Report Out on a Daniell Heights Damages Kaizen

AJ Mikus is the Facilities Manager for the Daniell Heights apartment complex at Michigan Technological University. AJ led an improvement event designed to improve the student experience of checking out of their apartments, reduce the amount of repairs needed, and ensure all damages were properly accounted for. Watch AJ’s report out on his kaizen experience at our Lean at Michigan Tech YouTube channel.

A process map of the apartment flip process
Process Mapping using Miro so the group could see together how the process was working for everyone.

Quantifying the Value of Lean Improvements

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Adam Wellstead, PhD, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Social Sciences at Michigan Technological University and 2019-2020 Faculty Fellow.

Every year, the Office of Continuous Improvement (OCI) undertakes a number of wide-ranging projects to make processes throughout our campus more efficient and effective. Often the project outcomes go unnoticed by a majority of the Michigan Tech community, including the bean counters. This contrasts with the manufacturing sector where Lean tools are applied to the creation of a tangible product, and costs/savings are meticulously tracked. Michigan Tech is a highly complex multiple million dollar business (of higher education), and OCI projects have improved safety and reduced waste. However, the accrued financial benefits are largely invisible because the current cost to the university for most of its processes is not documented. This year, I was a Faculty Fellow working with the OCI and one of my projects was to account for these costs.

Other universities who employ Lean methods and tools also struggle to show the financial benefits. One possible approach to account for these invisible benefits of Lean in a system that does not closely track expenses is to apply counterfactual thinking. This approach has played an important role in the efforts of social scientists, particularly historians, to assess causal hypotheses. By making claims about events that did not actually occur, counterfactuals play a necessary and fundamental, if often implicit and underdeveloped, role in the efforts to assess the hypotheses about the causes of a phenomena.

A well-known example is, had George W. Bush not been elected, would the Iraq war have occurred? Counterfactual analysis makes causal claims about events that did not actually occur; that is, non-observations. Social scientists have developed well-established criteria for judging counterfactual arguments (Table 1). For example, we cannot make implausible counterfactual claims. Looking at the Bush-Iraq War case, had George Bush not been elected, it is implausible to claim that Iraq would have been become a fully democratic country.

Table 1 Criteria Checklist for Judging Counterfactual Scenarios
Criteria Description
Clarity Specify and circumscribe the independent and dependent variables (the hypothesized antecedent and consequent)
Logical consistency Specify connecting principles that link the antecedent with the consequent and that are cotenable with each and with the antecedent
Historical consistency (minimal-rewrite rule) Specify antecedents that require altering as few “well-established” historical facts as possible
Theoretical consistency Articulate connecting principles that are as consistent with “well-established” historical facts as possible
Projectability Tease out testable implications of the connecting principles and determine whether those hypotheses are consistent with additional real-world observations

In the more modest world of Lean processes, we also can make a counterfactual causal claim about a non-observation, namely, what would have happened had the Lean process not been undertaken and what would have been the costs accrued by not addressing waste and inefficiencies? One recent OCI project highlights this approach. Daniel Heights has 52 buildings, all utilizing 1 of 13 different water heater pumps for circulating hot water to residents. This made it very hard to manage and keep records of the inventory for each pump type, brand, horsepower and orientation. Due to the amount of differentiation between the pumps, the process for reordering/replacing each pump lacked standardization and had many errors.

In 2019 standardization of pumps was implemented and an inventory of the pumps was taken. Now the shelves only contain needed pumps and are organized into a set space. Processes to perform inventory audits and reorder pumps are in place. The number of different brands of pumps being used for the water heaters in Daniel Heights went from 13 to two. They are also only using two different sizes of pumps when they were using five before. Table 2 lists the benefits that the project participants identified as well as the estimated yearly excessive costs of $8,461 had no action been taken (the counterfactual). The estimated value was determined by a deliberative process, keeping the criteria for judging counterfactual scenarios in mind, involving at least three OCI facilitators.

Table 2 Estimation of Excessive Costs Incurred by Michigan Tech
Area Improved from Standardization Excessive Costs
Water Use/Efficiency $100
Storage Space $286
Time to Reorder $375
$ Tied up in Inventory $4500
Hrs. Recording Inventory $270
Staff Training for Pumps $330
Bulk Inventory $2600
Total $ Saved $8,461
Table 3 Estimated Costs Incurred by Michigan Tech Over Five Years
Year Net Present Value
1 $8,058.10
2 $7,674.38
3 $7,308.93
4 $6,960.89
5 $6,629.41
Total $36,631.70

This is an example of one fairly modest project. In the coming months, the OCI will implement this procedure for all of its projects being undertaken.

Michigan Tech will be a very different place this Fall, but one constant will be the continual need to root out waste and inefficiencies, and thereby reduce costs.

Welcome, Sydney!

Hello,

My name is Sydney Dankert. I was born in Omaha, Nebraska and lived there for 11 months before moving to my hometown of Pewaukee, Wisconsin. I am currently in my second semester of my first year here at Michigan Tech pursuing a degree in Chemical Engineering. I am delighted at how my first year has progressed as I joined the Undergraduate Student Government, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and College Republicans here on campus. Along with these fun activities I’ve found time to make friends and experience campus from hockey games to trivia nights. 

