Instant Application for Workshop-Related Tool

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Kathy Wardynski, Manager of Purchasing and Process Improvement for Dining Services at Michigan Technological University.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Lean concepts workshop  presented by Jean Cunningham. Following the workshop was an opportunity to ask Jean questions. Someone asked her how to approach the improvement process when there are many, many problems to solve. She showed us a tool to use at a weekly team meeting that manages the team’s capacity to problem solve. The tool, essentially a work project kanban, makes the problem-solving process visible, but also restricts the number of problems the team works on at once. It’s a simple chart (see picture) that provides space to track the status of three to four problems or tasks.

Work Project Kanban

When a problem gets solved, it’s removed from the chart and a new task is added. If the problem isn’t solved in a couple of weeks, it isn’t a simple problem and should be removed from this list and considered as a larger project. Using this process will enable a team to focus on quickly solving a few issues at a time, rather than making slow or no progress on many issues.

One of the improvement projects that Dining Services is working on this summer is developing a comprehensive employee training program. This is a very large project that will take several years to fully implement. It’s also something that has to be done in addition to our regular work. Every large project is a series of small tasks put together, so we’re using Jean’s tool to manage our volume of work. A weekly discussion of project status and identifying the next steps to take will keep us on track to accomplish our long-term project.

Understanding Lean Concepts Workshop

IMG_2378This week, we were fortunate to have Jean Cunningham present a workshop on understanding Lean concepts using hands-on simulations. The fun activities demonstrated some of the key elements of Lean: pull and flow, value add, set-up reduction and workplace organization.

During the activities, Jean asked us several times “What did you observe? What did you see?” At the beginning of the workshop, we tended to respond with our conclusions or assumptions based on our observations. It took some prodding from Jean to get us to start reporting what we actually saw, but by the end of the workshop, we finally got it. Before: The pin person is careless. After: Some pins fell on the floor. Before: There’s a bottleneck at the welder. After: There’s a lot of product waiting for the welder. Before: The supervisor has too much to do. After: While the supervisor was in meetings, no product was moving in the factory.

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Why is it important to differentiate between observations and conclusions? Because we often make a subconscious leap to these conclusions without considering all of the possibilities, and then we form our solution based on that poorly considered conclusion. Reprimand the pin person vs. altering the work surface to prevent pins from rolling off. Adding a second welder vs. redesigning the process to level the work load. Take responsibilities away from the supervisor (and express your disappointment!) vs. adjusting decision making to the appropriate level to free the supervisor for higher-level decisions.

The workshop participants had a good time and learned more about Lean and continuous improvement.

Jean Cunningham is principal of Jean Cunningham Consulting, which provides lean business management services including workshops, kaizen events and strategic coaching. She speaks at Lean conferences and teaches Lean Accounting for the Ohio State University Master of Business Operational Excellence Program.

Jean is widely recognized for her pioneering work in Lean Accounting, IT, HR and other non-production functions (Lean Business Management, The Lean Office). She is the co-author of Real Numbers (Lean Accounting) and Easier, Simpler, Faster (Lean IT), which won the 2004 and 2008 Shingo Prize for Research respectively. Jean was previously the CFO at Lantech Inc. and Marshfield Door Systems and the voluntary CFO for the Association of Manufacturing Excellence. She has a BS in Accounting from Indiana University and an MBA from Northeastern University’s Executive Program.

The workshop was partially funded by the Visiting Women & Minority Lecturer/Scholar Series (VWMLS) which is funded by a grant to the Office of Institutional Equity from the State of Michigan’s King-Chavez-Parks Initiative.

The Red Bead Experiment

On Tuesday, June 9th, Michigan Tech had the privilege of experiencing Dr. W. Edward Deming’s Red Bead Experiment which was presented by Michigan State University’s Jim Manley. Jim is the Managing Director of the Demmer Center for Business Transformation at Michigan State and was able to experience the Red Bead Experiment delivered by Dr. Deming himself in the 1980’s. The Red Bead Experiment is a training tool that Dr. Deming used to teach his 14 Obligations of Management. The exercise is used as a tool to bring people together and to get past the emotional aspects of discussing problems.

