My Journey Through Lean

We’re already into the second semester and I can’t help but wonder where the time went. I’ve recently been taking the time to reflect on my experiences as a PIC, and what that has brought to me in terms of understanding things that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise, like Lean. Between school, multiple jobs, family, and having a social life, the past weeks have become overwhelming and at times felt impossible.

Starting my job in the Office of Continuous Improvement, I honestly did not know what to expect. I was aware of a few different common Lean tools that I had researched, but now, the pieces of the puzzle have slowly started to connect. Through my learning of Lean, I have found a few important things that I believe are helpful in understanding different aspects of Lean. Firstly, to be able to truly learn and use Lean in personal and professional settings, you have to believe in Lean and what it can do to improve your life. After being a part of the Office of Continuous Improvement for the last six months, I have been able to see the firsthand effects of what Lean has done for processes across campus. Secondly, and this may be one of the hardest things for individuals to grasp, Lean is not a sudden success. I like to think of Lean as the old fable, the tortoise and the hare. Lean is not fast moving; it is similar to the tortoise. It is a slow and steady pace while staying persistent throughout the entire process. Last (but not least), I believe that Lean is beneficial for all areas of our lives. If we limit Lean to certain area, then we are putting a restriction on what can be accomplished. Since I’ve started as a PIC, I have used a number of the Lean tools in my personal life. Unsurprisingly, they have significantly improved my productivity, and most importantly they have reduced my stress.

Becoming engulfed in the Lean culture has become a life changing experience, and for a number of reasons–all wonderful. I am grateful for everyone I have met and everything that I have learned using Lean, and I look forward to the new experiences that will come with leading a Lean lifestyle.


New Year, New me: S.M.A.R.T. Goal

The holidays are all about family, home cooked meals that are to die for, gifts, celebration, and joy. But what happens once January first hits? The fitness centers reach capacity with people outside begging to be let in, produce is scarce but your beloved lucky charms have an inventory, and the cliche statement: “New Year, New me!” until about January 14th.

Now, let’s rewire this a bit, I’m not bashing the latter statement, or the sudden interest in exercise and healthy dieting. Rather, I encourage it. What I am bashing is that it stops mid-way through January. Now, some people actually do succeed and that’s awesome, yet almost everyone sets a goal for themselves, but why do only a handful stick with it? Is it more drive? More incentive? Less busy? I don’t know this answer, but I do know a way to ensure you are one of the ones that achieve whatever it is you want. How do you do this? It’s easy, S.M.A.R.T. goals. What this stands for is that the goal is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

According to Statistics Brain 2016, the top four New year’s resolutions are: Lose weight, Getting Organized, Spend Less and Save more, Enjoy life to the fullest. Well, getting organized is what we’re all about so we’ll do something different. Enjoying life to the fullest isn’t really specific or measurable. Spend less and Save more is good, but we might as well go with #1 lose weight. This will be a hypothetical example.

Is this goal specific: What, How, and why will this be accomplished?
The goal is to lose weight, more specifically 45 pounds and to achieve a body fat percentage that is 20% body fat! How it will be accomplished is by exercising 5/7 days. The Why is because my doctor told me I was overweight and I’m not happy in my own skin, so I want to change that.

Is this goal measurable: How will it be measured? What shows progress towards this goal?
This goal will be measured by percent body fat and weight loss by the use of a scale and body mass index. Progress will be shown once the percent body fat decreases to within the healthy range, and about 3-5 lbs at least is lost each month. It can also be measured by how happy I feel in my skin.

Is this goal attainable: Is the time frame good? Is there a need for knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve? Are there resources needed?
The time frame is good. There is a need for knowledge, skills and abilities on how to structure work outs, how to diet properly and healthily. The resources that will be needed are an exercise facility, perhaps a personal trainer, and maybe even a nutritionist.

Is this goal realistic: What’s the result of the goal? What’s the reason, purpose or benefit?
The result of the goal will hopefully be successful weight loss of about 45 pounds. The reason is so that I am no longer overweight, the purpose is for a healthier lifestyle, and the benefit is that this may allow me to be around a lot longer.

Is this goal timely? What’s the time frame? What’s the completion date?
The time frame of this goal is 12 months and the completion date is December 1st.

Goal setting is fantastic, but there’s nothing more rewarding than achieving a goal that you set for yourself. Life gets busy, in the way, and often our goals to better our selves gets bumped to the bottom of the priority list. However, if you originally set your goals through the use of SMART goals, then it will be easier to stick to your goal to the end.


The Name of Lean Practices

I was attending parent-teacher conferences at my daughter’s high school when I spotted some terrific visual management in the art teacher’s room. The teacher has to have supplies ready for new groups of students all day, without much time between classes to look for things. She’s developed a status-at-a-glance system that makes it easy for students to put things where they belong and easy for her to know if everything has been put away. Because I know about visual management, I could offer some simple improvement suggestions. Take a look at the picture below. What would you tell her?