I have just finished my training as a Student Process Improvement Coordinator, and I am learning the principles of Lean and the language of Continuous improvement. I have always had a passion for system improvement and I am looking forward to the professional experiences I will have here at both Michigan Tech, and at the Office of Continuous Improvement.

Greetings!

My name is Jon Sturm. I was born in Kalamazoo, MI and moved to a town called Kingsford in the U.P. at a young age. My dad’s side of the family has lived in Kingsford for four generations. I am pursuing a degree in chemical engineering at Michigan Tech. Even though the classes can give me more stress than I need at times, the people I have met here and the experiences I’ve had have been amazing. When I am not in class or at work, I enjoy hanging out with my friends, working out, and being outside (hiking, fly fishing, hunting, etc.)

Although my favorite subject is chemistry, I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about Lean facilitating and continuous improvement. I love how the principles are applicable to a seemingly endless list of real-life situations. I am excited to finish the Canvas training and have my duties around the office expand and develop.

What is Lean to you?

Sometimes it can be hard to really grasp the concept of what Lean is and what it really means to use it, and it can be even harder to explain Lean to someone else. When I say I have an on-campus job many of my peers give the normal response of “where do you work?” and to that I reply with “The Office of Continuous Improvement.” While I get a couple responses to this like “Where is that at?” or “I didn’t know we had one of those,” the most common response I experience is “What do you do there?” When I first started working as a Student Process Improvement Coordinator I would just reply with “oh, I help do Lean for the school.” But after seeing the confused look on peoples’ faces I realized that they probably had no idea what I was talking about and I was going to have to start explaining what Lean was.  So, I started thinking about how to describe Lean in my own words with out using any Lean lingo.

To me, Lean is a complex concept that ultimately always puts the customer and people first. Lean is based on waste elimination, respect for people and customer value. In Lean practices, it is important to simplify and standardize everything, to stream line it. In the end Lean should be more of a culture or a way of life than a practice or set of rules. I feel as if Lean is hard to define. The more information I’m introduced to the more broad Lean is and the more it can include.

I’m sure many others have different definitions of Lean than mine but that is kind of the interesting aspect of it. Lean is such a broad topic that encompasses so many aspects of our day-to-day lives. It’s much more than the tools and terms–its a way of thinking and a culture, which is why it is so hard to describe and define. So, what is your definition of Lean and Continuous Improvement?

Career Fair

Good afternoon! I hope you all have had a successful week. So much is going on. Career fair, industry days, interviews and more! Take advantage of every opportunity presented to you this week. Here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, we are looking forward to seeing you succeed and we would like to give you some tools to be more successful.

We have books on every part of improvement. From how to improve your office and efficiency on a personal level to the grander scale of Lean implementation throughout your workforce. In addition to our books, we have tools we can teach you about and classes in lean at Michigan tech that you can take. If you decide to read a book about self-improvement in lean, I would recommend “Organize your office”. This is an easy to read book for beginners, outlining simple steps on self-improvement in your office space. Just try a few tips a week and you will see tremendous results. Just imagine the reaction you could get from your boss if you manage to eliminate wasted time in the office.

Image result for an organized office with lean

If you would like more information regarding lean and how it can help you with your job, please feel free to reach out to improvement@mtu.edu or stop by our office in 136 W Wadsworth Hall between 9-5 during the week. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Visual Organization

School is back, and my schedule is busier then ever! I’m sure everyone is feeling a little bit of this chaos with getting back into the swing of things, having student back on campus, and starting classes. With this chaos everyone has their own way of organization to make sure they can remember everything. Actually, many people use personal kanbans and aren’t even aware. A personal kanban is a very versatile productivity system that has basically only two rules, visualize your work and limit your work in progress. Personal kanbans can be made in many different way to organize many different aspect of your life.

Personally, I use my personal kanban to keep track of events that I have and tasks that need to get done. During the school year, I have classes, work, homeowner/study time, and multiple extra curricular that I need to plan out to make sure I get to everything on time and prepared. My personal kanban helps me do that by allowing me to see all that information in one spot and mark things complete when I have accomplished them. Many others use personal kanbans for tasks such as work meetings or projects, home tasks or chores, and homework completion. Some also use them to keep track of all of these things at once.

While there are many different ways to use a personal kanban, there are also many different ways to make a personal kanban. It could be electronically, in a book, on a white board, or maybe even just a piece of paper. I used to use a laminated A3 piece of paper, however I found that I didn’t look at it as often as I needed to. I switched to google calendar and have found great success with that. This way I was able to color code my events, add tasks that I could mark complete, and the best part it was basically always available on my phone. While google calendar worked for me, different platforms work for different people, electronic or not.

Personal kanbans are a life-saver for me and I think they could be for you too! Next time you feel over whelmed and don’t know where to start, try making this visual management system to help you figure out where you are with everything. Also, if you would like help or more information always feel free to stop by the Office of Continuous Improvement and we would be happy to give you a hand. This tool might just be the right step to turn your hectic year into a breeze.

