Category: Events

Auxiliary Services Customer Appreciation Fair

On Tuesday, March 11th, the Office of Continuous Improvement participated in the Customer Appreciation Fair held by Auxiliary Services in the MUB Ballroom. This event was held as a small token of thanks to all of Auxiliary Services’ customers for their patronage this past year. There were lots of fun games, good prizes, and great food. It was a great opportunity to get out of the office for a few hours and enjoy an afternoon of fun!

Our booth at the Customer Appreciation Fair

At the OCI booth, we decided to incorporate lean tools and lean thinking into our game: Standardized Work LEGO Man Building. One participant was given verbal instructions on how to build the LEGO man while the other was given written and visual instructions. Every time, the participant who was given the written and visual instructions finished building first.  This was a fun exercise to show how beneficial standardized work and standardized  job element sheets are in making processes more efficient.

Come Check Out the Lean Model Office!

The Office of Continuous Improvement has been working on a Lean Model Office tour, open to anyone on campus that is interested. The self-guided tour includes bright signs throughout the office to explain how we use the Lean concept or tool. Tools and concepts presented in the tour include: 5S, A3, Andon, Poka Yoke, Audit, Kanban, Visual Controls, PDCA, and more! Feel free to come visit us at 136W Wadsworth Hall to check it out!

Our photo copier is an example of andon from our Lean Model Office tour.
An example of a visual control and our kaizen hopper.

Campus 5S Blitz!

Are you always searching for lost files or tools? Do items from your area seem to just “go missing”? Is it hard to find files on your shared network drive?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, the 5S Blitz might be for you! The 5S Blitz is a Lean Workshop for those who are interested in learning more about Lean and in using 5S to improve their (physical or virtual) work spaces. 5S can be applied to your personal desk, a lab, a supply area, a network drive, and more! The workshop will be taking place on January 28, 2014.

In the 5S Blitz, participants will have a learning session in the morning, and then will be able to go to their work space to start implementing 5S with the help of a campus Lean facilitator before coming back in the afternoon to share their progress and any lessons learned. Throughout the following two weeks, participants can continue to work on their 5S project before sharing their experience in an open report out.

If you’re interested in participating, you can find out more and register today on the Lean Workshops page of our website. You can participate individually or with others from your work area. All you need to register is a 5S project idea!

A disorganized cabinet before 5S...
...and an organized cabinet with visual controls after!

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

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!

MUB Catering Standards and Visual Controls Part II

At the end of April I was part of a project to 5S a shelf in the MUB kitchen.  The blog post for the first shelf can be found here.  The next step at the time was to do the same process to a similar shelf of catering platters and trays.

Initially we were going to simply 5S the second shelf.  However, after some discussion during the Sort phase we realized that it might be worthwhile to take a look into what was truly value-add that should remain on the shelf.  Originally there were two levels of platters and trays.  One called “copper” and the other called “silver.”  The copper level of service consisted of plastic items.  These platters and trays were prone to being scratched and losing aesthetic appeal, therefore requiring frequent replacement.  The silver level of service, though more expensive, did not require as frequent replacement.

We began asking why we had two levels of service.  At first we thought that having two levels of service gave the customer options and control over what their food was served on.  However, it was found that very rarely did anybody request the plastic level of service.  After performing this informal 5 Why exercise we decided to standardize from two levels to just the silver.  This resulted in

  • Decreasing inventory (increasing shelf space, decreasing capital invested in non-value add items)
  • Improving flow in other catering processes
  • Eliminating the risk of customers having a poor experience with plastic platters and trays

Cap & Gown Shuffle: Going to the Gemba

Last week I was involved in a kaizen event that was organized to counteract problems within the ordering and distribution of caps and gowns for graduation.  Issues the team worked through were the logistics of the sporadic influx of inventory (40-60 large boxes that flood the inventory space twice per year) and the long lines customers dread to obtain their cap and gown.  One important concept I learned from this kaizen was the importance of going to the gemba.  To fully understand the issues and problems, we found ourselves taking many trips to the gemba – the place where the work happens.

