All posts by Kaylee Betzinger

Summer is a Perfect Time for Improvements!

Classes are over and the snow is melting, which can only mean one thing…Summer! The return of Summer means longer nights, vacations, and opportunities for improvements!

The Office of Continuous Improvement encourages you and your department to engage in small group discussion and talk about continuous improvement opportunities. It doesn’t take much; just a few minutes to exchange ideas and possible improvements for your area. There are plenty of lean facilitators on campus who are ready and willing to help. If you have any questions or would like to schedule an improvement event, please contact us at or call 906-487-3180.

The Importance of Standards & Standardized Work

Before implementing standards and visual controls

Standards are an important component in Lean environments.  They can improve quality and reduce variability in products or services, keep quality consistent, make it easier to train new staff, allow for a respectful workplace for everyone involved, create a safer working environment, and are a basis for continuous improvement. With standards in place it is easy to point out problems or mistakes. For example, in the Memorial Union Building kitchen there is a shelf that contains a variety of different cooking oils, dressings, mixing bowls, and serving platters.

After implementing standards and visual controls

Before the MUB staff implemented standards the shelf was an unsightly problem. It was hard to find what you were looking for, there was no order for putting things away, and it was a potential hazard. Once they began to utilize standards and visual controls the supplies on the shelf are visible and each have a clearly defined space.

If you would like some help creating/implementing standards or standardized work don’t hesitate to contact us at or by calling 906-487-3180.

Process Mapping Workshop

The Office of Continuous Improvement has begun a Lean Workshop series on campus. Thus far in the series we’ve held a 5S workshop, and another one is ready for you to sign up. The Office and the Lean Facilitators are working hard to plan regularly scheduled workshops throughout the year.

The next event in the series will be on Process Mapping. Process Mapping is a way to define the purpose of a process, who is responsible for each step, to what standard a business process should be completed, and how success can be determined. The workshop will take about 6 hours total on June 10th and June 12th. You can choose blocks of time that are convenient for you. For more information you can visit the Process Mapping Workshop page. Sign-up closes on Friday, May 23rd., because the facilitators need time to plan.

Affinity Diagrams

Lately Affinity Diagrams have been used a lot! So I thought what better way to showcase this improvement tool than with a blog post.

Affinity Diagrams are tools used by groups to gather and sort ideas and issues when brainstorming. Affinities provide structure to and help initiate action in brainstorming sessions. They also support teams by allowing them to work on a creative level with difficult or emotional issues.

Affinities are great to use and extremely simple! All you need are sticky notes, markers, and flip chart paper (if available, if not just use a wall). Tell your team/group what the topic is they are brainstorming on and ask them to write down their ideas or issues on a sticky note. This allows their thoughts to be private if the subject is sensitive. Once complete, gather all the stickies and place them into several groups (the groups will become evident when reading the stickies). It’s as simple as that. This information can then be easily created on the computer for storage purposes.

For example The Leaders in Continuous Improvement student organization used an Affinity Diagram when brainstorming different ideas and events for the upcoming semester. This allowed all of the members to come up with several different ideas without being persuaded by any other members. The results were fantastic! Once completed the different ideas were transferred into a computer document and sent out to the members. Another example of Affinity Diagrams was at the Termination Process Kaizen. Affinity was a great tool to get the group to “vent” about the many different issues with the current termination process. The end results allowed the facilitator and team leader to see where the majority of complaints/issues were coming from.

Affinities are great for all projects, so don’t be afraid to get out there and affinitize!

Ernie Beutler: My Experience with Lean

This week’s blog post is from one of the Lean Facilitators on Campus; Ernie Beutler.

“I just wanted to share some experiences I have encountered since beginning my lean journey.

I have been learning and implementing lean principles here at Michigan Tech since 2008. During this time I have played many different roles including: a team member, outside eyes, team leader, Facilitator, and an overall lean practitioner.
It has been so rewarding to see the lean culture grow and develop around campus since then. I have witnessed and been part of numerous time, space, and money saving practices that have been implemented in and around our campus.
In my most recent involvement, I was a team member on a 5-S kaizen of a major shared computer drive.
Once completed the team was able to create standards for the drive.
The team reduced wasted space by purging files. This has saves time because everything is neat, organized, and easy to find.
We reduced our drive from:
5.03 gb  12311 files  1574 folders 130 root folders to
3.56 gb    6314 files    787 folders   21 root folders!
I have also practiced and preached lean principles at home, travel, and overall in my daily personal life.”

