Michigan Tech’s Sponsored Programs uses a Kanban to keep track of all the tasks they need to complete at the end of the fiscal year. A Kanban is a visual management tool that shows you the status of a process at a glance. The university has two financial closes for the fiscal year–one on June 30 and a final close around the second or third week in July. This Kanban helps them keep on track. They review and update it in their daily 15 minute group-ups. Each horizontal space represents a task that must be completed. Each task and associated team are written on sticky notes. A task which has not been started is placed on the far left. The responsible team is next to it. As the task is completed it’s moved to the right, first to 25% complete, then 50%, 75%, and finally, 100% complete. Any person in the office can look at this Kanban and know what’s complete, what needs to be done, and who might need some help. Tammy LaBissoniere, a Lean Implementation Leader in Sponsored Programs, uses Kanbans to keep track of several different processes. Talk with her if you think this might work for you. Or contact our office anytime!
At Wednesday’s (7/9) Lean Implementation Leaders and Lean Facilitators meeting, Bob Hiltunen (Director, Auxiliary Services) provided a wonderful teach back activity on the advantages of one-piece flow processing vs. batch-and-queue processing.
One-Piece flow is one of the most important principles of lean manufacturing. One-piece flow means that parts are moved through operations from step-to-step with no work in process in between; either one piece at a time or a small batch at a time. Once work on a product begins it never stops moving until it is a finished product.
As opposed to one-piece flow, batch-and-queue processing is the action of producing more than one piece of an item and then moving those items forward to the next operation before they are all actually needed there. Batching and queuing tends to drive up inventory and lead time, and creates inefficiency in an operation. It also increases the space needed for production.
Teach back Activity
To complete this activity, 2 “directors,” 4 “managers,” 4 “workers, and 1 “customer” are needed. Each worker is a “station” at the table (as seen in the photo). The first three workers are assigned the task of flipping quarters and passing them to the next worker and this process repeats until the quarters reach the last worker who is asked to “stamp” them, and pass them to the customer.
The activity begins by simulating a batch-and-queue system with the first worker flipping all 30 quarters before passing them, in a batch, to the next worker and so on until they reach the customer. The batch sizes that are passed between workers are reduced after each subsequent round until each worker is flipping and passing only one coin at a time, to represent a one-piece flow system.
To measure the effect of the transition to one-piece flow, time measurements are taken at many times during the process:
- At the start of the process when the first coin is flipped
- When each worker first receives a coin from the previous worker
- When each worker flips and passes their last coin
- When the customer receives the first coin
- When the customer receives the last coin
As the activity progresses, the time each work station is active gradually increases, however, the time it takes for the coins to reach the customer dramatically decreases. In our simulation, the process time was reduced from 1 minute 30 seconds to 20 seconds.
The ideal state for a production process is continuous one-piece flow. If you can’t manage to get down to one-piece flow, always the question … can you get two-piece or three-piece? The most important thing to remember is the idea of continually moving closer to the ideal state.
William Edwards Deming, a statistician and professor, developed a theory of management based on fourteen points that he considered critical for management to become transformational and thus lead their business to greater success. He published his ideas in a book titled “Out of the Crisis” and I recommend you get a copy for reference. His thoughts and published works have led to the development of systems like Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, and Lean. Deming’s work is not a blueprint for success, ready to be copied, but his fourteen points are a starting point for discussion, consideration and contemplation when it comes time for you to begin your journey of management transformation and improvement.
Let’s start this journey together, now, as we discuss Deming’s points and see how they may relate to you and your leadership style and business goals.
Point One: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
Seems pretty simple right? Well, this one little sentence is packed with complexity just waiting for us to unravel. This point squarely puts the onus on Management to make looking out for our employees the number one job, while the responsibility of the employee is to improve their product or service. The focus is not on the product or service; rather, the focus is on choosing to dependably improve our product or service. Acknowledge that what you offer isn’t perfect and can be done better. And if it isn’t done better by you, reliably, your competition will do it for you and put you out of business.
Deming also advocates that you focus your business on being competitive and providing jobs. To truly improve our competitiveness, I feel we must recognize the value our staff bring to our business, and concentrate on allowing them to self-improve. People—not the thing we produce or the service we provide—are at the core of our operation. Without our employees, nothing is made, nothing is sold, and no amount of marketing nor motivational speeches will change that – our staff make our business. Empower them.