Jim began the exercise by asking for four Willing Workers. He then asked for two Quality Assurance workers, one Quality Assurance Supervisor, and one Recorder. (I was lucky enough to be chosen as a Willing Worker.) Once all roles had been assigned, Jim gave everyone their tasks. The Willing Workers were to scoop up white beads from a box using a specialized, custom bead paddle (see the picture below). They were to scoop one time and must try to fill all the holes in the paddle with white beads. Once they have scooped and filled the paddle completely, they were to bring the full paddle to the Quality Assurance workers. The goal is for each Willing Worker to fill  the paddle completely with only white beads (zero defects). The Quality Assurance workers then counted the number of defects (red beads) and recorded them on a pad of paper. The Quality Assurance Supervisor announced the number of defects loudly so that all employees could hear. The Recorder wrote down the number of defects for each worker on a white board. Simple right? Well, not so much.

red_bead_experimentWhat Jim failed to tell the Willing Workers was the box was full of not only white beads, but also red beads (it appeared to be a 50/50 split of red and white beads). So while the Willing Workers tried their best to only scoop out white beads, it was nearly impossible to have zero defects. It didn’t help that the CEO (Jim) didn’t know any of the Willing Workers names (he referred to us as numbers) or ask us how things were going. All he cared about was results. Jim tried to improve things by implementing a “Worker of the Week” certificate. He also began an incentive program where the worker who was able to meet the zero defect goal would win a cash prize and a Starbucks gift card. He even increased the goal of zero defects to 1 defect. Do you think any of these changes helped? Not a chance!

After several rounds of the Willing Workers attempting to scoop only white beads, Jim had some bad news. Due to the Willing Workers creating so many defects and not enough of the finished product, he had to let two Willing Workers go. Now there were only two Willing Workers left, which meant they had to pick up all the slack. As you can imagine, the last two Willing Workers weren’t able to meet the zero defect goal, causing the company to go belly up.

So what was the point of the exercise? The biggest take away for me was the fact that leaders need to understand the system before making any changes. Meaning Jim needed to go to the Gemba, talk to the Willing Workers, and find out from them what the problem was. If he did this, he would have found out that it is impossible to scoop only white beads when the box is half full of red beads. He would have received suggestions for improvement from the Willing Workers and would have been able to generate the results he was after. When a leader shows the employees he/she cares about what the employee has to say, it can make all the difference in the world.

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I thought the Red Bead Experiment was a fabulous exercise. I would recommend it to anyone regardless of how familiar they are with Continuous Improvement topics. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the Red Bead Experiment, email us at improvement@mtu.edu.

Regular Leadership Huddles Produce Insightful Reflections

We are pleased to post this guest blog from Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Associate Vice President for Administration at Michigan Tech.

great ideas great staff

Auxiliary Services at Michigan Tech has a practice of a weekly leadership huddle that takes place for 30 minutes each Tuesday, using the virtual platform of Google Hangouts. This use of technology saves travel time for the 10 participants (who are located all over campus and more than 5 miles apart), allowing them to tune in from their offices and share their desktops when referring to metrics.

The meeting follows a standard agenda of each manager reviewing immediate concerns or hot topics, key schedules, an accountability review of leading indicators and a short report-out on continuous improvement events and projects for their area.  The meeting is kicked off by a safety topic and a lean focus, and responsibility for reporting on these topics is rotated among the leadership team members.  Recently as his lean focus, Mike Patterson, Associate Director of Dining Services, shared reflections on a Residential Dining Blueprint kaizen event in which the dining leadership team reviewed the improvement strategy they had develop last year, measured progress-to-goal, and set new priorities.

Mike reflected that while this review was at the strategic level and involved primarily management, the kaizen identified a number of “spin off” kaizen events in which involving those hourly and student employees closest to the work would be critical.  As part of this reflection, Mike referenced a blog post by Brynn Neilson that focuses on pulling improvement ideas from staff and understanding your business by focusing on what the customer values.  The blog lists 30 simple guidelines to ask ourselves and our employees that can help us improve in the areas of customer wants.  Customer wants fall into four general categories of VALUE, FASTER, EASIER, and BETTER.  This practice leverages what Neilson shares is supported by statistics, which is that “53% of great ideas come from staff on the shop floor.”

