Category Archives: Guest Post

Lean Principles and Tools in Industry

We are pleased to present this guest blog by Mary Fogelsinger-Huss. Mary is currently an ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt working for the Dow Corning Corporation in Midland Michigan. She has nearly 30 years experience in the chemical industry, with nearly half that time involved in quality practices for various product lines in the company. She holds a bachelors in Chemical Engineering from Michigan Technological University.

Lean Six Sigma has been widely accepted in the industrial setting as a method to improve many types of processes. The Lean Toolset is easily applied to nearly any setting that you can think of. The basic fundamental ideas of “making value flow” and “eliminating waste” can be as appropriate for a manufacturing company as it can for your own home. The first idea that many people like to apply is the “5S” concept:  Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The first three are usually pretty easy to accomplish and are pretty straightforward in many settings…it’s that Standardize and Sustain thing that many of us struggle with. Here is an example, using a receiving dock at a manufacturing site:

1-beforeNotice the stuff piled on top of the drums, and the inability to access many of the drums. In working with this team, they realized that many of the items had been in the area for far too long, and they weren’t sure why they were there.

SORT will eliminate the items that are not needed or are in the wrong spot. Remove those items to a different location by keeping in mind the idea of “Runners, Repeaters and Strangers.” Runners are items used daily, and should be kept close at hand. Repeaters are items used weekly and should be kept in an easily accessible storage area. Strangers are those items that are rarely used and should be in a designated location. Anything that doesn’t get classified as one of those goes to the “Red Tag” area, and is either moved to the appropriate location or disposed of.

STRAIGHTEN  is the organizing of the area in accordance with the Runners, Repeaters, Strangers strategy and determining the optimum positioning of items. This is much easier with all the excess (waste!) removed from the area.

SHINE is the process of cleaning the area and upgrading the surroundings to a level that encourages pride in your work area, and making sure all your work items are in a usable condition, when needed. Whether that means replacing cabinets or a simple coat of paint…it all adds to increased pride in your work space.

STANDARDIZE the area to ensure items are returned to the appropriate spot and that any “nonconforming” item is recognized right away.  This is usually accomplished by labeling areas, creating shadow boards, or marking an area with text for what goes there.

SUSTAIN is one of the “5S’s” that we all struggle with. Everything goes great for a while, then we get busy or rushed and just “put this here for a minute”…then never get back to take care of it. One way to manage this is through the simple reminder of a photo.  Many of our areas have a photo of what the area should look like, and at the end of the day (or shift) we make sure it’s returned to that image. The photos are posted in a prominent place like a bulletin board or on a wall near the process area.  Also, in a more formalized 5S program, a monthly audit can be used1-after to ensure the gains made with the 5S activity are maintained.

Here’s how the area looks after the 5S. Notice the paint lines on the floor and labels on containers. All unneeded equipment and materials have been removed and, as you can see, the floor just shines!

Which area would you rather work in?


MICUP Internship

Today we’re cross-posting an article written by Wendy Davis for Michigan Tech’s Human Resources News blog.

NamGiao Tran just ended her six week internship with Human Resources.  Nam was a MICUP student visiting Michigan Tech from Grand Rapids Community College.

Nam’s internship project in Human Resources focused on making improvements to the internal flow of work related to a staff hiring.  Her first week began with learning about Lean philosophy and focusing on the concept of standardized work. She began by working with department staff to understand the hiring process and creating a swim lane process map.  The exercise of creating the process map identified specific improvement areas which Nam worked on for the remainder of her stay.  Her work supported the creation of standardized tools, forms, and checklists that will be implemented to improve the process flow.

Nam is pictured below with her poster that captures the work she did.  The photo was taken at the MICUP Poster Presentation on June 19, 2014.

Nam plans to transfer to Michigan Tech next fall to study Accounting.


Lean Best Practices are Everywhere… Once You Learn to See Them

We are pleased to present this guest blog by Rick Berkey, Research Engineer II and Product Development Manager, as well as a campus Lean Facilitator.

I recently purchased a lawn dethatcher online and was anxious to assemble it when I got home from work yesterday. When I opened the package, I was expecting the usual bag of parts and fasteners that fly everywhere when you rip open the industrial strength plastic packaging. If you’re like me, you also know instructions can be more like ‘suggestions’ — you look at bad illustrations, use your judgment, sort through parts that look close enough, skip important steps because you think you know the correct way, then take things apart once you realize you really don’t… and of course you end up with missing pieces or extra parts that you store as ‘just in case’ inventory. If only we had enough ‘junk drawers’ in our homes!