Benjamin Disraeli said it most succinctly – and I believe Deming would agree – that to truly succeed in your business Management must fully embrace continuous improvement as a living element in our operations, making it the basis of the corporate culture. Staff should be 100% supported by the the company and the management. Staff should be empowered to make positive changes to improve their working environment and better their product or service. And there should never be any doubt that the company fully supports continuous improvement efforts.
As we continue this journey through Deming’s fourteen points, we’ll see how each point can easily stand on its own, while at the same time often reinforcing one another—much like management and staff have their own jobs to do but must work together to keep driving improvement forward to increase productivity.
Next Article: Point Two – Adopt the new philosophy
Today we’re cross-posting an article written by Wendy Davis for Michigan Tech’s Human Resources News blog.
NamGiao Tran just ended her six week internship with Human Resources. Nam was a MICUP student visiting Michigan Tech from Grand Rapids Community College.
Nam’s internship project in Human Resources focused on making improvements to the internal flow of work related to a staff hiring. Her first week began with learning about Lean philosophy and focusing on the concept of standardized work. She began by working with department staff to understand the hiring process and creating a swim lane process map. The exercise of creating the process map identified specific improvement areas which Nam worked on for the remainder of her stay. Her work supported the creation of standardized tools, forms, and checklists that will be implemented to improve the process flow.
Nam is pictured below with her poster that captures the work she did. The photo was taken at the MICUP Poster Presentation on June 19, 2014.
Nam plans to transfer to Michigan Tech next fall to study Accounting.
When you’re improving a process, it’s important to make sure a help loop is in place. The help loop ensures that when employees encounter a problem they can’t fix themselves, someone will come and help. Without a help loop, the improvement will not be sustained.
Your most important processes should have both a Standard and a Visual Control. Establish a Standard so that it’s easy to see when the actual outcome doesn’t equal the expected outcome. Then create a Visual Control that allows everyone to easily know if the process is working properly (called an Andon). It needs to be updated only as often as management is willing to both check it and take action if something is wrong. The Visual Control isn’t just for information. If actual is not equal to standard, management must not only respond, they also have to respond in a positive and timely manner. At this point, supervisors work through the problem with their employees, using the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust (PDCA) model, to develop countermeasures that will fix the problem, bringing the process back to Standard.
The Office of Continuous Improvement’s first ever Process Mapping Workshop came to a close yesterday. There were five Kaizen teams each working on a process of their choosing. Each team spent 2.5 hours on Tuesday and again on Thursday working on a current-state process map using a lean tool know as “swim lanes.” The groups reported out on Thursday afternoon with each map taking on its own unique form.
Our facilitating group was made up of Ernie Beutler (Dining Services), Kathy Wardynski (Dining Services), Laura Harry (Memorial Union), Ruth Archer (Office of Continuous Improvement), and Theresa Coleman-Kaiser (Asst. Vice President for Administration). Our team leaders consisted of faculty and staff from a few different areas of the university: Gina Dunstan (Humanities), Madeline Mercado-Voelker (Human Resources), Heidi Reid (Human Resources), Kathy Wardynski (Dining Services), and Sandra Kalcich (Dining Services).
Our team leaders and facilitators were very excited to see and be a part of the process of process mapping, and were shocked to see just how complicated some of these Tech jobs really are. All in all, it was a great two days of mapping and we hope to see some fresh faces at our next workshop. More details on that coming soon!
At Michigan Tech, continuous improvement is being integrated into the everyday operations of the university. A central Office of Continuous Improvement supports departments and individuals in their efforts and functions as a knowledge bank for people seeking more information. This office connects people who want to do a continuous improvement event with a trained facilitator; the university’s 24 facilitators are all volunteers.
Training, workshops, and coaching help to develop a continuous improvement culture. The Lean facilitators and Lean Implementation Leaders attend monthly continuing education to keep their skills fresh. All new supervisors are required to receive basic training in Lean principles. In addition, periodic workshops on topics like 5S and Process Mapping make Lean immediately useful and accessible to university employees.
