Tag Archives: Lean Training

What is a PIC

Very recently, I was given the opportunity to write a blog post for the Michigan Lean Consortium’s newsletter. In that blog post I wrote about how Michigan Tech is bringing lean to students, but more specifically on the Process Improvement Coordinators, commonly know as the PICs. While writing, it dawned on me that we have never really talked in depth about what our PICs do for the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Lately, we have been introducing a few new members to our PIC  team: Blake, Dominique, and not too long before them we had Matt. Even further back in time than Matt, we introduced Ari in April and Anita in March. In this time frame, Anita and Matt went their separate ways to prioritize other things in their lives. For me, Rylie, I was introduced way back in March of 2016.

Overall you’ve gotten to know a little about each of us, and hear from us during our journey with the office. However, what is it that we actually do for the office? What is our contribution? Where does our value lie?

Well the answer is sort of simple, we are process improvement coordinators for kaizen events. This means that we are responsible to make sure that all of the right people are in the right place, at the right time, and with the all of materials they need to be successful. We work closely with all levels of faculty and staff through the use of lean methods and thinking. We are well respected by these employees and are treated as equivalents whenever we’re seated at the table. On average, once each PIC is well out of their training they can be assigned eight different kaizens that they are coordinating. Deviating away from this part of our role, the PICs can also be responsible for aiding in facilitation of a kaizen,  data collection, and creating presentations for reporting out.

Kaizens are what we all know how to do, but there’s a lot more projects that us PICs are involved in; this is variable depending on which PIC you are talking about. For example, Blake and Dominique just completed training and are starting to get into kaizens. Ari and Dominique are currently working on a question bank for our facilitators to study for the Lean Bronze Certification test, a nationally recognized certification. Ari is also working on coordinating a information session on lean for students taught by the PICs. My big on-going project is training in the new PICs. This is done through a course that I designed along side a former PIC, Aspen, to accommodate all learning styles while enabling coaching opportunities for our more seasoned PICS.

The last bit of what we do is our routine standard work: blog posts, newsletters, report-outs, presentations, keeping up with kaizens and our access database, the typical. The key with our work, however, is that we don’t only do our work, we are continuously improving it through the PDCA cycle. As a team we have decided to highly boost the lean culture of mutual respect, by asking lots of questions and eliminating blame from our work.

In summary, our PICs are always on the go, and our “typical” day in the office is really unpredictable. Each day is different, and that’s how we like it, as it allows for growth and things to get done, without the lag of a droning routine.


Leaning Away from My Fear of Change

How can just 6 letters be arranged to create one of the most powerful words in our language? This word can strike fear into the hearts of some, and empower others. Change is a powerful word, and even so, a more powerful tool. I will be the first to admit that I am afraid of change. For most of my life, I have run from change, only to have been dragged back kicking and screaming into its path. It was only recently, as I began to learn and embrace LEAN culture that I also learned to embrace change for what it really is, a powerful tool that can change my life for the better.

I haven’t always been able to embrace change for what it is. When I first learned about LEAN I thought it would be a good way to hide from change. LEAN would be my shelter, protecting me from the winds of change. Inside my shelter I would learn all of these life saving tools and battle techniques and emerge from the darkness as the hero that would defeat change once and for all. I would build standards and processes that would allow me to justify my need to do things the same way everyday. These standards would be the walls that kept me safe.

It didn’t take me long to realize how wrong I was with my vision of LEAN. LEAN was not a sword to be used to defeat change. LEAN was, and is, a language that can help us communicate through change. LEAN and change are a pair of tools helping me continue on my path of improvement.

One of the first lessons I learned taught me that LEAN is not an excuse to justify current state. In fact, the LEAN culture actually seeks to remove the justification of current state and see our current state for what it actually is. LEAN culture wants us to find the problems with our current states, without placing blame on each other. My fear of change stems from the justification of my current state. If my process isn’t broken, then why should I fix it?  I learned the answer to this question when I started learning to collect metrics. Metrics can come in any shape, but they all have one thing in common. Metrics show where a change was beneficial or where it wasn’t. For me, this system of metric collection helped me embrace change; I could see that change can help rather than hinder. The LEAN culture has helped me to see that change isn’t something to be afraid of.

I still have a long way to go in my relationship to change. I can admit that I still have trouble jumping right into a new idea without fear. I know that I can embrace change. Now that I have a language to help me communicate with change, I can use it to further my path of improvement.