After Mike referenced this blog post, I read it and would now definitely recommend it to those interested in building an improvement culture focused on customer-defined value and respecting those closest to the work.  The list of 30 guidelines for triggering improvement ideas is worth printing off and keeping handy for future reference.

References

Neilson, Brynn.  (2012, July 16).  Continuous improvement – 53% of great ideas come from staff.  Spinning Planet [web log].  Retrieved from:  http://www.spinningplanet.co.nz/about/blog?view=46

Eliminating Waste by Tossing the Tube

I recently saw a commercial for Scott Naturals Toilet Paper. The commercial doesn’t seem much different from any other toilet paper commercial until the end when you realize this new type of toilet paper has absolutely no cardboard roll. Talk about waste elimination! I got to thinking, what role does the cardboard roll really have? Other than arts and craft projects or maybe a dog toy, the roll truly has to purpose.

By eliminating the cardboard roll, Scott has eliminated necessary inventory, reduced the motion for employees and the movement of materials, and has eliminated over processing. Who would have thought that a simple cardboard roll could house so much waste?

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There was a similar blog posted a few years ago by Wendy Davis discussing her thoughts on the types of waste that are eliminated by “tossing the tube.” When making your next toilet paper purchase, keep Scott’s Natural Tube Free toilet paper in mind!

Lean IT at Michigan Tech

This post was originally published in Michigan Tech’s IT News and Announcements blog. 

Lean principles are generally well established and have been applied to manufacturing for quite some time. The idea is simple: identify and eliminate areas of waste that lead to poor service for customers. Within Michigan Tech IT, we’ve begun to apply those principles to our work. Though the changes are small, they’ve made a large impact in how we do daily business, and they’re sparking a cultural change within our organization.

Group-ups

The Services Team is using daily Group-up meetings to increase awareness among staff and solve problems. “Our morning huddle brings everyone together for 15 minutes to discuss what is most important, most time-sensitive, and most technically problematic,” says David Kent, IT Services Director. One of the main objectives of the meetings is to help each other solve problems or help with time-sensitive commitments. “Threats to projects and deadlines are identified quickly, and often resolved on the spot, because the entire team is present,” says Kent.

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The morning huddle fosters a more efficient and open, collaborative attitude within the team. “Since we’ve started having the group-ups, our ticket count has decreased significantly, and we’re continuing to set record lows on a regular basis.  Everything that is important to our group is on the whiteboard for all to see, and each member is able to make updates as needed.  We definitely accomplish more with less because we focus on what is on the board.”

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Project Board (Cadence Board)

For the past month, the Enterprise Application Services group has been using a Cadence Board for their Web Focus Project. The low-tech and flexible visualization tool gives visibility to the current workflow and progress and informs the team of each other’s work progress. The board displays planned work, unplanned work, high level milestones, a parking lot (for future items) and a rolling two-week work plan. The team meets three times a week for status updates and discussion.

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“The board helps us keep the project moving and more easily keep track of its different elements,” says Emmett Golde, EAS Director. “It’s increased communication between team members, and because it’s so visual, you can immediately see who’s doing what and where they’re at in a particular process. Tasks are shown in small enough pieces so that we can see where the workload is distributed. It shows us if a particular team member is overloaded.”

Process Mapping for a Kaizen Event

When Ashley Sudderth, Chief Information Compliance Officer, met with the Office of Continuous Improvement on March 23, it was to discuss IT’s Procurement and Deployment process for new machines. “It was an area that generated a lot of help desk tickets and was one we knew needed improvement,” said Ashley. “We met with the Office and completed a process map of the P&D process. They helped us examine the process for where we could benefit from a Kaizen event… and we chose the service desk workflow for task management.”

