All posts by Kaylee Betzinger

My Time as a PIC

Over the past 3 1/2 years I have had the pleasure of being a Student Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC) in the Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech. This position has been the most rewarding experience of my college career and I can’t thank my co-workers, supervisors and peers enough.

I came into this position not knowing anything about lean or continuous improvement and I never dreamt I would become so passionate about it. My journey began with a basic understanding of the tools and concepts; lots of reading, YouTube videos, and observations. I was fortunate enough to attend the FMCS Grant Facilitator Training shortly after I began which allowed me to practice hands-on with other members of the campus community. I eventually felt comfortable and confident enough to co-facilitate improvement events and realized I had found my calling. I was able to understand how utilizing these tools/principles  can transform work environments in ways I never imagined, and how engaging the people who do the work is extremely empowering and truly makes a difference in workplace culture.

Improving is now something that is a part of my life; whether I am helping a team improve a process, improving myself, or helping to create/improve a culture of continuous improvement, I have grown to love every aspect of this work. I will be starting my career as a Business Systems Analyst for Amway’s Global Procurement Technology and Analytics team where I will utilize my knowledge and experience in continuous improvement to create a culture of CI within the Procurement space at Amway. I know that this opportunity has presented itself to me primarily because of this position and the skills I have gained in being a PIC; something I will be eternally grateful for. I have thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of this job and can’t wait to see where Michigan Tech’s lean journey leads.

Parker Board Walk 3


Leaders in Continuous Improvement Visits Pettibone

The Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) student organization had the opportunity to visit Pettibone, LLC on Tuesday, October 13th. Pettibone, located in Baraga,MI, manufactures various “big” machines that aid in the construction of railroads, residential homes, and forestry projects.

Throughout that past 10 years, Pettibone has implemented lean principles in many different areas of their business. It is extremely prevalent throughout their shop floor. The moment we walked through the doors we could see visual cues and signals; from the floor under our feet to the red “Fire” flags hanging all over the walls. The floor is marked with three different colors: yellow, green, and blue. Blue indicates a meeting space (where they have their daily huddles), Green is a walkway for employees and visitors, and Yellow representswhere the work is being done (or where the machines are being built). You can easily see the different colors in the photo below. Pettibone has a great space dedicated for their daily huddles where they discuss all of the production related items. The boards are easily readable to anyone and are colored coded (red=bad, green=good) so at a glance anyone can see how things are going.

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These are just a few examples of how Pettibone utilizes lean principles in their every day work.

Overall the trip was a great experience for all the members of Leaders in Continuous Improvement. I would recommend a trip to Pettibone to anyone who is interested in learning more about Lean and Continuous Improvement.

Group Photo

 

 


Rozsa Rentals Improvement Event Part 1

Last week, The Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts held a kaizen event to improve their rental processes. The current process is inconsistent and very confusing for all parties involved including the client, rental staff, administration, production staff, Ticketing Services, and Catering. In order to see what the current state of the process is, the team decided to map out the process by way of a swim lanes process map. Before the team began creating the process map, Bob Hiltunen-Director of Auxiliary Services, provided some great process mapping guidelines that really helped the team. They are:

  1. There is no right or wrong way to map
  2. You don’t learn how to process map, you process map to learn
  3. Process map what is, not what you would like it to be

With these guidelines in mind the team was able to create a process map that included each department/area that the process touches and all of the process steps from start to finish (see image below).

Swim Lanes Map

 

With the initial map created the team was then able to move forward in creating an “ideal state” process map. The ideal state captures the process in a perfect world with all the necessary resources available. The team was able to look back at the current state map to compare steps and people involved with the ideal state map. The team will continue to work on their ideal state in the next few weeks and then form a plan to move from current to the ideal. Check back to see the final results in a future post.


The Red Bead Experiment

On Tuesday, June 9th, Michigan Tech had the privilege of experiencing Dr. W. Edward Deming’s Red Bead Experiment which was presented by Michigan State University’s Jim Manley. Jim is the Managing Director of the Demmer Center for Business Transformation at Michigan State and was able to experience the Red Bead Experiment delivered by Dr. Deming himself in the 1980’s. The Red Bead Experiment is a training tool that Dr. Deming used to teach his 14 Obligations of Management. The exercise is used as a tool to bring people together and to get past the emotional aspects of discussing problems.