PIC Training & Diversity

The last time that you heard from me was when I introduced the word cloud, pictured below. I was able to generate this cloud from a plethora of individuals, worldwide and via LinkedIn. The topic of the word cloud? Lean and Continuous Improvement summarized into a single word.

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Naturally (also fairly), I chose a word as well. My word? Diversity. Throughout my time practicing Lean and CI, I have been faced with several challenges, and yet one of the greatest is still summarizing lean. This is because it is SO diverse!

Now Diversity can mean a million different things, and can be applied anywhere and at anytime. Diversity is what gives the word “unique” life and it’s what gives meaning to the idea of being receptive.

I chose diversity, not because I wanted to select a word that wasn’t used by my comrades, but rather because if you place “Lean and Continuous Improvement” into the sentence above, in place of “Diversity,” you will have an equally true statement.

Recently I have finished designing a training course for our new Process Improvement Coordinators (PICs) and every step of the way I ran into lean’s diversity. I ran into it when I had to organize the lesson plans and orders, I ran into it when I had to decide what topics should be elaborated on and to what extent, and I ran into it especially when the new employees began asking questions. Last time I focused on the idea of DNA, people, perspective, respect, empowerment, etc. Today I want to cover how other words tie lean to diversity and they are: evolution, focused, prepared, better, purposeful, helpful, and flow.

The first word, evolution was chosen because the training course has certainly evolved since I went through it. The training that our most recent hire is going through is technically revision 3 of the course. Just like the content and existence of the training, lean is always evolving towards perfection, towards improvement. Without evolution we have no Continuous Improvement, only Lean, but the two go hand in hand. They’re sister pillars, if one falls so does the other. This is a lesson I learned while designing the training course. I believe that in order to grow, evolution or improvement must be made.

In sense of the training, in order to make sure the training was in fact having a growth spurt, the lessons had to remain focused, prepare the student for their job, it had to be better, each piece had to serve a purpose and help, and all of this had to flow together.

The above ideas all tie to the thinking of lean. In order to make helpful changes, to enhance the flow, and to achieve the goal of a better process, the thinking must be focused. The thinking must concentrate on the current state, and future state. After this happens then the thinking must become purposeful and deliberate. Every step concerning bridging the gap between current and future state must be principle. How do we ensure that all of this is happening? It’s easy, you must be prepared. To be prepared is to plan, if there isn’t enough time or effort put into designing a plan then the “Doing” will be futile. All of these concepts go hand in hand, making improving anything more complex, more diverse.

When I started designing the PIC training course the objective I had in mind was to create a flowing, helpful, and better training course for the incoming PICs. However, I had never anticipated that while I was constructing this course, I too was learning a great deal. The lessons I learned in planning this training were ones that actually apply to understanding lean in general.

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A Blooming Relationship: Lean and MTU

It’s been nine years since China hosted the summer Olympics, nine years since the United States elected Barack Obama as the 44th President, nine years since the stock market crashed, and it’s been nine years since Michigan Technological University began it’s lean journey.

In 2008, University President Glen Mroz introduced Michigan Tech to Lean. In relative terms, nine years really isn’t that long, however, not a second was WASTED since the opening of our office, the Office of Continuous Improvement. After nine years, 236+ Kaizens (Improvement Events), 70+ Facilitators, 10 PICs, 2 Directors of Process Improvement, two classes, and one student organization, it is safe to say that our relationship with MTU’s campus is now BLOOMING.

We recently hosted our 2017 facilitator graduation ceremony and introduced 16 new facilitators to our pool! Congratulations to the new facilitators who are: Joan Becker, Debra Charlesworth PhD, Paul Charlesworth PhD, Johnny Diaz, Christina Fabian, Megan Goke, Timothy Griffin, Lori Hardyniec, Kristi Hauswirth, Brian Hutzler, Austin Kunkel, Lauren Movlai, Katherine Purchase, Joseph Snow, Madeline Mercado-Voelker, and Maryann Wilcox. These 16 people come from 13 different departments campus wide, and one has now left the university and is continuing their Lean journey in the community. These facilitators are another chapter of growth for this university and the mission is simple, to IMPROVE. It’s been said time and time again that probably the greatest aspect of Lean is the people and the culture. The culture is one of open-mindedness, collaboration, humility and respect. However, without the people, the culture would fail. We are proud to welcome this group of 16 to our culture.