Through the mapping process other small changes were identified that had a big impact in addition to the Kaizen event. “It’s been very helpful to have outside input from actual customers who also understand the Lean Process,” said Angie Hebert, Sr. Help Desk Consultant, a member of the process mapping team. “One of the things customers were unsure of was what software would be included on their machines at delivery. We took that feedback and set up a web page that gives them a full list of what software they will receive as a standard installation. It was just one of the things that we might not have considered had we not gone through this process.”

One of the deliverables: a new computer checklist which now accompanies each new deployment.
One of the deliverables produced as a result of process mapping: a computer checklist which now accompanies each new deployment.

Though the team is still in the process mapping stage, they’ve already seen major benefits. “Our team members have an increased knowledge of the parts and pieces in the deployment process from procurement to the actual builds,” says Hebert. “We’ve seen more care and diligence in work, resulting in faster, better builds in deployment.”

Josh Olson, Chief Technology Officer, is embracing the shift to Lean IT. “As an organization, we want to be open to change in our processes and methods and commit to continuous and ongoing improvement,” he says. “Since we’ve started incorporating Lean thinking into our daily work, we’ve seen measurable improvement. The culture is changing. We’re changing. Lean IT is improving the way we provide services to our customers.”

Leaders in Continuous Improvement visits Parker Hannifin

Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) recently had the opportunity to go on an industry tour to Parker Hannifin’s Manitowoc Wisconsin facility. With the help of a Michigan Tech Alum who is now a Value Stream Team Leader at this plant, the students in LCI were able to see first hand what a Certified Lean Model Plant (Parker’s Manitowoc facility became Lean Certified in April 2013) looks and feels like.

Parker Board Walk 3

From the moment you walk through the doors you can see how truly “Lean” this plant is. From the visual signs and lights, to the tape outlines all across the plant floors, to their daily huddle area they call their “board walk,” Lean is definitely a theme at this plant.

The tour began with everyone becoming equipped with the proper safety equipment. Each individual was given a bright orange safety vest, protective eye goggles, and a head set with a walkie-talkie so we could hear our guide properly once on the plant floor. It was exciting to see how valuable a safe working environment was for the Parker Hannifin team.

Once everyone was suited up, we were able to attend their daily board walk. Within the huddle space there are nine different white boards that represent a different team or topic. There is a representative for each board that gives an update to the team. What I found so great about this style of daily huddle is that they did some actual problem solving on the spot. One team was having an issue so they started asking questions and brainstorming different improvements. In addition to the white boards themselves, Parker utilizes visual cues in the form of plastic solo cups. On top of the boards are stacks of red and green solo cups. If there is a problem or issue the team will place a red cup on a peg, indicating a problem. If the team has no issues they will place a green cup on the peg. This was just the beginning of the visual cues throughout the facility.

Once we began walking through the facility we really began to see just how deeply rooted Lean is in the Parker Hannifin culture. Each team at Parker Hannifin uses a team communication board. This board contains the different metrics the team tracks, daily audit sheets, a 5S checklist, the different job description sheets needed for all the different tasks, and a space for various communications. In addition to the communication boards, many teams use a kanban board that allows the team members to see exactly what materials/tools they will need for the current job and the job “on deck.”

All in all, the industry trip was beyond what we expected. It was a great opportunity for the students to learn more about continuous improvement tools and concepts and see what a lean culture truly is. A special thanks to Megan Mattila, who helped to coordinate everything and was our fantastic tour guide.

Learning to See

Remember the Magic Eye pictures? They appear to be computer-generated abstract images but, when you look at them just right, out pops a 3-dimensional (3D) object. The object was there all along, but until you learn how to see it, the image appears totally random. For example, the image below reveals a 3D symbol for recycling. Most people can’t see the 3D objects the first few times they try. They have to make an effort and try different methods, like crossing their eyes or putting the abstract image behind a reflective surface. Sometimes people need to be coached in order to see the objects. In any case, the more you practice, the more you’ll develop your ability to see the 3D objects.

Magic Eye abstract image
Abstract Image
Magic Eye with 3D object
3D Object

http://www.magiceye.com/client/recycle.html

This idea of having to learn how to see also applies to one of the foundational principles of Lean–the elimination of waste. Before you can get rid of waste, you have to learn to see it. This isn’t as easy as it seems, because we’re so accustomed to waste in our processes, we no longer see it. We’re in luck, though, because a framework has been built to help us.