Back to the Basics: 5 Principles of Lean

Happy New Year! I hope the holidays treated everyone well.

With all the hustle and bustle of the holidays and now a new semester I thought it would be a perfect time to get back to the basics and look at the Five Principles of Lean.

The five key principles guide the Lean philosophy of continuous improvement that involves all employees, who constantly pursue the elimination of waste and the reduction of variability; towards the pursuit of perfection. The principles are as follows:

1. Customers–Specify value from the standpoint of the end customer by product of family. Understand who your customer(s) are and know what they consider to be valuable.

2. Value stream–Identify the value stream for each product or service, eliminating whenever possible those steps that do not create value.

3. Flow–Make the value-creating steps occur so the product or service will flow smoothly toward the customer. Eliminate steps that do not create value for the customer.

4. Pull–As flow is introduced, let customers pull value from the new upstream activity.

5. Continuous Improvement–Seek perfection; begin the process again and continue to make improvements and celebrate success.

In following these five principles of Lean you will implement a philosophy that will become “just the way things are done.” You are ensuring that you are driving towards the overall organizational strategy by constant review of your processes to ensure that they are consistently delivering value to your customer.

Keep these principles in mine throughout 2014 and your year is sure to be a success!

Leaders in Continuous Improvement gaining popularity

With the semester more than half way over, Leaders in Continuous Improvement is gaining popularity and momentum throughout campus with the help of some on campus resources. The Lode, Michigan Tech’s student run newspaper, featured Leaders in Continuous Improvement in the Student Org. Spotlight of their latest paper which was released Friday, November 1st. You can read the article here. The Student News Briefs have also featured Leaders in Continuous Improvement in their recent writings. To read what they had to say about Leaders in Continuous Improvement click here. If you’d like to know more about Leaders in Continuous contact the LCI President Megan Johnson at


PDCA is a common term used when practicing lean. The acronym stands for Plan-Do-Check-Act and is also known as the Deming wheel. PDCA is an iterative four-step management method used in business for the control and continuous improvement of processes and products.

While many people have heard of or practiced PDCA, far less have heard of PDSA, Plan-Do-Study-Act. By replacing the Check with Study, we can better understand that we should study the results of one’s experiment and then make adjustments based on the results from the countermeasure(s) put in place to test the hypothesis. According to Karen Martin, people often mistake check for making sure that everyone is following the new process rather than checking the results of the experiment and adjusting the countermeasures accordingly. To read why Karen prefers PDSA check out her guest blog post from Mark Graban’s blog on lean.

Which cycle do you prefer?

ICE Rap Part II

A few months back, there was a similar blog post on a new lean creation called the ICE Rap. Since then, a voice over of the rap has been recorded, edited, and completed.
With lots of hard work from Megan Ross (the editor of the voice over) and Mason Raguse (the talented voice behind the lyrics) we are proud to introduce the Michigan Tech Lean ICE Rap for your listening pleasures. You can listen to the ICE Rap here.

Leaders in Continuous Improvement: A New Student Organization

The Student Process Improvement Coordinators (PICs) have been busy over the past few weeks in preparation for a new student organization revolving around continuous improvement.
The goals and purpose of our organization, named Leaders in Continuous Improvement, are to:
• Educate and develop our members and the community on Continuous Improvement tools, principles, and culture,
• Practice hands-on Continuous Improvement principles and philosophy,
• Promote Continuous Improvement on campus and within the community,
• Create a network of connections that could lead to future internship or career opportunities!
We are hoping Leaders in CI (Continuous Improvement) will give our new members the same benefits and experiences that we as PICs have gained while working here. We’ve gained real life experience and knowledge that we find irreplaceable. We have also had the chance to network with faculty and staff on campus as well as community members who also work with continuous improvement in their areas of business. Besides working on continuous improvement events throughout campus, Megan Johnson and I have both had internships as a result of working with Lean and continuous improvement. It just goes to show you how valuable the skills you acquire when working with continuous improvement really are. Employers today look for something that really makes you stand out, and we believe this student organization will do just that.

If you are interested in learning more about Leaders in CI you can contact myself, Kaylee Betzinger at, or the organization’s President Megan Johnson at We are also having an information session on Wednesday September 11th in Fisher Hall with more information and FREE pizza!