A Bittersweet End

It has been an amazing 2 1/2 years for me in the Office of Continuous Improvement. Throughout my time as a Student Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC) I have had so many opportunities that I never would’ve imagined for myself as a college student. I can say, without a doubt, that  I would not be where I am now without the knowledge and experience that I’ve gained from this position. I can’t thank my co-workers, supervisors and peers enough for their support throughout the years.

I came into this position with very little knowledge of any specific Lean tools or methodologies, however, before this job I had mapped processes, organized work spaces, and analyzed root causes. So shortly after starting my training I realized that continuous improvement had always been a part of my life. When I came to this realization, I began feeling much more comfortable in my role, knowing that Lean wasn’t some revolutionary new idea; but simply a set of concepts that draw on a person’s natural tendency toward improving their quality of life. From there, it became very easy to understand and then apply those concepts to processes all over the university.

Since starting in January 2014, I have facilitated 3 Kaizens, acted as the team leader for 2 efforts, and have coordinated 22 improvement events across 12 departments on campus. I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to work with everyone from Dining Services to Human Resources to the Van Pelt and Opie Library and every department in between.

I will be starting my career with General Mills as a Global Sourcing Buyer and will look to carry my knowledge and experiences with Lean and continuous improvement and apply them in this new role. I will undoubtedly miss Michigan Tech and the Office of Continuous Improvement.

To everyone who has been apart of my journey…

THANK YOU!

Farewell Post – Elizabeth Wohlford

It has been a great journey over the past two years as a process improvement coordinator (PIC) and as graduation is just two weeks away this will be my last post. I have really enjoyed working with so many different people and being a part of real changes across campus.

Since starting in July 2014, I have helped out by being a Lean facilitator for 3 on-campus events and a PIC for 14 campus improvement events across 5 departments at Michigan Tech. These events have helped campus save over 400 hours of time for Michigan Tech’s staff, and over $4,000.00 in waste, along with alleviating countless amounts of stress all around. The projects have ranged from helping employees 5S their workstation, to aiding the Van Pelt and Opie Library staff in standardizing the archive binder process, to helping student organizations like the MTU FilmBoard come up with standardized processes for their equipment set up. I have also been able to assist in 5 office projects ranging from informational wall posters which can now be seen outside our office, to marketing videos that including a cameo appearance by Michigan Tech’s President Glenn Mroz!

I first learned about Lean from my co-op with Kimberly-Clark in one of their manufacturing mills located in Ogden, Utah, and I have been able to take it with me as far as Boston when I met up with John O’Donnell for the second time at the Lean Enterprise Institute headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A selfie of that visit can be seen below (I have blogged about it before). I love Lean because it not only promotes order and information transparency, but also underlines having respect for people.

twitter_farwellpost

I would like to thank the entire Office of Continuous Improvement for the time and patience they poured into me upon my arrival, as I was becoming more fluent in my understanding of a what a Lean culture really is. After graduation I will be trading Houghton, Michigan for Seattle, Washington, all the while spreading the Lean spirit that I have learned to love over these past two years. Best of luck to the newly hired PICs–I have full trust that you’ll continue down the great pathway this office is on and fall in love with Lean as much as I have.

Leaders in Continuous Improvement: Gemba Walks

About a year ago, Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) had the wonderful opportunity to visit the Parker-Hannifin facility in Manitowoc county, and five of our members got to experience their implementation of Lean and continuous improvement. This year, LCI has had a great year and our membership has grown tremendously, and on April 15th we will be going back to the Parker-Hannifin facility with 10 enthusiastic members. Our members have learned about Lean through our hands on gemba walks with the Muffler Shop, Pettibone and Systems Control. Members have also helped advance the interest in Lean and continuous improvement on the Michigan Tech campus. Going over topics such as 5S, root cause analysis, visual management, kanbans, waste, and process mapping at the Parker-Hannifin facility increased our members’ knowledge, allowing them to then share with other students on campus.

We would like to thank Parker-Hannifin again for hosting us and we look forward to deepening our relationship over the years to come.

 

 

Spring Cleaning the Lean Way

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the trees are budding.  Spring is in the air, and spring means it’s time for spring cleaning! Traditional methods of spring cleaning involve hours of cleaning and organizing that can sometimes leave us very overwhelmed. Today I want to talk a little bit about one of our Lean Tools, 5S, and it’s application for continuous improvement in our homes.

The 5S System was developed for the manufacturing environment, but can be adapted to any environment since it is all about organizing a space to be clean, tidy, efficient, and safe. The 5S’s are as follows:

  1. Sort
  2. Set in Order (Simplify, Straighten)
  3. Shine (Clean)
  4. Standardize
  5. Sustain

Sort

How many times have you said to yourself, “I might need this one day?” This reasoning has successfully created mountains of unused items in all of our homes. There are certainly some things you would not want to throw out, but there are many things that you can do without. So, take some time to go through your house and find out what it is that you are holding onto so dearly that you could really just live without.