How does a framework help? Take a moment now to look around your room, and list all the materials you see and where they are in the room. Glass – window. Wood – table. Glass – clock face. Plastic – keyboard. Without a framework, you can do it, but it’s hard, you skip around, and it’s easy to miss a lot. If I give you a framework for looking, your list will be much longer.  For example, list all of the glass items you see – windows, clock face, iphone, light bulbs, picture frame, candy jar…. Then move on to all of the wood items you see, then cloth, plastic, and so on. See how comprehensive your list becomes?

In the same way, Lean provides us a framework for waste: motion, waiting, movement, correction, over-processing, overproduction, inventory, and knowledge. When you’re looking at your current state trying to improve your process, take the time to step through the waste framework, contemplating one waste at a time. This will help you find more waste and also improve your ability to see waste in your everyday activities.

 

 

 

Lessons Learned About Kaizen

As part of our training program to become a Lean Facilitator, the trainees participated in a kaizen facilitated by one of our experienced facilitators. For their kaizen, the trainees chose to focus on the enforcement of policies for employee parking violations. During their report out, they passed on some “lessons learned” that are a good reminder for all of us.

Kaizen Lessons Learned:

  • If a tool isn’t working for you, move on to another one. (They just weren’t getting any traction using a Fishbone diagram.)
  • Just because a decision making tool indicates the “best” choice, doesn’t mean you have to go with it. (The ICE tool (Impact, Control, and Ease) showed that a wheel boot was the best choice, but the group decided against it.) It’s the people who decide.
  • The kaizen participants assumed they know who was doing what during the process they were investigating, but they were wrong. (There was a miscommunication regarding the employee invoicing system.)
  • You’ll understand the tools a lot better if you try to use them. Also, you don’t have to be perfect at using a tool to try it.
  • You don’t have to remember every tool. It’s enough that you can remember there is a tool and look it up.

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Thank you to the now-graduated Lean Facilitators Mary Babcock, Pattie Luokkanen, Angie Kohlemainen, and Todd Van Valkenburg for their insights!

Confirm Your Scope with SIPOC Diagrams

One of my favorite continuous improvement tools is called a SIPOC diagram. A SIPOC diagram is used by a team to identify all relevant elements of a process improvement project before work begins. Using this tool helps define a complex project and refine a project profile. SIPOC diagrams also help to confirm the scope of the improvement project.

Its name prompts the team to consider the suppliers of your process, the inputs to the process, the process your team is improving, the outputs of the process, and the customers that receive the process outputs. The SIPOC is a valuable tool that will:

  • Identify suppliers and customers
  • Establish the scope of the project, and satisfy stakeholders that the problem area is captured in the process
  • Target the right metrics for verifying customer requirements
  • Establish who should participate on the project team

SIPOC stands for:

  • Suppliers- supply the inputs for the process
  • Inputs- materials, equipment, information, forms, staff, etc.
  • Process- the steps of the process from initial step to finishing product step
  • Outputs- outputs to internal or external customers, i.e. reports, products, services, etc.
  • Customers- anyone who receives the outputs

SIPOC Diagram Template

How to Complete a SIPOC Diagram

  1. Process— The first step to completing the SIPOC is to list the process steps, keeping detail to a minimum by only outlining five to eight steps.  When describing the process steps, try to limit the description to two words. Have each description start with a verb (action) and end with a noun (subject).
  2. Output—What information, data, reports, materials, etc. come out of this process or are produced as a result of the process?
  3. Customers—Who or what receives the outputs of the process?
  4. Inputs—What data, supplies, systems, tools, etc. are required for the process, or who is needed to perform the action?
  5. Suppliers—Who or what functional organization, system, report, database, etc. supplies or provides whatever it is that is needed as an input for the process?  Who supplies what’s needed to do the process?

To learn more about SIPOC diagrams email us at improvement-l@mtu.edu or call 906-487-3180.