Green in Lean

By Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Lean is a method of continuous improvement that strives for perfection by eliminating waste and creating more value for the customer.  Therefore, it is only logical that Lean thinking can go hand-in-hand with “green” thinking!

There are many different examples of how Lean principles and tools could be used to reduce waste in an environmentally-friendly way.

A few ways that Lean thinking could be used to reduce waste and benefit the environment at the same time include:

  • Reducing the amount of paperwork required in a process so that the papers used are only value-added and no unnecessary or duplicated work is occurring,
  • Removing non-value added steps in a process so that less energy needs to be used to create the final product,
  • Using by-products or leftovers of a process to make another useful product, and
  • Using minimal packaging for a product.

Do you have a process that you could make more “green” using Lean methodology?


$55,006 grant from FMCS!

Things have been busy, October came and went in a blur.  October was the first month of an 18 month grant cycle for a $55,006 grant received from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Labor-Management Cooperation Grant Program.

The grant will support the Continuous Improvement Labor-Management Advisory Committee; an 11 member committee, composed of six “management” staff and five union staff (all three of Michigan Tech’s unions represented).  The committee  was put together to further develop the Continuous Improvement using Lean Principles Program as a method to improve labor-management relationships and increase staff participation in enhancing work environments. 

Goals of this project include:

  1. Develop a Continuous Improvement/Lean Facilitators’ Training Program to train new facilitators and provide continued education to current facilitators.
  2. Recruit and train a cohort of 10-15 new campus facilitators, consisting of at least 50 percent unionized staff members.
  3. Develop an outreach and training program to introduce supervisors and management to the Lean model of continuous improvement and how it can enhance work processes and labor-management relations.
  4. Provide training to Michigan Tech employees who are key to managing and expanding the Lean continuous improvement programming developed as part of the Project.
  5. Sharing Michigan Tech’s model at a regional and national level via publications and presentations at key conferences, meetings, and workshops.

It is an exciting time period for Michigan Tech’s Lean Journey, the next 17 months will be busy yet rewarding.


Daily Team Meetings

Daily team meetings are short 5-10 minute meetings that happen each day for a work unit, area or department.  They are quick, to the point meetings, used to bring forth challenges, roadblocks and safety concerns in semi-real time.  At meetings and immediate response of coordinated effort can be made to tackle such challenges and problems. 

Common Characteristics of Daily team Meetings

  • Standing meetings (keeps topics quick and to the point)
  • All members participate, some methods include: round robin, last to arrive speaks first, pass a token around
  • Occurs at the same spot each day, usually at the gemba (where the work is done)
  • Agenda: what happened yesterday (problems?), todays hot topics, areas for improvement
  • Begin and end on time – even if someone is late

This is a picture from this morning’s Wads Bakery daily team meeting.  There were no problems for the day, the hot topic was a new type of sugar cookie graphic that was being used to display the Rozsa logo for cookies that will be sold at the Rozsa Center’s performance of Momix: Botanica this weekend.


You’re Invited: Begin your Lean Journey

Every few months a presentation is made to introduce Lean concepts, talk about Michigan Tech’s Lean journey, and provide information about how to become involved to faculty, staff and students.  The next presentation is set to be held on Tuesday, September 27th at 2 PM.  It is an open presentation, all are welcome to attend.  However, seating is limited so please email me, wmdavis@mtu.edu, to be added to the official invite.


Visual Controls

Check out the pictures below taken of the Rozsa Storage Room.  Recently a 5S project was completed in the storeroom and visual controls, the color coded shelves, were implemented as a way to sustain the new organization.  The color coded shelves also allow staff to make quick decisions about where they will go for what: blue for sound equipment, yellow for audio visual equipment, and red for lighting and rigging.


Kaizen Profile Updated

On the tools and templates pageon the Continuous Improvement Website you can download an updated Kaizen Profile Template.   A Kaizen Profile is used in preparation for a kaizen event; it is a tool that is typically filled our by the team leader with assistance from a Facilitator.  Changes were made to the flow of the template to mimic the typical dialog and problem discussion had between a Facilitator and a team leader.  Additionally a new section was added to list the department of each team member.


