All posts by Stephen Butina

I am a 3rd year Supply Chain and Operations Management student at Michigan Technological University. I currently work as a Student Process Improvement Coordinator in the Office of Continuous Improvement.

The Intersection of Lean and Success

Through the process of becoming engulfed in lean culture, there is a lot to be thankful for. For myself, becoming more organized has helped me better focus on school and achieve success in my everyday life. Others who embrace a lean lifestyle may be happy with how they have more time to spend with loved ones through the improvement of processes within their lives.

Although each instance of discovering lean is different for everyone, it’s always interesting to hear the aha moments of people who have realized the positive effects of what lean and continuous improvement has done for their lives. Starting my first semester at Michigan Tech, I found myself becoming overwhelmed in school, work, clubs, family, etc. The list could go on, and for many other people I have come to know, they have felt similar experiences. To be able to come out of this downward spiral of never ending tasks can be difficult and sometimes feel impossible. For myself, the day that I started at Michigan Tech was also the day I started to transition into a lean lifestyle. By the end of the first week, I had already made my first personal Kanban, which is explained as a visual management tool to keep track and manage the tasks that needed to be completed. After getting a firm grasp on this tool, I started to then adapt other lean tools into my life such as affinity diagrams and also the 5S organizational tool. By the time I was able to get a grasp of these tools, I was already seeing improvements with the increased time for other activities, as well as a sense of calmness knowing that I am staying on track to successfully complete my first semester as Michigan Tech.

Seeing as though we are nearing the end of the school year, I have taken a couple minutes to reflect on my time at Michigan Tech and also in the Office of Continuous Improvement. I have come leaps and bounds in my organizational skills, which has ultimately alleviated unneeded stress in my life. Without this buildup of stress, I am able to focus my efforts towards what is most important in my life. As I said earlier, everyone has a different aha moment when embracing a lean lifestyle. Being able to celebrate my successes in school and work was the moment that I realized that lean was for me, and that I had truly found a path to move forward on.

My Journey Through Lean

We’re already into the second semester and I can’t help but wonder where the time went. I’ve recently been taking the time to reflect on my experiences as a PIC, and what that has brought to me in terms of understanding things that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise, like Lean. Between school, multiple jobs, family, and having a social life, the past weeks have become overwhelming and at times felt impossible.

Starting my job in the Office of Continuous Improvement, I honestly did not know what to expect. I was aware of a few different common Lean tools that I had researched, but now, the pieces of the puzzle have slowly started to connect. Through my learning of Lean, I have found a few important things that I believe are helpful in understanding different aspects of Lean. Firstly, to be able to truly learn and use Lean in personal and professional settings, you have to believe in Lean and what it can do to improve your life. After being a part of the Office of Continuous Improvement for the last six months, I have been able to see the firsthand effects of what Lean has done for processes across campus. Secondly, and this may be one of the hardest things for individuals to grasp, Lean is not a sudden success. I like to think of Lean as the old fable, the tortoise and the hare. Lean is not fast moving; it is similar to the tortoise. It is a slow and steady pace while staying persistent throughout the entire process. Last (but not least), I believe that Lean is beneficial for all areas of our lives. If we limit Lean to certain area, then we are putting a restriction on what can be accomplished. Since I’ve started as a PIC, I have used a number of the Lean tools in my personal life. Unsurprisingly, they have significantly improved my productivity, and most importantly they have reduced my stress.

Becoming engulfed in the Lean culture has become a life changing experience, and for a number of reasons–all wonderful. I am grateful for everyone I have met and everything that I have learned using Lean, and I look forward to the new experiences that will come with leading a Lean lifestyle.

5S Tool box

After High school finishes and graduation is over, we as young adults begin our journey of life. Becoming self-sufficient may be one of the hardest tasks that we have to overcome. Paying bills on time, working long hours, homework, and scheduling appointments are just a few things that are added to our “To-Do” list as we stray from our homestead.

Becoming self-sufficient is not a one day, one week, or one month matter. It takes time and effort every single day, and is not easily achieved. Doing a little bit every day is a basis of lean, as well as becoming self-sufficient. Using tools that lean and continuous improvement offers is a pathway to a more stable and organized life. For instance, the other day I recognized that it was time to change the brake pads on my vehicle. Through the past year, I have built up a large tool box with hundreds of tools to fix/maintain my vehicles. Having this many tools makes can be overwhelming and difficult to maintain if not organized properly. Sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain is exactly what 5S stands for, and that is just what I did with my set. Just simply cleaning up my tool box is the first step, but one of the most crucial steps in the process is the last, which is to sustain. This last concept is crucial for the success of lean and outcome of the project. By simply implementing the 5S tool and directing my efforts towards my tools prior to my brake project, I was able to spend less time looking for tools and more time being able to effectively work on my vehicle.

This may be a small scale example of becoming self-sufficient in my life, but to add lean tools into our everyday lives can drastically change them for the better. Recognizing and understanding where improvement is needed is the first step, and to act on it is the next. Always remember what Mark Twain once said, “continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” Continuous improvement may not be a short cut to success, but when used properly, can get you moving in the direction towards achieving your goals.