Jim began the exercise by asking for four Willing Workers. He then asked for two Quality Assurance workers, one Quality Assurance Supervisor, and one Recorder. (I was lucky enough to be chosen as a Willing Worker.) Once all roles had been assigned, Jim gave everyone their tasks. The Willing Workers were to scoop up white beads from a box using a specialized, custom bead paddle (see the picture below). They were to scoop one time and must try to fill all the holes in the paddle with white beads. Once they have scooped and filled the paddle completely, they were to bring the full paddle to the Quality Assurance workers. The goal is for each Willing Worker to fill  the paddle completely with only white beads (zero defects). The Quality Assurance workers then counted the number of defects (red beads) and recorded them on a pad of paper. The Quality Assurance Supervisor announced the number of defects loudly so that all employees could hear. The Recorder wrote down the number of defects for each worker on a white board. Simple right? Well, not so much.

red_bead_experimentWhat Jim failed to tell the Willing Workers was the box was full of not only white beads, but also red beads (it appeared to be a 50/50 split of red and white beads). So while the Willing Workers tried their best to only scoop out white beads, it was nearly impossible to have zero defects. It didn’t help that the CEO (Jim) didn’t know any of the Willing Workers names (he referred to us as numbers) or ask us how things were going. All he cared about was results. Jim tried to improve things by implementing a “Worker of the Week” certificate. He also began an incentive program where the worker who was able to meet the zero defect goal would win a cash prize and a Starbucks gift card. He even increased the goal of zero defects to 1 defect. Do you think any of these changes helped? Not a chance!

After several rounds of the Willing Workers attempting to scoop only white beads, Jim had some bad news. Due to the Willing Workers creating so many defects and not enough of the finished product, he had to let two Willing Workers go. Now there were only two Willing Workers left, which meant they had to pick up all the slack. As you can imagine, the last two Willing Workers weren’t able to meet the zero defect goal, causing the company to go belly up.

So what was the point of the exercise? The biggest take away for me was the fact that leaders need to understand the system before making any changes. Meaning Jim needed to go to the Gemba, talk to the Willing Workers, and find out from them what the problem was. If he did this, he would have found out that it is impossible to scoop only white beads when the box is half full of red beads. He would have received suggestions for improvement from the Willing Workers and would have been able to generate the results he was after. When a leader shows the employees he/she cares about what the employee has to say, it can make all the difference in the world.

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I thought the Red Bead Experiment was a fabulous exercise. I would recommend it to anyone regardless of how familiar they are with Continuous Improvement topics. If you have any questions or would like to know more about the Red Bead Experiment, email us at improvement@mtu.edu.


Eliminating Waste by Tossing the Tube

I recently saw a commercial for Scott Naturals Toilet Paper. The commercial doesn’t seem much different from any other toilet paper commercial until the end when you realize this new type of toilet paper has absolutely no cardboard roll. Talk about waste elimination! I got to thinking, what role does the cardboard roll really have? Other than arts and craft projects or maybe a dog toy, the roll truly has to purpose.

By eliminating the cardboard roll, Scott has eliminated necessary inventory, reduced the motion for employees and the movement of materials, and has eliminated over processing. Who would have thought that a simple cardboard roll could house so much waste?

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There was a similar blog posted a few years ago by Wendy Davis discussing her thoughts on the types of waste that are eliminated by “tossing the tube.” When making your next toilet paper purchase, keep Scott’s Natural Tube Free toilet paper in mind!


Leaders in Continuous Improvement visits Parker Hannifin

Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) recently had the opportunity to go on an industry tour to Parker Hannifin’s Manitowoc Wisconsin facility. With the help of a Michigan Tech Alum who is now a Value Stream Team Leader at this plant, the students in LCI were able to see first hand what a Certified Lean Model Plant (Parker’s Manitowoc facility became Lean Certified in April 2013) looks and feels like.

Parker Board Walk 3

From the moment you walk through the doors you can see how truly “Lean” this plant is. From the visual signs and lights, to the tape outlines all across the plant floors, to their daily huddle area they call their “board walk,” Lean is definitely a theme at this plant.

The tour began with everyone becoming equipped with the proper safety equipment. Each individual was given a bright orange safety vest, protective eye goggles, and a head set with a walkie-talkie so we could hear our guide properly once on the plant floor. It was exciting to see how valuable a safe working environment was for the Parker Hannifin team.

Once everyone was suited up, we were able to attend their daily board walk. Within the huddle space there are nine different white boards that represent a different team or topic. There is a representative for each board that gives an update to the team. What I found so great about this style of daily huddle is that they did some actual problem solving on the spot. One team was having an issue so they started asking questions and brainstorming different improvements. In addition to the white boards themselves, Parker utilizes visual cues in the form of plastic solo cups. On top of the boards are stacks of red and green solo cups. If there is a problem or issue the team will place a red cup on a peg, indicating a problem. If the team has no issues they will place a green cup on the peg. This was just the beginning of the visual cues throughout the facility.

Once we began walking through the facility we really began to see just how deeply rooted Lean is in the Parker Hannifin culture. Each team at Parker Hannifin uses a team communication board. This board contains the different metrics the team tracks, daily audit sheets, a 5S checklist, the different job description sheets needed for all the different tasks, and a space for various communications. In addition to the communication boards, many teams use a kanban board that allows the team members to see exactly what materials/tools they will need for the current job and the job “on deck.”

