Category: Events

Customer Appreciation Week Lean Tours

The Auxiliary Services Customer Appreciation Week was held at Michigan Tech a few weeks back. One event that we’d like to highlight today was the tours in the MUB which featured Lean improvements.

Heidi Reid, the Facilities and Events Coordinator at the MUB shared a bit about the tours: “The Lean tours consisted of several “day to day” continuous improvements that take place in our office and building.” The tour started off with their 5S improvement project for their inventory of office supplies. The 5S improvements to the supply closet and ordering system have been sustained for over 4 years and counting.

Standardized work was also covered on the tour, “We used standardized work for many areas including managing our guest room reservation/check-in procedure.  We utilize a practice of standardized work called knowledge folders, which are step by step instructions for many routine operations.  If a student worker needs to perform a duty they are not familiar with, they can use these folders to complete the task” stated Reid.

Other Lean improvements and tools covered on the tour were the value of auditing, daily team meetings , and visual controls.  Reid added “our office staff are working every day to improve our processes and streamline daily work, in an effort to satisfy our customer’s needs.”

The tour sparked new interest in Lean practice to those who participated.  Karen Patterson, new to the University and the Center of Diversity and Inclusion, had a positive experience on the tour.  Karen came from Portage Health, where many of the nurses are practicing Lean.  When asked about her overall impression of the tour Karen said she was very excited to hear about all of the improvements.  Karen has taken the next steps to bring Lean to her new role and will be presenting some ideas to her office at their May department meeting.

HR Training Series Features Continuous Improvement Using Lean

Written by: Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

The HR Supervisor Training series, a series of training for staff supervisors all across campus, will conclude this week with the final presentation of Module 6: Continuous Improvement Using Lean Principles. The purpose and goals of this 6 module training series as a whole were to provide educational opportunities, develop leadership skills, and provide tools for problem solving and communication for all supervisors.

Wendy Davis, Manager of Process Improvement, and Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Assistance Vice President for Administration, presented Module 6. The objectives of Module 6 were for supervisors to:

  • Develop a problem-solving mindset using Lean Thinking,
  • Improve processes and services and strive for perfection, and
  • Improve labor-management relations.

In the session, information on various Lean topics was covered, including: a Lean Overview and Key Concepts, Waste, Lean Mental Models, and Employee Engagement and Culture Building. The interactive training module included a team exercise, discussion and sharing experiences, videos to provide examples or share testimonials, and role playing. At the end of the session, supervisors were encouraged to visit the “gemba” with a purpose, discuss improvement opportunities with their staff, visit a daily team meeting, practice Socratic questioning, reflect on their mental models, and call Wendy with any questions or improvement opportunities!

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

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!

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.

Energy Usage Kaizen

A quick improvement event was held last week at the Portage Lake Golf Course.  Below are some pictures from a ride we took on the course – a trip to the gemba (where the work is done).   Golf Course staff – managers, mowers and maintenance –  along with some outside eyes were brought together to investigate fluctuating fuel use (gallons) from season to season.   The team did some inventory and data collection during the kaizen to understand where the fuel was being used (flip chart picture below). 

As a result of the kaizen, refueling standards were put in place:  holding tank refuel schedule every 2-3 weeks and a full refuel of all machines and holding tank at the end of each season.    In past years, the tank was refueled when empty and not consistently at the end of each season (i.e. a lapse in full refuel in season A would cause a substantial increase in gallons in season B).  This new standard will provide a consistent fueling schedule season to season, a first step to being able to better forecast fuel costs.  Other causes for fuel fluctuations will continue to be investigated – mowing sequence and patterns (movement waste, over processing) , idling times (waiting waste: working around customers on course, moving benches, etc.) and maintenance of machines (correction waste).    To learn more about the types of waste, you can download the Learning to See Waster PowerPoint HERE

The best outcome of this quick kaizen was that the staff left with inspiration to beging working on the other improvement opportunities! 

My First Kaizen Event

I participated in my first kaizen event last week.  The cause for the kaizen was to identify a standardized process for frying and grilling items in the MUB Food Court. There was no set process which caused employees to make instinctive decision that sometimes resulted in too much or too little product for the customers.  

We began with some data collection and analyzing the current situation.  With an understanding of what currently was happening we brainstormed what we would like the future state to be.  We then did a lot of data collection: cooking times for all of the grill items (thawed and unthawed timing) and then taste tests after intervals under the warmer to note poor quality intervals.  This data allowed us to set a standard for each items cooking time and holding time.

Matt Lean, who led this kaizen, had some data regarding which grilled/fried food items were sold at different time periods throughout the day from previous months of data collection. As a team we had to evaluate the data so we could find the average items sold at different 15 minute increments. One of the bigger and time consuming problems was which method to use to find these averages. It took us a good chunk of time and a check and adjust process to figure out which way worked best and in the end we were able to see the averages and come up with some possible solutions to our initial problem.

In the end we had a solid start on our new standardized process, as well as visuals for both the workers and customers to see (max hold times, cooking times for each item, “Grad n’ Go”, “Please Order Here”, “Don’t see what you’re looking for? Please Ask!”). My favorite part about the whole experience was getting to see others learn and experience lean. By the end of the kaizen the whole team had a good understanding of Lean thinking and how the kaizen approach works.  We all got to see firsthand how beneficial this type of thinking is.   

–Kaylee Betzinger, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Michigan Lean Consortium


I just wanted to pass along a great resource to the campus community: The Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC).

I have been in touch with some board members from the MLC for a few months now, they are making great strides to bring Lean practice to Michigan businesses.  One of our Lean training consultants  is the Secretary of the MLC, Mike Taubitz.

The MLC offers Lean learning events which are typically many driving hours away from Michigan Tech.  However, they have now begun recording these sessions.  Read about their latest event on Lean Leadership and find links to watch the recording HERE. 


You’re Invited: Begin your Lean Journey

Every few months a presentation is made to introduce Lean concepts, talk about Michigan Tech’s Lean journey, and provide information about how to become involved to faculty, staff and students.  The next presentation is set to be held on Tuesday, September 27th at 2 PM.  It is an open presentation, all are welcome to attend.  However, seating is limited so please email me,, to be added to the official invite.