the opportunity to meet a number of great people dedicated to Lean. Lean has “opened my eyes to a lot of good people.” Having heard about Lean through his classes, Stephen has been learning as much as he can about Lean processes and continuous improvement theory, going to as many Lean events and training sessions as he can participate in. Stephen has also been reading books about Lean such as Andy & Me: Crisis & Transformation on the Lean Journey by Pascal Dennis, a book where the reader learns that Lean is more than just a collection of tools; it entails a new way of thinking and behaving. Stephen has been using Lean methods to help improve his grades and reduce his stress levels along with helping him become more organized. He is currently using a personal Kanban board for everyday use as well as an occasional Affinity diagram and 5S for small fixes. From using these different tools, Stephen has been able to keep himself organized by focusing on what is “value-added” towards his studies rather than stressing about various menial tasks. He has been able to organize himself to the point where he is comfortable relying on his Google Calendar and personal planner to effectively perform in both his personal and professional life which has shown significant improvements in his academic performance.


Continuous Improvement Courses this Fall

Muda (waste), mura (unevenness), and muri (overburden); these are known as the “three Ms” that Lean works to eliminate. Originally developed by Toyota in an attempt to reduce waste and inefficiency in manufacturing operations, Lean principles are being adopted by organizations across countless fields in the name of continuous improvement. Lean principles are finding their way into our own university in the form of the Office of Continuous Improvement and—as of last year—a series of classes meant to introduce students to Lean concepts and to cultivate the Lean mindset. In the Fall semesters, ENT 3982 – Continuous Improvement Using Lean Principles, describes the evolution of the basic principles, methods, and tools Lean provides to continuously improve the workplace. The following spring semesters discuss a culture of continuous improvement based on humility and respect in ENT 3983 – The Culture of Continuous Improvement. After the first offering of these classes last year, students are already taking Lean methods and tools to other projects. About one such tool, the kanban board, team leader Kush Shah comments, “(the kanban board) brought collaboration, responsibility, and quality work back into our (Supermileage Systems Enterprise) team.”

Learn more about Lean at http://www.mtu.edu/improvement/ or register for a class on Banweb!

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