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Lean didn’t create visual management; Lean just provides a name for it. Naming becomes important because when you name it, you can define it, identify examples of it, repeat it, find best practices for it, and share it with others. I often see this when I teach people about Lean. They’re already using a lot of Lean ideas, and now they can fill in some gaps, place it inside a larger framework, have a common language for discussion, and follow a pathway to learning more.

What Lean tools were you using before you learned about Lean?

#Lean


The Sixth “S”

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Pete Baril, Health and Safety Manager at Michigan Technological University

Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain. We know it like the back of our hand. The 5S process is an excellent Lean tool for decluttering, organizing, and improving efficiency, but it can also be part of the foundation for another very important S, Safety.

We’ve all been there, either at home or at work, fumbling around in a cluttered mess trying to get something done. We trip, grab the wrong tool, or spill something; a virtual gauntlet of hazards placed before us simply due to a poorly maintained workspace. Poor housekeeping not only detracts from efficiency and progress, it’s also a safety problem.

Housekeeping is central to a safe and well-run workspace. In a previous life I was a health inspector, charged with evaluating restaurants on food safety and sanitation. I could tell within five minutes of entering a facility whether or not it was going to be a good day or a bad day, simply based on the organization and housekeeping of the operation. Currently, my professional focus is on safety, and when I evaluate a workspace the results are no different; poor organization and housekeeping almost always equal safety violations and unsafe work practices.

Keeping up with safety requirements can be daunting, and when operating in a poorly kept space, the problem is compounded. Give yourself a chance by practicing the 5S process throughout your workspace. Improved housekeeping can do wonders for your efficiency, not to mention your stress levels. An organized space promotes safety by providing clear workspaces free of trip hazards and poorly stored items. Good housekeeping also prevents us from having to use the wrong tool for the job, as the right one is no longer “lost.” In addition to the many other safety benefits of an organized space, good housekeeping practices demonstrate a level of control over the process that brings with it efficiency, pride, and an improved outlook on the task at hand. All this from something as basic as housekeeping.

In closing, please keep in mind, as you strive to become lean, also strive to improve safety. Your co-workers, clients, and family will appreciate it.


Winner Winner Turkey Dinner: Decision Matrix

With Thanksgiving right around the corner our mouths are beginning to salivate in preparation for all of the delicious food that radiates euphoria mirroring that of our ancestor’s kitchens on a daily basis. Family recipes are being pulled off the top shelf and dusted off, the biggest turkey is being carved and stuffed, and snores can be heard after a food coma sets in.

In my family, our first serving of food encompasses a portion of everything: turkey, mashed potatoes, cranberries, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, corn, rolls, a salad, and my grandma’s famous apple and pumpkin pies. However, the first helping is usually just shy of filling our bellies to the brim and then we are faced with the option of seconds. We can’t handle a second helping of more than one item and it becomes an internal battle to decide what our final selection is going to be before we hit the floor for a nap.

Do not fret, thanks to lean and continuous improvement we have a tool that can help you decide which sample will ryle your taste buds and place a relaxed smile on your face. This tool is called a decision matrix, and although I will be demonstrating it through the image I painted for you above, it can be translated into any part of your work environment, schooling, or life to help you make a decision best suited for you.

To begin the decision matrix you must first make a table and define your criteria and options available. The criteria is what you want your option to possess and the options are the choices that your are deciding between. These will be added to column and row headings (shown in a picture below). For our purposes there are four areas of criteria to be met and four options. The criteria are: Makes my mouth water, fills my belly for more than an hour, tastes great, not too sweet. The options are: mashed potatoes, turkey, pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole.

decision matrix

The second step is to determine how important is each of the criteria items. This is done on a scale of zero to five with five being the most important. Note: Values can be used more than once.

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Third, go down each row and rank each option for how well they fit each criteria individually. This is done once again on a scale of zero to five, where five is that it fits that criteria perfectly. Again each value can be used more than one time. Personally, I prefer to rank these on a scale of 0-6 so that there isn’t any room to be right in the middle, but this isn’t the standard.

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Now, you take the assigned values in each box and multiply it by the value assigned to that particular criteria. Once you get this number you add it to the bottom of that particular box. This is where the value assigned is written first then multiplied by the criteria value (the second number).

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The last step with numbers is that you move across each row and add up the numbers that you just calculated to give you a total for that row. Once you have the totals you then compare the rows between one another, and the row with the greatest total is usually the option you can decide upon, in our case… winner winner turkey dinner!

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Now that you have your decisions sorted and methodically picked you can get your final nibbles for the night, curl up on the couch, and drift into a snooze to the sound of a football game, but most importantly you can rest easy knowing you made the right choice for you.