Michigan Tech’s Continuous Improvement program also increases campus and community awareness, exposure, and engagement. Initiatives in this area include an active website, this blog, a recurring article in the university newsletter Tech Today, a Twitter account (@Lean_at_MTU), and a Lean Library. A Lean Model Office tour showcases Lean practices in an office environment; stop by the office at 136W Wadsworth Hall to take the self-guided tour. Michigan Tech also organizes a quarterly meeting for the Copper County Lean Group made up of 26 area businesses who gather to learn more about Lean and continuous improvement, share stories, collaborate, ask questions, and celebrate successes.
Often times you can’t help but overhear conversations between your fellow classmates, and regularly the topics of interest revolve around two things–how tough our winters are, and how bad our dining halls are. This unfortunate perception held by some students has sparked a flurry of improvement events currently being held on campus. The one I would like to highlight is the Residential Dining Blueprint kaizen that was conducted this week.
The cries have been heard and the dining hall managers spent 12 long hours over the course of three days creating a blueprint for “what makes an awesome dining hall.” As a student playing the “customer” role on the kaizen team it was very refreshing to see just how much each and every manager is devoted to improving the residential dining experience. In creating the blueprint the team took advantage of a great organizational tool: the Fishbone diagram (click on the diagram to enlarge it).
The dining hall managers and staff definitely have their work cut out for them, but that isn’t going to stop them in their pursuit of creating the greatest possible dining experience. I look forward to seeing the improvements in the coming years.
Today we bid a fond farewell to Megan Johnson. Megan has been a student Process Improvement Coordinator in the Office of Continuous Improvement for 3 years. In that time, she was involved with dozens of Kaizen Events, both as a coordinator and as a facilitator.
Megan recently graduated from Michigan Tech with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. She’s taking a position with a global manufacturing company as a Value Stream Team Leader. A value stream is the series of events and the information flow required to transform a customer request into a good or service. Value streams generally cross production lines and departmental boundaries; they have an enterprise focus rather than a functional focus. Megan credits the skills she developed as a student Process Improvement Coordinator and as the president of the Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) student organization with giving her the competitive edge during her job search.
Megan sends her thanks to all of the wonderful continuous improvement facilitators and team leaders that she’s worked with.
Goodbye, Megan. Have a super sparkly career!
We are pleased to present this guest blog by Rick Berkey, Research Engineer II and Product Development Manager, as well as a campus Lean Facilitator.
I recently purchased a lawn dethatcher online and was anxious to assemble it when I got home from work yesterday. When I opened the package, I was expecting the usual bag of parts and fasteners that fly everywhere when you rip open the industrial strength plastic packaging. If you’re like me, you also know instructions can be more like ‘suggestions’ — you look at bad illustrations, use your judgment, sort through parts that look close enough, skip important steps because you think you know the correct way, then take things apart once you realize you really don’t… and of course you end up with missing pieces or extra parts that you store as ‘just in case’ inventory. If only we had enough ‘junk drawers’ in our homes!
Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a great application of Lean (see image). All parts and fasteners are arranged on a ‘shadowboard’. Each panel was clearly labeled according to the sequential assembly steps provided in the instruction sheet. This simple yet effective solution highlights several Lean principles. First, it is centered around defining value in the eyes of the customer – i.e. making it easier for the person assembling it. Second, it embraces the 5S concept of establishing ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. Third, it serves as an effective visual control for the assembly process.
As the customer, I experienced several benefits and hence derived value as follows:
1. Knowing I had all the parts BEFORE I began…and if for some reason a part were missing, it would be obvious at the start
2. It was difficult NOT to follow instructions…the shadowboard keeps you on task. This can also be seen as an example of Poka-Yoke or mistake proofing
3. Faster assembly time, by reducing the following wastes: motion (looking for parts), defects (using wrong parts for a given step)
4. No missing/extra parts at the end…wow!
Kudos to Brinly-Hardy for getting it right with their product. The time and aggravation I saved was channeled into USING the product…after all, the goal was to dethatch my lawn, not assemble a dethatcher. Now, I know we’re not assembling dethatchers here on campus (well, maybe the Grounds department is!), but I would challenge all of us to see how these principles can and do apply to the things we do every day. Some questions to consider in your daily work: Who is your customer, and how to they define ‘value’? Is your work helping to create value or is it creating additional waste? Is there a visual solution that can streamline the process? When you develop and improve work processes, have you considered mistake proofing methods to make it easier to do it right the first time (by making it hard to do it incorrectly)?
Feel free to comment, and in the meantime I need to finish raking all that dead grass!