Set in Order

Once you’ve figured out what you want to keep and what needs to be thrown out, you can begin straightening each area of your home. The idea behind this step of 5S is “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Take some time to arrange needed items so that they are readily accessible and labelled so that anyone can find them or put them away.

Shine, Standardize, and Sustain

Once you’ve eliminated unnecessary items and given everything else a place, the next steps are all about getting the area clean (shine), maintaining its appearance (standardize), and using preventive measures to keep it clean (sustain). The last three phases of the 5S go hand in hand; so take the time to plan what needs to be cleaned, when it will be cleaned, and who will do the cleaning.

Benefits of 5S

  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Improved Safety
  • Sustainable changes—no decline back to the previous way of operating
  • Simplification and increased flow of tasks
  • Reduction in waste
  • Control through visibility

5S_Quick_Point

This year, take a Lean approach to your spring cleaning…You won’t regret it!

For more information about 5S, check out the 5S Quick Point on our Lean Tools and Templates webpage, or contact the Office of Continuous Improvement at improvement@mtu.edu!

Continue reading

Daily Continuous Improvement

The ultimate goal of a Lean practitioner is to incorporate continuous improvement into every facet of their life. Contrary to popular belief, Lean is applicable in more environments than just industry. Tools like 5S and “Plan, Do, Check, Act” (PDCA) allow anyone to revamp the areas of their lives that may be creating “muda” or waste.

In our office we’ve used 5S to organize our supplies and we continue to sustain it by auditing twice a month. I have gone on to use Lean tools to clean and de-clutter my apartment, inspiring others to do the same. Life is chaotic, but when things are broken down piece by piece like Lean allows us to do, we can get more done with less stress.

Every day is an opportunity to improve and if what we have already implemented fails or has problems, we can fix it. Nothing is perfect the first time, but through continuous improvement we can sustain an environment that always changes for the better.

20160323_141431

Welcome Rylie Store!

Joining the team in the Office of Continuous Improvement is a new Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC), Rylie Store. Rylie is a first year student pursuing a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences with hopes to utilize her degree as a Pre-medicine parallel and eventually ticket her way into medical school. Although Rylie is only a first year she was actively involved in many clubs and organizations in high school such as Student Council, Prom Committee, and Yearbook Committee. Rylie is currently working on building up her involvement on campus and is currently an active member in the Alpine Ski and Snowboard Club. Prior to becoming a PIC, Rylie began her employment by forming her own photography business the summer going into her senior year of high school (July). She also received her certification as a Professional Ski Instructor of America in the spring of her senior year (March 2015).

Rylie will now introduce herself and share her own opinions on jumping on board with our team.

Coming into this position I’ll be honest, I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what Lean was. It wasn’t until a former employer of mine had guided me to the application for the opening of a PIC position and encouraged me to apply that I began to gain some basic knowledge of what it is that Lean necessitated. I’ve been on board officially now for about a week and in that time I’ve managed to complete some basic training. However, I still have a long ways to go before I’ll fully understand Lean to the capacity I feel that it deserves. With the minimal information and background that I have acquired I can say that I am most excited to become a factor in this journey to better improve processes and eliminate waste efficiently throughout Michigan Tech’s endeavors. Joining this team has encouraged me, even more so to expand my campus and community wide involvement while implementing continuous improvement in the process.

Although still being new in the office, I’ve managed to gather that my tasks in the office will be to not only grow my lean knowledge. but to do so through the arrangement, encouragement, and compilation of Kaizen Events.

I’m excited for this coming journey of mine as a PIC, but I’m even more so thankful to be given this opportunity to expand my horizon while also expanding the spread of Lean throughout  campus.

IMG_7180

Lean – More than a Buzzword at Career Fair

As the career fair has passed and students anxiously await interviews and follow ups from company representatives, I’d like to take this time to remind students about how Lean principles are more than knowing where to insert buzzwords. I know from experience that understanding lean practices and then applying the tools in a real world project can really make you shine as a candidate on career fair day–not to mention change your environment for the better.

For example, when I was a freshman I learned about Kanban and then integrated the principles into my own work flow. This has helped me tremendously when juggling school work, student organizations, research, and working at the Office of Continuous Improvement. A picture of a Kanban can be seen below. I encourage you all to learn more about Lean principles and start to integrate them into your daily life. Then when it comes time for an interview you can not only refer to the Lean term, but also follow up with an example of how you then applied the given concept.

kanban-board-e60650d1-1

 

If you want to know more about continuous improvement, feel free to reach out to the Office of Continuous Improvement either by phone at 906-487-3180 or email improvement@mtu.edu. You are also welcome to stop by our office (we love having visitors) located in 136 West Wadsworth Hall, right above the WMTU sound booth.

 

Michigan Tech Students are Learning Lean

I glanced at the caller ID as I answered the phone, but I didn’t recognize the number. The man on the other end introduced himself. He was the president of a small manufacturing plant in Michigan, and he was looking for an engineering intern with a background in manufacturing and Lean experience to manage a Lean project next summer. Could we help him? Yes!

LCI student organization on a facility tour at Pettibone in Baraga, Michigan
LCI student organization on a facility tour at Pettibone in Baraga Michigan

 
The Office of Continuous Improvement at Michigan Tech is creating an immersive environment for our students to learn about Lean to the mutual benefit of the university, students, employers, and the local community. The university uses Lean in its everyday operations, provides Lean education for students, and coaches students on using Lean in their student organizations and community service. Over the last eight years, Michigan Tech has held over 200 improvement events, all designed to get students in the classroom with calm minds, ready to learn and faculty in their labs with a calm mind, ready to do their research.

Students at a Lean leadership workshop
Students at a Lean leadership workshop

 
Michigan Tech students engage in Lean in many ways. There are several academic courses students can take on Lean principles, Lean culture, and Lean manufacturing, as well as courses on concepts related to Lean, like change management, teamwork, project management, and safety. As a member of the student organization Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI), students learn about Lean and practice their skills working with other student organizations and local non-profits. Students have opportunities on campus to attend Lean workshops, take online short courses on Lean principles, request facilitators for improvement events in their student organizations and enterprises, receive coaching on certification preparation, and participate on kaizen as customers or outside eyes. With many departments on campus actively practicing Lean, students with on-campus jobs are exposed to Lean tools and processes like daily huddles, standard work, and visual management. Finally, students encounter and practice Lean during internships and co-ops with industry.

Guest speaker John O'Donnell from the Lean Enterprise Institute
Guest speaker John O’Donnell from the Lean Enterprise Institute

 
Imagine a world where everyone understands the importance and benefits of quality! Our vision is for every student graduating from Michigan Tech to learn about quality and continuous improvement at some level. We want to meet students where they are at with a full range of engagement possibilities tailored to their unique needs. Look around our website to see how the Office of Continuous Improvement is engaging students, faculty, staff, and the local community in the learning and practice of Lean and continuous improvement. How can industry help? By increasing our students’ awareness of Lean practices in your organization, offering internships that require Lean skills, inviting our students for a tour of your facility or participation in your kaizen, and volunteering as a guest speaker at an LCI meeting.

Students playing Lean Jargon Bust
Students playing Lean Jargon Bust

Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Any college student from around the world will tell you how fast-paced and hectic it is trying to figure out the rest of your life. Between classes, student organizations, figuring out our financial situations (and trying not to drown in them), and truly trying to enjoy this time in our lives, students are busy! Likewise, any professional in the workforce will tell you the same thing–being an adult isn’t easy. Can it all be done?

Process mapping and standard work for any task allows for smoother running and less stressful experiences with better outcomes. In one of my classes this week, we looked at the writing process for a research document. It was highly recommended to be taken a step at a time so as to not overwhelm the writer. The paper is to be taken piece by piece and improved upon gradually. The writers were advised to take detailed notations of their process goals in order to complete all of the necessary tasks in a timely manner and fully report on all of the key points of their topic. Things cannot be made without time and effort, and one can’t do everything at once.

Lean principles are everywhere and, if studied, are not difficult to implement. Many people misconstrue continuous improvement as solely a manufacturing or workplace fad. In reality it can be applied in many aspects of your daily routine to provide a more organized, efficient, and beneficial way of doing things. How do you use Lean in your everyday life?

lean ants

The Road to Lean Success

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Mark Randell, Director of Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine at UPHS Portage.

Yes, we tried Lean.Mark Randell

I was fortunate to start my Lean journey and see success first hand with very little knowledge of Lean principles.  We solved an inventory management problem at my work using visual management tools and Kanban cards. This small event saved us a ton of time and frustration. We no longer run out of patient supplies or overstock our supply closets. The pivotal event for me was participating in a week long kaizen at Pettibone. The thing that amazed me was the entire company was involved in the event and the organization made the changes suggested by the team the following Monday. I’ve sat in numerous meetings over the years talking about what we’re going to do and not really accomplishing anything. The Lean-thinking folks at Pettibone implemented improvements on Monday!

I started this blog post with my early success because it didn’t take long before I ran into a ton of fun wreckers. The comments I heard were:

  • Lean has a life cycle.
  • We tried Lean many years ago; it didn’t really work.
  • This is another fad.
  • It didn’t work at Toyota–look at their recent recalls.

If I would not have seen the early success of Lean/continuous improvement and met my coaches, Ruth Archer and Jim Manley, I would have focused my efforts back to return on investment and efficiency training.  The question is, then, why does Lean/continuous improvement fail?

Jim Manley, a former executive at GM, believes they struggled at GM because they didn’t change the organizational culture to lean thinking. Art Byrne, in his book The Lean Turnaround, did not appear to be satisfied with the Lean implementation at IBM because IBM did not change the culture.  Many of the MBA programs across the country were built on GM and IBM business principles and focused on return on investments and productivity. I believe the only way a company can successfully implement Lean is by changing the culture to Lean thinking. Lean is about changing the process by creating Lean thinkers, using Lean tools, and following Lean principles.  If your goal is to decrease expenses by using Lean tools you will fail.