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Perks of having a Kaizen

Changes are always being made campus-wide; some so small they’re hardly noticed, others are unavoidable, and not all of these changes happen through our Office of Continuous Improvement. We actually have a large number of Lean Implementation Leaders campus-wide who are focused on improving aspects of their department on a smaller level. However, there are some clear advantages to having a Kaizen with the support of our office.

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Each time we left the Kaizen having learned something new. We found creative ways to think and work functionally and efficiently, now everybody is less stressed.

With a Kaizen it is easy to bring in outside eyes, people who are not yet familiar with the process, these people are often a key part in identifying problems or waste and suggesting improvements for the process since they will inherently ask different questions and think about the issue from a different point of view. Depending on the department the “outside eyes” come from, they may come up with a completely new potential solution for the problems at hand, even if the team may think they have already considered all possible solutions.

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The most helpful aspect of the Kaizen was being able to interact with our customers and hear feedback directly from them. We found a lot of them had similar issues and when talking about experiences the conversation would just continue as they all shared stories.

Kaizens also require multiple facilitators, these people are trained to identify wastes as well as to help guide the group to find answers for themselves. They bring along necessary tools and will also offer suggestions or just help keep the group on track. We have a large pool of facilitators from all different backgrounds and departments and they are all people who enjoy what they do and genuinely want to help make Michigan Tech a better place. One way to reach this goal is to keep improving the processes that we already have in place or continue creating new ones, and then adjusting and sustaining them.

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You do not know what else is out there unless you embrace change and ask.

Kaizens also provide a platform for many people from different parts of the university to meet up together to focus on resolving specific issues. It also makes it easy to interact and get direct feedback and input from customers or co-workers. Kaizen teams are often made up of people close to the work as well, and it is a good opportunity to empower employees to make improvements in their own processes. The involved employees feel that buy-in and they invest more effort into improving their work as a result, and often find they enjoy their work more after. So next time you stumble upon some waste or find a process that could use improving, consider having a Kaizen, you will find you get more out of it than you may expect.

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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.

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Rare Super Blood Moon and Continuous Improvement

Earth’s moon along with the Sun’s gravitational pull are what cause tides on our earth [1]. In the past, coastal cities used the tides as a way to tell the time of day. This past week the “Super Blood Moon” was out, and for all those who gazed up at the sky with me in the Houghton area, I’m sure you can agree with me that it was a majestic sight to see. The awe I felt was only heightened with the knowledge that the phenomenon last occurred in 1982 and is not expected to occur again until 2033 [2]. As I reflected on how amazing it was watching the super blood moon, and seeing the moon change from its normal white color to an amazing orange hue over the course of a few hours, I couldn’t help but think about how time, the moon, and this rare occurrence all relate back to continuous improvement.

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Super Blood Moon [NASA]

One can get used to how things are going, and when something out of the ordinary takes place it can set the whole system into shock. For example, an increase in job responsibilities as an employee, or for students, a disruption in their schedule like fall career fair. These times do not need to cause anxiety and worry. Such events don’t happen on a daily basis, and it is good to take time and recognize them as they are and then trust that the systems set in place will work as intended. If the rare shock to the system does take place leading to an upset in the way the system behaved before, it could be an indication that the previous system was not as effective as it could be. This is a great time to implement Lean tools, and if needed a whole Kaizen event! Taking time to gather key people and utilize an appropriate Lean tool to get back in the rhythm of things can really be helpful. That’s what Continuous Improvement is all about!

Relating back to the blood moon example, Beijing was unable to see the blood moon because “a choking blanket of air pollution covered Beijing” [3]. This caused anger among residents and was a time that the pollution problem was brought to national attention once again. This shows how sometimes extraordinary events can actually be a call to action, a way to set the wheels in motion to make a positive change.

As career fair is now over, and the super blood moon has passed, I look forward to making sure my systems can handle such fluctuations in time demands, and I reevaluate their past true effectiveness.

If you want to know more about continuous improvement feel free to reach out to the Office of Continuous Improvement either by phone, 906-487-3180, or email improvement-l@mtu.edu

References:

[1] Oceanservice.noaa.gov, ‘Why does the ocean have waves?’, 2015. [Online]. Available: http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/wavesinocean.html. [Accessed: 30- Aug- 2015].

[2] P. Video, ‘Progress Cargo Ship Racing Towards ISS After Nighttime Launch | Video’, Space.com, 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.space.com/30718-progress-cargo-ship-racing-towards-iss-after-nighttime-launch-video.html. [Accessed: 30-Aug-2015].

[3] USA TODAY, ‘China’s smog smothers ‘blood’ moon’, 2015. [Online]. Available: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/10/08/china-smog-blood-moon/16903549/. [Accessed: 30- Aug -2015].