All in all, the industry trip was beyond what we expected. It was a great opportunity for the students to learn more about continuous improvement tools and concepts and see what a lean culture truly is. A special thanks to Megan Mattila, who helped to coordinate everything and was our fantastic tour guide.


Confirm Your Scope with SIPOC Diagrams

One of my favorite continuous improvement tools is called a SIPOC diagram. A SIPOC diagram is used by a team to identify all relevant elements of a process improvement project before work begins. Using this tool helps define a complex project and refine a project profile. SIPOC diagrams also help to confirm the scope of the improvement project.

Its name prompts the team to consider the suppliers of your process, the inputs to the process, the process your team is improving, the outputs of the process, and the customers that receive the process outputs. The SIPOC is a valuable tool that will:

  • Identify suppliers and customers
  • Establish the scope of the project, and satisfy stakeholders that the problem area is captured in the process
  • Target the right metrics for verifying customer requirements
  • Establish who should participate on the project team

SIPOC stands for:

  • Suppliers- supply the inputs for the process
  • Inputs- materials, equipment, information, forms, staff, etc.
  • Process- the steps of the process from initial step to finishing product step
  • Outputs- outputs to internal or external customers, i.e. reports, products, services, etc.
  • Customers- anyone who receives the outputs

SIPOC Diagram Template

How to Complete a SIPOC Diagram

  1. Process— The first step to completing the SIPOC is to list the process steps, keeping detail to a minimum by only outlining five to eight steps.  When describing the process steps, try to limit the description to two words. Have each description start with a verb (action) and end with a noun (subject).
  2. Output—What information, data, reports, materials, etc. come out of this process or are produced as a result of the process?
  3. Customers—Who or what receives the outputs of the process?
  4. Inputs—What data, supplies, systems, tools, etc. are required for the process, or who is needed to perform the action?
  5. Suppliers—Who or what functional organization, system, report, database, etc. supplies or provides whatever it is that is needed as an input for the process?  Who supplies what’s needed to do the process?

To learn more about SIPOC diagrams email us at improvement-l@mtu.edu or call 906-487-3180. 

 


Leaders in Continuous Improvement Partner with 31 Backpacks!

A recent partnership has been formed between the student organization Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) and local non-profit 31 Backpacks. 31 Backpacks is a non-profit organization that sends food home in backpacks every Friday and school breaks for eligible children. The teachers, principals, and counselors at each school identify the children who need assistance and aid in the giving of the food bags.

Before
Before
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Before

Laurel and Melissa Maki, the founders of 31 Backpacks, were very enthusiastic about partnering with Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) and a game plan was formed right away. It was decided that LCI would begin with a storeroom 5S.

5S is a workplace organization methodology used to eliminate waste, organize a workplace, and create a system to sustain improvements. The 5 S’s stand for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The members of LCI were able to completely re-vamp the existing storeroom (as you can see in the pictures). In order to properly sustain this improvement, a weekly audit was created. This will allow various volunteers to “audit” the

After
After

storeroom to ensure sustainment of the improvements.

Although we haven’t fully implemented the new process, this is still a huge improvement from where we were at the beginning. This is a great starting place for a hopefully long partnership.

Be on the lookout for future improvements from the LCI and 31 Backpacks partnership!

 


Visual Management Workshop

The Office of Continuous Improvement is hosting another workshop. This time the topic is visual management. Visual management is where information is communicated by using visual signals instead of texts or other written instructions. The design allows for quick recognition of the information being communicated in order to increase efficiency and clarity. Visual controls also make problems, abnormalities, or deviations from standards visible so corrective action can take place immediately.

The visual management workshop will take place Tuesday, March 24th and Wednesday, March 25th. For more information or to sign up, visit the improvement website.

Visual 2


The Quarter Pounder

During a recent Auxiliary Services Report Out, Bob Hiltunen gave an incredible teachback demonstrating the benefits of one-piece flow over traditional batch and queue. He was able to do this through an exercise we call “The Quarter Pounder.” One-piece flow refers to the concept of moving one work piece at a time between operations. This may also be referred to as the OHIO method (only handle it once).

To learn more about The Quarter Pounder activity, read a previous blog post by fellow Process Improvement Coordinator Nate Hood by clicking here.

The group of participants really enjoyed this fun, hands on exercise. It was great to see the mental light-bulbs going off when each participant saw the difference between batching and one-piece flow.

QP

No matter who is participating in this activity, the results are always the same. By eliminating the batching and implementing one-piece flow, the team is always able to decrease the total process time, and the time it takes for the customer to get their first item plummets. During this round of the exercise, the team was able to decrease total processing time by 289%!! How can implementing one-piece-flow in your organization benefit you?