Let’s Get Organized! How to 5S your desk!

Guest Post by Allie Olano, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Look around your desk; are there papers everywhere, folders stacked in piles, sticky notes all over your computer, stapler missing, etc.?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep reading so you can get organized. 

Even though spring has already past, it’s not too late to do some cleaning, so let’s get organized before the school year starts!  So how do you even begin to get that messy desk organized?  If you follow Lean 5S concepts and principles you will be organized in no time.  5S is a Lean concept that contains five components; Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain.  Let’s get started!

Sort-Eliminate the unnecessary items from your desk by placing everything into three piles; retain (keep), return (doesn’t belong on your desk), rid (you don’t even use).

Set in Order-Now that you have everything sorted, everything now needs a place and everything needs to be put in its place.  The retain pile items should be placed close or on your desk because these are the things you use the most.  The return and rid piles need to be put back where the items belongs because you don’t use them. 

Shine-Everything is in its place now so it’s time to clean.  Clean your desk by dusting, sanitizing, and at the end of the day clean up any lose items that are not in their proper place. 

Standardize- So now your desk is organized and clean and you would love to keep it that way.  To do this you need to create a standardize process for yourself of sorting, setting in order, and shining every time something new is given to you and could potential end up on your desk.

Sustain-The last and final step to make your organization of your desk successful is to apply the 5S principles to other areas of your job.  Examples: supply closets, book shelves, file cabinets, colleagues’ desks.  If you start applying these principles it will sustain the culture of organization throughout the office and you will continue to keep your desk organized.

Follow the 5S’s and your desk will become organized and stay that way.  Good luck!


Lean Leadership and Employee Empowerment

Guest Post by Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

“Becoming Lean” is about much more than implementing a set of tools and measuring metrics.  A big part of becoming Lean is the culture and attitudes of those who are involved in the processes.  Leaders are extremely important in instilling the culture changes into their employees so that their Lean journey can be successful. 

Lean leaders should empower employees and encourage them to solve problems themselves to continually improve the processes they work with.  This is why team members who are closest to the work should make up about 50% of the team for Kaizen events.  When leaders “go to the gemba,” they should try to understand the process and ask questions to surface any issues so that employees can solve problems based on observations.

An example of how employees can be empowered to make changes is by using an IDEA board— “IDEA” standing for Improvements Driven by Employee Action.  This allows employees to compare the current state to their ideal future state, describing the improvement and what problems it would solve.  On Michigan Tech’s campus, there is an IDEA board in the Memorial Union Building kitchen where employees can post their ideas for improvements.


Going to the Gemba

Guest Post by Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

“Gemba” is a Japanese term meaning “the real place.”  When you hear of someone who is “going to the Gemba” or doing a “Gemba walk,” they are going to the actual place where the work is being done, where value is being created or added.  To really understand a process it is critical that person go to the gemba to observe what is actually happening. 

When visiting the gemba, you should ask open ended questions to hear about the process from those who are closest to the work.   

Going to the gemba should be a daily task for leaders.  When leaders go to the gemba, it provides them with an opportunity to observe a process first-hand, build relationships with those they supervise, to listen, help work through roadblocks encountered, and to help problem solve—as well as encouraging others to problem solve.

Gemba Walks, Jim Womack’s newest book is a collection of compiled letters and essays about this topic.  View more about the book HERE.


Report Out Invite!

University Images recently participated in a kaizen event addressing problems in their special orders process.  Special orders are defined as: orders placed by departments and student groups through University Images.  Such orders include but are not limited to department apparel and souvenir items.   University Images has exclusive vendor contracts and can offer competitive prices.  They also ensure licensed, quality Michigan Tech products to their customers.

To learn about the changes made to the University Images Special Order Process, you are invited to attend the Auxiliary Services Lean Report-Out on Wednesday, July 20 at 2:00 PM in MUB Ballroom B3.

Along with the University Images presentation, you will also hear:

–        A teachback on improvement event team member roles

–        A report-out from the Dining Services Batch vs. Flow Kaizen for Invoices

–        An update on the Dining Services Commissary Kaizen

Hope to see you there!!