 

PIC Sophie’s Old Personal Kanban

K Day

I hope you all are excited for K Day as much as I am! It is such an amazing event and over 250 student organizations will be there to show you what they are all about. From fishing to accounting clubs, you will be bound to find something that works for you. I am personally excited to visit the cooking club and try out some pasties with them. It is going to be such an exciting day and so many new students will get to find places they feel happy to join.

 

One amazing thing about K day is the amount of planning and organization that goes into it on all levels. Without the Lean principles, K day would be impossible! Some principles they employ are spaghetti flow charts, a 5S, and the collection of metrics every year. According to Business Analyst Learnings, “A spaghetti diagram is a visual representation of the actual path taken by people as they move through a process within a department to complete their jobs.”. As seen in the picture above there is a ton of people around but there is also some obvious flow of the crowds. Through the use of a spaghetti diagram, the organizers of K day have the skills to direct the flow of people so that there is less chaos. Much like the spaghetti diagram, 5S and metrics helps them keep themselves organized. They can help expand upon previous years successes with the metrics and improve upon their set up and break down systems with the 5S. Lean tools are a necessary part of the success of K day.

If you would like more information on some of the lean tools listed above or what we do here in the Office of Continuous Improvement, then please feel free to drop by in wads 136W or or email us at improvement@mtu.edu. I hope you have an amazing K day and weekend!

School Year Goals

It’s almost O-Week, can you believe it? With a new school year starting, it’s probably safe to say everyone is setting new goals for themselves. Maybe if you’re a student, you want to study more, get better grades, or be more social this school year. If you’re faculty or staff, you might want to better your teaching strategies or increase your productivity at work. While these might sound like simple goals, many people set these same goals every semester and are never able to achieve them. This lack of success can be due to many different attributes but, more often than not, it boils down to not actually knowing the root cause of your issue.

Every start of the year the student employees in the Office of Continuous Improvement set a goal for themselves. The goal can be personal, professional, or academic, it just has to be something they want to accomplish that school year. After they have set their achievable goals, then it is time to create an A3. The A3 helps the students understand the root cause of why they are not currently achieving their goal and how to get there. It also aids in improving your goal so that it is a S.M.A.R.T. goal, which makes it more likely for you to obtain.

This last year I decided my goal would be to improve my study habits. When first looking at this goal it seems very vague, this is where the A3 came in. It allowed me to assess why my current study habits were not working and what study habits would work for me. I also used tools like a fish-bone diagram and the 5 why’s. Laying out the issues around my study habits helped me find the root cause of my poor study habits and how to improve them.

Using an A3 to map out your goal and the issues associated with what you are currently doing is a great way to come up with solutions. If you are interested in trying out an A3 with your school year goal, you can find an A3 template and quick point on the Continuous Improvement website. It’s definitely an effective way to kick off your journey to your goal!

https://www.shmula.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/Lean-Manufacturing-A3-Report-Haiti.jpg

Study tips for track B

Do you feel ready to be tested in your classes? Track 2 midterms are currently taking place this week, and it is time to shape up. The Office of Continuous Improvement is working hard to be the most productive we can be and we are ready to help you too with some simple tips!

 

What is the easiest way to improve your study methods? Well, the answer is to cut out all distractions and useless projects. Start with your electronics. When going over your work you should put them out of your sight. This is because by looking at the electronics you are more likely going to shift your focus while studying. According to Texas Undergraduate Studies, “Students who kept their phones on the desk performed the worst on the tests followed by those who kept their phones in a pocket or backpack. The highest performers were the students who left their phones in a separate room”. Take this advice to heart and try to leave it in your dorm or one of the lockers the library provides while studying. See how much you can improve your scores.

Image result for phone put away

Our next lean tip is to eliminate waste. You can do this by bringing everything you need and nothing you don’t. For example, when studying for a math class, you should bring a calculator, notes, your book, and blank paper. You do not need to bring your phone, a fun book to read or your computer. It will just make you distracted and take time away from the work that needs to be done. Even your computer with your notes can be a bad idea because there are fun games, social media and a whole host of other things that are on there that can distract you. Try printing out our notes ahead of time and leave the computer behind. I know when I am studying I often want to check my email and messages. When I leave my electronics behind, I can put all my focus on my studies.

 

Make sure to have breaks. Studying nonstop for 8 hours is no good for anyone. It exhausts you and makes you much less productive. Try throwing breaks into your studying. According to Elizabeth Hoyt, “Studies show that breaks in your study routine can positively affect your attention abilities. Taking breaks from studying every ninety minutes or so can improve both focus and attention”. So take a break every once in a while. Step outside the library and take a short walk around campus, get a snack, or stretch your muscles. It is good for you to rest every once in a while.

Image result for woman going for a walk

If you have any more questions or want to know more about maximizing your efforts in your studies, please feel free to drop by the office in 135 West Wadsworth hall. We look forward to seeing you and hope you have a good midterm week!