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A picture from the Facilitator Graduation Ceremony as Lori Hardyniec gives her speech.

Our growth on campus has not only impacted the faculty and staff, it has also been growing within our student population as well. On the same day of graduation our office hosted it’s first ever Student Information Session. At this session our PICs taught students a little about what lean and continuous improvement is, along with an activity on personal kanbans.  A few days after we hosted our information session, our student organization, Leaders in Continuous Improvement, received the award for the Most Improved Student Organization for the 2016-2017 academic year (how fitting).

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LCI leaders Martine Loevaas, Tom Strome, and Rachel Chard with the Most Improved Award.

These three events all happened within the last week, highlighting the success lean is having at the university.

With our culture expanding and the amount of people involved rising, I know our university will soon be flourishing with Lean, and our students will be leaving here with skills that they not only learned in lecture and lab, but also from the environment that they are being surrounded by. This environment will provide everyone immersed in it with skills that companies, coworkers and employers are looking for such as team collaboration, problem solving, and again RESPECT for everyone. Lean and Continuous Improvement has proven over and over again that it is a way of life, a way of change, and a way of growth that anybody can take and adapt into their lives, and it has proven this to all that have hopped on board with our journey.

It’s been nine years since Michigan Technological University began it’s lean journey, and it is our DREAM that the blooming culture we have will flourish, and in nine years we’ll be able to look back on this time in our journey and have no words but “wow,” and no emotion but delight.


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.

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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.


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

Lunch and Learn at the Lean Enterprise Institute

This summer I had the great fortune of being a mechanical engineering intern at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. While in Cambridge, John O’Donnall, Executive Director of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), was kind enough to reach out to me and invite me to visit the office. Mr. O’Donnall and I had the chance to meet on campus last year when he was the keynote speaker at the 2015 facilitator graduation.

 

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Lean Enterprise Institute located in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

While there it just so happened that they were also having a guest speaker come in and talk about Lean in the civil engineering world and how much waste happens at construction sites because the main currency is the amount of time it takes to complete a project. Although I had to leave before the whole event was over I found her talk to be very interesting. It really opened my eyes to the need to integrate Lean practices into the civil engineering world the way mechanical engineering has integrated it into manufacturing. Below is a picture of the talk from an outside view.

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Presentation on integrating Lean principles into civil engineering projects

 

I also got to meet with James P. Womack the founder of the LEI, as well as some of the M.B.A. summer interns who were in the office. Every summer the office hired a few M.B.A. students from the area to work with them and learn in an immersive experience about Lean principles. John O’Donnell and I mused about the possibility of bringing in Michigan Tech M.B.A. students on as summer interns and I think that it could be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties. 

 

 

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Selfie with Mr. John O’Donnell

 

Before leaving John showed me around the office and I was pleasantly surprised with how much our own Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech resembled the  Lean Enterprise Institute. A picture of their office can be seen below.

 

 

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Snapshot of the open floor plan office at Lean Enterprise Institute

 

I had a great experience there meeting up with Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Womack, and meet some of their M.B.A. summer interns.  

 


Lessons Learned About Kaizen

As part of our training program to become a Lean Facilitator, the trainees participated in a kaizen facilitated by one of our experienced facilitators. For their kaizen, the trainees chose to focus on the enforcement of policies for employee parking violations. During their report out, they passed on some “lessons learned” that are a good reminder for all of us.

Kaizen Lessons Learned:

  • If a tool isn’t working for you, move on to another one. (They just weren’t getting any traction using a Fishbone diagram.)
  • Just because a decision making tool indicates the “best” choice, doesn’t mean you have to go with it. (The ICE tool (Impact, Control, and Ease) showed that a wheel boot was the best choice, but the group decided against it.) It’s the people who decide.
  • The kaizen participants assumed they know who was doing what during the process they were investigating, but they were wrong. (There was a miscommunication regarding the employee invoicing system.)
  • You’ll understand the tools a lot better if you try to use them. Also, you don’t have to be perfect at using a tool to try it.
  • You don’t have to remember every tool. It’s enough that you can remember there is a tool and look it up.

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Thank you to the now-graduated Lean Facilitators Mary Babcock, Pattie Luokkanen, Angie Kohlemainen, and Todd Van Valkenburg for their insights!