All posts by wmdavis

Michigan Tech Staff to be Trained

A few Michigan Tech Lean Implementation Leaders/Facilitators will be traveling in the upcoming months for various Lean trainings.  Stay tuned for updates regarding their training experiences:

Heidi Reid – “Toyota Kata” at University of Michigan

Wendy Jones – “Developing People with Capability for Lean” and “Coaching Skills for Lean Implementation Leaders” from Lean Enterprise Institute

Wendy Davis – “Lean Office Certificate” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Training for these staff is supported by a grant from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Lead Time

Lead time is the elapsed time to make one item or provide a service; it includes the time from the initial step to the last step. Understanding what makes up your lead time and what percentage of it is actually adding value to your customers is important.   Eliminating steps or activities that add to lead time but add no value to the customers is where improvements can be made.

During a recent kaizen event at the Student Development Complex ticket office, identifying lead time was one of the first steps the team took.  The team set out to collect the current lead time for a ticket seller to make one quick sale.  They also collected the process steps that went into processing the sale.

In the 15-20 minutes before a hockey game or event, quick lead times are ideal to move hundreds of customers through the line.  The kaizen team set out to make improvements to the quick sale process and to update training materials so that new student ticket sellers can catch on quickly.

The Importance of Data Collection

By Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Data collection is an important element when making improvements because without it there is lack of “evidence” that a problem exists. Why are you improving? Is it really a problem?  Many times “problems” are exaggerated by feelings and frustration.  Often times the frustration is related to symptoms of what the root problem is.

If there is a concern about a process, data-collection can be used to paint a picture of the “current state” and provide insight into current issues and hone in on where improvements should focus.  A recent kaizen event for navigating the Memorial Union Building (MUB) is a good example of the importance of having that baseline data.  It seemed that a lot of guests in the building would stop in various offices to ask for directions to different meeting rooms.  Interruptions can be frustrating for employees, but was navigating the MUB a problem for guests?

Data collection began to identify the frequency a guest would stop and ask a MUB staff member for directions to their meeting room. Also, where did the guest enter the building and what room were they looking for?  After the data confirmed that there was an issue, a kaizen event took place on November 28 to analyze the data to identify improvements.  A team identified countermeasures to reduce/eliminate the navigation problem and is currently implementing them.  They will continue to collect data to gauge the success of the changes.

Click here to learn more about Metrics and Data Collection.

Navigating the MUB Kaizen Event Team at Work

Local Businesses Practicing Lean

General Manager, Scott Raffaelli showcasing their "shopping cart"

I had the opportunity to take a tour of Pettibone in Baraga, MI earlier this week.  Pettibone is currently working on incorporating Lean practices into its operations, and they are one of  12 local business in Houghton County that make up a group that we have coined the “Local Lean Group.”  We have been meeting every few months to learn from each other.  In the picture above, Scott is showing a cart that you or I could walk into the plant and complete without flaw.   They have highly visible, standardized operations and practices (which result in fewer mistakes and serve as a platform form even more improvement).  If you are interested to learn more about our group, give me a call or send me an email

FMCS Lean Training Comes to an End

By Kaylee Betzinger, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Lean Training funded by a grant from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) has been going on for the past several months. November 5th and 6th marked the last FMCS Lean Training sessions here on campus with our consultants, Mike Taubitz and Larry Osentoski.  Two cohorts of employees completed Lean training:

  • Lean Facilitators – trained to facilitate Kaizen Events for any campus department or area interested in making improvements.
  • Lean Implementation Leaders – trained in Lean concepts aimed at building a Lean practice into the day-to-day work for an area or department.
Lean Training Group Picture with Consultants

During the last training sessions each trainee participated in a Kaizen Event. The Lean Implementation Leaders chose a problem within their department for teams to work through and the Lean Facilitator teamed up to practice their Kaizen Event facilitation skills.

Team creating a Process Map during Kaizen Event
Team Reporting on the Changes Made

Each trainee had their own personal experience with the training. There were many laughs among the group and a lot of great memories. Some of the trainees share some of their experiences:

  • Rachel Wussow: “When learning Lean tools and thinking Lean, I am challenging and improving myself as a professional. My customer is an 18 year old college student. So, I have to teach the Lean lessons to a different generation of thinkers. Lean is more than improvement it is sustaining and acting. The world is full of change and Lean is a tool of adjustment.”
  • Cat Burns: “My first experience was very positive. I enjoyed working with people that I may not normally interact with. It felt great to officially start my involvement with Michigan Tech’s Lean Journey. I was lucky to have two great (and original) Facilitators work with me on my first Kaizen.”

Thank you to all our trainees, our consultants, and Manager of Process Improvement, Wendy Davis for making these training sessions so enjoyable and valuable!

What is DMAIC?

By Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

This summer while I was at Caterpillar, I had the opportunity to train and test for my Six Sigma Green Belt.  In the Six Sigma improvement methodology, there are belts that, similar to karate, indicate a level of expertise or experience.  Yellow Belts have basic training; Green Belts learn more about Six Sigma tools and participate in CPI (Continuous Product/Process Improvement) or NPI (New Product/Process Introduction) projects.  Black Belts and Master Black Belts have more advanced Six Sigma training and devote 100% of their time to improvement through Six Sigma.  My Green Belt training was in the DMAIC methodology.

DMAIC means:

Define: Define the problem, the Voice of the Customer (VOC), and goals.

Measure: Measure, collect data.

Analyze: Analyze the data and seek the root cause of the problem.

Improve: Improve the process or product—identifying the countermeasure(s).

Control: Control the future state—create a visual workplace, monitor the product/process, etc.

Having had a Lean background prior to my 6 Sigma Green Belt training, I felt that the DMAIC methodology correlated well to the Four Step Problem Solving Process that is used in Lean Kaizen Events.

Image from :

Formula for Success is Rise Early, Work Hard, and Strike Oil

By: Puneet Kumar Vasudev

Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility. I work as a student process improvement coordinator at Auxiliary Services.  I have been working on an improvement project with Kathy Wardynski, Manager or Purchasing and Process Improvement, looking at fryer oil consumption. Wadsworth Hall was consuming more than twice the amount of oil as compared to the oil consumption of any of the residential halls when the figures of oil consumption per number of students catered was compared.

According to the work instruction at each work station in Wadsworth Hall, fryer oil is cleaned daily during the last shift and the oil is changed on every Saturday, if needed. The oil change instructions require a dip test with a tester in which a paper strip is dipped in oil and the color on the strip left by the oil is compared with the chart to indicate whether it is fit for use or not. This practice was not being followed effectively.  This led to two different situations, either the oil was being changed even if it would have been good for 3-4 more days or oil change was delayed leading to bad food quality.

Since oil quality measurement was a concern, it was decided to remove the ambiguity related to existing oil testing method, with a new digital oil tester. In addition to the new tester, a data capture sheet was drafted to monitor the deterioration in oil condition and oil changes of different work stations.  Oil is now changed as needed, at any given day of the week.  Through the data collection at Wadsworth Hall we hope to come out with new data and figures to implement more improvements with fryer oil consumption.   

It is estimated that the small changes made will save $5,000 per year in fryer oil consumption at Wadsworth Hall.

Fryer Oil in Use
Digital Fryer Oil Tester

Lean Tips Exercise

Lean Consultants, Larry & Mike, were on campus again this past week.  During there visit, they facilitated a very memorable training exercise with our Lean facilitators.  It involved each facilitator choosing a “Lean Tip” from a sheet of over 50 tips that Mike has collected throughout the years and relating that tip to their Lean training experience thus far.  Here are some examples of the tips:

  • Team members will become “lean thinkers” at different times; keep moving forward, sharing successes and lessons until you hit the tipping point for true culture change.
  • Fairness and respect for all are cornerstones.
  • Do not attempt changes/improvements without the input of affected stakeholders.

Kari Pietrzyk, Event Associate in the MUB presented on the tip, “the greatest risk is not taking one.”  Here is her take:

“The greatest risk is not taking one.  We would never learn if we never tried.  We have to take risks to go further in our personal lives, like having children or starting a new job.  Inventions would have never happened.  There would be no airplanes, automobiles of computers.  Life is full of risks, we need to choose wisely, to which ones will take us further and which ones will stop us in our tracks.  We can learn from our mistakes or choose to ignore them.  Every mistake is one step closer to doing something the correct way.  I believe Lean is all about taking risks.  To accomplish any task requires some risk.  To make a process better also requires a risk.” 

Kari, far left, with her fellow Lean Facilitators during training.

Metrics Boards

Blog post written by: Kaylee Betzinger, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Metrics boards are used to showcase an area’s leading performance indicators and valued or strategic goals.  Over the past few weeks, staff in each residence hall kitchen have been working together to standardize metric board layout and eliminate the “waste” associated with the current state of their boards (or lack of boards). 

The 5S methodology was utilized to see this project out.  Sorting through the metrics that were currently being displayed, creating an order, shining (purchasing new boards where needed), and a weekly rotation schedule to insure all the metrics get updated each week (sustain).  

There are now metrics boards, as well as safety boards, in each of the halls.  Metric boards track food waste in dollars and pounds, inventory on hand, and other key performance indicators.  The safety boards track days without incident and display lockdown and evacuation procedures, weekly operating reports, and monthly kitchen safety inspection sheets. With the new metrics boards in place, there is less confusion amongst staff and key performance indicators are reinforced.  It is also recommended that Daily Team Meetings take place at the metrics board.  

Take a look at some of the before and after pictures from this project:   

Before – General Information Board


Before - Misc. information everywhere!



After – Metrics Board



After - Safety Board