Biting the Bullet

As an American, discussing our country with foreign spectators (or outside eyes as we like to call them in the continuous improvement world) can raise a lot of questionable perceptions about our culture. While preparing to go abroad, I remember talking with international students who genuinely thought before arriving on American soil that everyone in the United States drove pick-up trucks, ate an absurd amount of McDonald’s, and most importantly: had firearms on hand at all times. I would always politely correct them that we in no way eat that much fast food, but the rest happens to be true… at least in my family. Growing up in an area where the 2nd Amendment is carried with the pride of a militia, this gun-slinging view of our nation supports the American ideals of strength, reliability, and deadliness. The country is a powder keg right now- fully loaded, ready to blow at any moment. The people are like ammunition; bullets- “quick, steady, and unforgiving.” We are all hunkered down ready to defend what we think is right, preparing for what seems to be an uphill battle fought in the name of great change. That is the thing about us- we are adaptable and above all we are resilient in the face of grand controversy.

No one knows what is going to happen, but we as a united nation are planning for anything. Things are shifting at this point in history and thus we must adapt our tools and habits accordingly. More and more people are reverting to traditional methods of data storage and organizational standards. For example there has been a shift from the impersonal and untrustworthy computer to modern concepts of planners and journals for people to log their thoughts and plan their days. Bullet journaling was recently developed in Chicago by a graphic designer as a means to compile all of the thoughts and worries of one person into a comprehensive and ever-evolving to-do list/planner/diary/motivator/bucket list. Using the structure of an index and page numbers, bullet journals allow for someone to put their entire world into a tangible collection with easy access. It takes a bit to get started, but once you do it has said to be life-changing. These are the kinds of things that the modern Americans must turn to in order to adapt privacy to the ever public lives we live in this day and age.

There is no doubt that we will pull through this together and find new ways to move ahead as a nation. We will improve and adapt by utilizing new tools and approaches to how we do things. If you would like to adapt as well and want to read more about bullet journaling, you can find more information here: http://bulletjournal.com/.

 

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5S Tool box

After High school finishes and graduation is over, we as young adults begin our journey of life. Becoming self-sufficient may be one of the hardest tasks that we have to overcome. Paying bills on time, working long hours, homework, and scheduling appointments are just a few things that are added to our “To-Do” list as we stray from our homestead.

Becoming self-sufficient is not a one day, one week, or one month matter. It takes time and effort every single day, and is not easily achieved. Doing a little bit every day is a basis of lean, as well as becoming self-sufficient. Using tools that lean and continuous improvement offers is a pathway to a more stable and organized life. For instance, the other day I recognized that it was time to change the brake pads on my vehicle. Through the past year, I have built up a large tool box with hundreds of tools to fix/maintain my vehicles. Having this many tools makes can be overwhelming and difficult to maintain if not organized properly. Sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain is exactly what 5S stands for, and that is just what I did with my set. Just simply cleaning up my tool box is the first step, but one of the most crucial steps in the process is the last, which is to sustain. This last concept is crucial for the success of lean and outcome of the project. By simply implementing the 5S tool and directing my efforts towards my tools prior to my brake project, I was able to spend less time looking for tools and more time being able to effectively work on my vehicle.

This may be a small scale example of becoming self-sufficient in my life, but to add lean tools into our everyday lives can drastically change them for the better. Recognizing and understanding where improvement is needed is the first step, and to act on it is the next. Always remember what Mark Twain once said, “continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Continuous improvement may not be a short cut to success, but when used properly, can get you moving in the direction towards achieving your goals.


Rooted in Health

Flu season is upon us! (Unfortunately). Now is the time to stock up on vitamin C & D before winter hits. Wash your hands, disinfect your surfaces, and be sure to drink plenty of fluids — but I don’t need to tell you this, it is information you’re told year after year since you were in elementary school. We are constantly surrounded  by others, and during this cold season, it is less than ideal and can have a profound impact on your level of productivity. Today, I  reminded my coworkers in the Office of Continuous Improvement of these vital autumn tips towards health during our daily huddle. However, I don’t believe caring for your health should be a seasonal objective and should stop here.

The last few weeks I have been very ill, giving me a lot of time to reflect on where our success is rooted as individuals.  When you’re miserable, it makes you feel as though you will be perpetually miserable. It takes a strong will to power through an illness, especially one that renders you immobile for a few days to a week. It feels as though you will never get better and you start to fall completely off the bandwagon. You lose track of work, you don’t contact friends for a while, you forget about assignments- your only focus is improving your health. What do you do once you’re better, though? This is what I have really been trying to figure out. “I have been sick for so long… what will stop this in its tracks? How can I improve my life so this doesn’t happen again?”

The answer is simple, but for some students and adults, is a difficult one- take care of yourself! You can’t think without eating- so eat. Drink plenty of water. Go to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time every day. Develop a work out routine, even just a short one. Every day do something spiritually uplifting. Every day, find something beautiful. Wash your hands. Bathe regularly. Focus on the basics first and you will build a foundation strong enough for any skyscraper. Problems start and are solved at the root, solutions are also found there. Sometimes the most simple of answers can have the most amazing results, so take baby steps! If you take care of yourself, you’ll be able to take care of everything else.

 

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A little hard-work, a little fun, a lot of lean: Affinity Diagrams

Anybody who is familiar with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is familiar with how bold our seasons are despite how long or short they become. Autumn is no exception, it is the period of time between late September to the end of October before the wind starts to howl and the snow starts to fly. Although our fall season is brief, the leaves still change and boy do they pop, deep reds, bright oranges, smooth yellows, warm shades of brown, and every single type becomes a crunchy lawn decoration for you to groan about and the kids an excited shrill. Take a deep breath. Did you feel that? The chilly air flooding into your lungs as winter takes its first breath. Hold onto that fresh air for a moment, and let it fill you. Remember this scene.

Just like a plethora of leaves in your yard, a broken or defected process will make you groan at the sight and feeling of the chaos surrounding you. Remember that feeling of fresh air replenishing your body? That is the same feeling that you get from lean, but specifically one of it’s daughters, it’s tool the affinity diagram. Let’s stick with the idea of fall in our mind, but specifically the scene of your yard. As I progress through the relation of raking a yard to an affinity diagram, I will also use the process leading up to jumping into the pile of leaves as my example highlighted in the pictures below each step.

Before anything begins your yard is not only covered in a blanket of pretty leaves, but also broken branches, toys left out from the summer, and items that you cannot see. Although the leaves are gorgeous, when you look at your yard you see derangement and are overcome with the urge to rake. The picture below represents all that you can see, the topical view.
This represents the current process: cluttered, busy, stressful, and more often than not, you can understand that there’s a lot contributing to the chaos, yet all you experience is the symptom, stress. The first step, is recognizing the topical view (depicted below).

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The urge to rake has grown strong, you go to your storage shed, retrieve a rake and just start raking your entire yard, this way everything is stirred up and where you have a visual of the entire area. This is how the affinity diagram works, you make note of every possible thing that could be intermingled into the process and bring it out into the open, but rather than using a rake, post-it notes are used and plastered onto a flat surface. This allows for everything to be up front and prevents minimal surprises later on. For our example, the items written on the post-its, or the parts of the process are: hauling away, hat, relaxation, you, raking, gloves, jacket, pets, re-raking, toys, jumping, kids, trash, a rake, leaves, garbage bags, long pants, branches, and trash.

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Now that the entire yard is raked, it needs to be broken up into piles that are a manageable size to be able to transport elsewhere. This also occurs with the post-its created above, the randomized notes are now condensed into piles of items that are similar to one another and placed under a category that is relevant to them. In our situation, The categories are: tools needed, dressing warm, people/things involved, items being raked, and action involved.

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Finally, after a lot of hard work and frustration, the sounds of excited screams fill the air and leafs are quickly re-raked and hauled away to decompose elsewhere, and your process is laid out and organized in a manner that is clear and free of any surprises. Everything is out in the open and ready to be used to achieve your final product whether that be completing a current state map, planning an event, or figuring out where many people line up (or don’t) in a given situation.

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Welcome, Stephen Butina!

New to the team here in the Office of Continuous Improvement is Stephen. He will be joining our other student PICs: Aspen, Martine, and Rylie, and will also be expanding his horizon one Lean concept at a time. Stephen jumped right into things about two weeks ago, and we are already being shown promising things from his work ethic and kind nature. We are excited to teach yet another student, better yet, another person about the ways of Lean. Stephen is now going to give you an introduction to who he is.

Hello Everyone!

My name is Stephen Butina and I have recently been given the opportunity in becoming a Student Process Improvement Coordinator here in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

I was born and raised in Upper Michigan and graduated from Jeffers High School with the class of 2014. I spent my first two years of college studying business administration at Gogebic Community College. After finishing my associate’s degree, I transferred to Michigan Tech where I am now currently working towards my bachelor’s degree in business management. Having grown up in a small community, it has proven to be wonderful to be able to stay close to my family and friends, while also expanding my knowledge at such a remarkable institution.

Being able to become flexible and knowledgeable through different working/learning experiences has truly expanded my knowledge and understanding of what goes into running a business. In my first two weeks on the job, I have merely scraped the surface of what Lean and Continuous Improvement represents and stands for, and I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to not only learn about the Lean culture, but to also work with our team here in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

-Stephen

We are just as excited to have the opportunity to work with Stephen and to watch his growth through Lean and of yourself.

Welcome!

 

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