As noted by Wikipedia, problems are visible at the gemba, and the best improvement ideas will come from going to the gemba. For this kaizen, we spent some time in the inventory room of the Michigan Tech Campus Bookstore to take a look at the current situation.  The picture below shows discussion during one of our gemba visits (note the large boxes that don’t even fit on the shelf).  Each time we went to the inventory room we were better able to understand the limitations of the space and brainstorm countermeasures.

“Gemba walks” are not just for kaizen events.  Ideally they should be done as often as possible to provide supervisors and management with a true picture of what workers are experiencing on a day-to-day basis.  Mark Graban, a lean consultant with a focus on healthcare, recently wrote about an article by Delos Cosgrove, President and CEO of Cleveland Clinic, and his experience with going to the gemba.  These walks are not only important in industries or businesses with physical inventory such as manufacturing, merchandising, or healthcare.  In a knowledge-based industry it is still effective to go to the place where work is being done on a regular (though unscheduled) basis to “go see, ask why, [and] show respect.”

MTU Campus Bookstore Back Room
Going to the Gemba

Using a Fishbone Diagram

A recent kaizen event addressed a couple problems in residential dining: unauthorized access into the dining halls, and theft of food and utensils.  One tool that we used to drive each day’s discussion was a Fishbone Diagram.  After determining what was currently happening in contrast to an ideal state, a fishbone diagram was created to understand what problems stood in the way of reaching the future state.

The team brainstormed these problems and listed them on the diagram under headings (see picture below).  The diagram aided in creating good discussion and exploration of the problem, the team members were able to piggy-back ideas that related to each other.

After the brainstorming cooled down and the team felt the diagram was complete, various techniques were used to prioritize the issues to see which ones will be tackled and in what priority.   Common themes easily emerged showing where the team should focus their efforts.  At the end of the kaizen event the team had a clear understanding of the problem, its causes, and where to go with countermeasures to improve the problems.

MUB Catering Standards & Visual Controls Part I

The first lean project I assisted has finished up its first phase.  I worked with Eric Karvonen, Executive Chef and Kathy Wardynski, Manager of Purchasing and Process Improvement on a shelf that holds catering bowls and utensils inside the MUB kitchen.  We used 5S methodology to tackle the current state problems.

On the first day we took a look at the current state: lots of clutter, lack of organization and no system to sustain any organization that is attempted.  To begin work we removed any items from the shelf that should not have been there.  All of these items already had a proper place to be stored, but had accumulated on this shelf.  Next, we began trying different arrangements of the bowls and utensils that would remain.  After consulting a few subject matter experts (catering staff, dish washing staff) a final arrangement was agreed upon.  Along with the organization, the fluid ounce capacity of each size of bowl was determined to make bowl selection easier during food preparation for catering.

Before the next visit to the pebble bowl shelf, labels were created for the new organization.  The next day consisted of applying duct tape to section off parts of the shelf for each of the bowl sizes and utensils.  The labels were applied for each position to sustain the new current state.

Overall, this phase of the project went great.  Future phases of the project will continue throughout the summer, next we will begin work on the storage of catering trays as well as various sauces, oils, and vinegars.

Making a Good Problem Statement – Tech Fit Process Improvement

Taking the time to understand the current state of a problem can be described as the most critical part for improvement.  Many Lean practitioners will recommend at least 50% of the time invested in making an improvement be in the Plan phase of the Plan-Do-Check-Adjust cycle.  This is where you will study the problem where it occurs (the gemba) and collect baseline metrics, facts, and observations to answer the question “What is currently happening?”  From there a problem statement can be formulated to focus the improvement effort.

A good problem statement should sound something like this: “A is happening, causing X, Y, and Z.”  A is the problem and X, Y, and Z are waste.

A kaizen event is currently implementing countermeasures to respond to the problems within the Tech Fit Benefit Request Process.  Metrics were collected for a few weeks prior to the team getting together.  Vendors and customers (stakeholders) were involved to understand key issues with the process.  As a result, a problem statement was formulated: