Tag Archives: Customer Defines Value

Lean at Girl Scout Camp

Time and time again I am amazed by the flexibility of lean and its endless applications outside of the office. It seems that no matter what sort of process I have going I can always improve it in some way. Whether it be how often I perform regular maintenance on my car, how I stock my pantry, or how I prioritize my chores for the evening. The most adaptable part of lean is the use of people. Not a single aspect of lean was designed for one person and one person alone to complete a task, but rather to be easily used in a team.

Being a college student there are many times that you get put into a group of total strangers and you are expected to get the task done. However, each member goes into the group with a different set of priorities, expectations, and values that they carry with them- whether they know it or not. This is true going into a marriage, a summer camp, a new job, or even something as simple as a group project for school. The question I began to ask was, “How can you accommodate the different values and expectations before a diverging trait breaks lose?” and, “How can you have a plan for when disagreement arises?” The answer is by implementing a team charter.

What is a team charter? A team charter is developed in a group setting to clarify the teams direction while establishing boundaries, it is used to encourage a common understanding and shared voice among all group members.

I recently had the opportunity to practice a team charter in a unique setting with nine 9-11 year old girls in my cabin at girl scout camp. This charter was developed by the girls in my cabin on how we planned to take care of cabin, how we were going to treat each other, and how we were going to treat ourselves. To make sure that all of their voices were heard without making these preteens uncomfortable, I opted to use an affinity diagram with them. We took a few minutes to make three affinity diagrams (one at a time), after this we collaborated, laughed, and successfully agreed on our game plan.

Affinity
One of the older girls working on her sticky notes. This one puts lots of thought and effort into her ideas. It was fun to watch her become so invested in the cabin.
affinity 4
One of the girls thinking about the ideas and helping everyone to brainstorm categories.
affinity 2
The girls working together to group their ideas.
affinity 3
Finally some rearranging and getting close to the end.

Sadly, I don’t have an after picture of what we came up with, I was a little too excited that the idea even came together in the first place (In my time as a counselor I have learned that you never know what the middle school girls are going to bring). However, the game plan we formed was visible all week long and in several instances I noticed the girls taking a look at it, holding one another accountable to it, and sometimes asking for buy in to add a few more items to our plan. All in all it was a great week, and I was thrilled once again with the malleability of lean.


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


Defining and Creating Customer Value

At the heart of Lean is a focus on the customer and a spirit of continuous improvement. In this post, I want to discuss the concept of customer value.

Many people think they have a firm grasp on the concept of value, but in reality understanding how value is created, applied, measured, and translated is a difficult task. This is because each and every person has their own perception of what constitutes value and this belief of what value is changes over time. Though it may prove difficult, identifying what creates value for the customer is the very first principle of Lean; it’s a task that must be completed before beginning any process improvement efforts.

Upon the completion of this task, not only will you know what your customers value, you’ll also have a basis for defining your day-to-day activities. Having that level of definition will help answer 3 important questions:

  1. What should I be doing?
  2. How should I be doing it?
  3. Why should I be doing it?

Everything we do on a daily basis, no matter how small, should create some kind of value for our specific customers. Defining said value forms the foundation upon which you build Lean processes to deliver that value and satisfy your customer. For an activity to be value added, you must meet all three precise criteria:

  1. The customer must be willing to pay for the activity.
  2. The activity must transform the product or service in some way.
  3. The activity must be done correctly the first time.

If an activity does not meet all three value-added criteria, then it’s deemed officially to be non-value-added.  In Lean, non-value-added activities are further broken down into two types of muda (or waste):

  1. Type-1 waste includes actions that are non-value-added, but are required for some other reason. These are typically support activities that allow those critical value-added activities to take place.  These forms of waste usually cannot be eliminated immediately.
  2. Type-2 wastes are those activities that are non-value-added and are unnecessary. These activities are the first targets for elimination.


Many activities may seem as though they’re necessary or value-added, but on closer examination, viewing them through the eyes of the customer, they’re not. For example,  if you are completing paperwork to pass on to another department, or creating reports for your supervisor, the first order of business should always be to define what information is of value to the person receiving the documents you’re creating. You may find that a portion of the information you’re collecting or reporting is of no value to your “customer,” and therefore collecting and documenting that information only serves to create waste in the process. 

Identifying customer value and seeking out and eliminating waste takes effort — it’s a journey that begins with challenging the status quo. If you’re ready to accept this challenge and begin your journey, call the Office of Continuous Improvement at 906-487-3180 or email us at involvement@mtu.edu. We will work with you and give you the tools you need to get you headed in the right direction.

Reference
     — You are welcome to check out this book and others from our Lean Library.
Sayer, Natalie J., and Bruce Williams. Lean for Dummies. 2nd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2012. Print.

Lean Best Practices are Everywhere… Once You Learn to See Them

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!

The shadowboard that helped error proof dethatcher assembly.