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find a great application of Lean (see image). All parts and fasteners are arranged on a ‘shadowboard’. Each panel was clearly labeled according to the sequential assembly steps provided in the instruction sheet. This simple yet effective solution highlights several Lean principles. First, it is centered around defining value in the eyes of the customer – i.e. making it easier for the person assembling it. Second, it embraces the 5S concept of establishing ‘a place for everything and everything in its place’. Third, it serves as an effective visual control for the assembly process.

As the customer, I experienced several benefits and hence derived value as follows:

1. Knowing I had all the parts BEFORE I began…and if for some reason a part were missing, it would be obvious at the start

2. It was difficult NOT to follow instructions…the shadowboard keeps you on task. This can also be seen as an example of Poka-Yoke or mistake proofing

3. Faster assembly time, by reducing the following wastes: motion (looking for parts), defects (using wrong parts for a given step)

4. No missing/extra parts at the end…wow!

Kudos to Brinly-Hardy for getting it right with their product. The time and aggravation I saved was channeled into USING the product…after all, the goal was to dethatch my lawn, not assemble a dethatcher. Now, I know we’re not assembling dethatchers here on campus (well, maybe the Grounds department is!), but I would challenge all of us to see how these principles can and do apply to the things we do every day. Some questions to consider in your daily work: Who is your customer, and how to they define ‘value’? Is your work helping to create value or is it creating additional waste? Is there a visual solution that can streamline the process? When you develop and improve work processes, have you considered mistake proofing methods to make it easier to do it right the first time (by making it hard to do it incorrectly)?

 

Feel free to comment, and in the meantime I need to finish raking all that dead grass!

The shadowboard that helped error proof dethatcher assembly.

Collaboration with State of Michigan

We are pleased to post this guest blog from Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Assistant Vice President for Administration.

As a volunteer through the Michigan Lean Consortium (MLC), I was asked to work on an improvement project focused on revising the Michigan Department of Education’s (MDE) Scorecard to align more directly with the department’s articulated priorities.  My role was that of a Lean facilitator.

The work of planning, data collection, meetings, and a final workshop was done virtually through email, conference calls, and by using Skype.  This worked extremely well since I’m located in the U.P. and all the others in Lansing, MI. I initially worked with two representatives from the Department of Technology, Management, and Budget who coordinated and co-facilitated as “boots-on-the-ground” representatives responsible for the continued deployment of the Governor’s initiatives, and with key leadership in the Michigan Department of Education.  The work concluded with two larger meetings that included the Deputy Superintendents and/or the Special Assistants from the various areas within the MDE.

The key deliverable was to create a pathway to get from the scorecard in place when we began this work in November, 2013, to a revised future-state scorecard that linked directly to the MDE mission and priorities that have been articulated for 2013-2015.  At the conclusion of the final workshop, held in March 2014, the group had established a goal of two metrics for each of their seven strategic goals.  Each scorecard metric would represent either a student outcome measurement, or measurement of a process that drove student outcomes.  A few organizational metrics, such as employee turnover, were recognized as valuable although not directly tied to priorities. 

While some follow-up work will need to be done to determine the final scorecard metrics and receive approval to execute the update, the group left the final workshop with a decision-making framework that will ensure the Scorecard metrics align with strategic priorities, is outward-facing whenever possible to inform the public, drives the desired behavior, and is appropriate at the departmental level.

This work will significantly change the metrics that appear on the MDE scorecard as well as significantly reduce the total number of department-level metrics from the current 27 to between 15 and 20.  Many of the existing Scorecard metrics will either be pushed to an Office-level scorecard or eliminated entirely.

Facilitating this improvement work was a great professional development experience for me that provided an opportunity to exercise my facilitation skills and sharpen my thinking on metrics.  I had a really fun group of people to work with and greatly enjoyed this volunteer experience.

The MLC partners with the State of Michigan to provide assistance in implementing the Good Government imitative, which is about achieving best-in-class public service through empowered and innovative employees. Elements of good government are service and process optimization, employee engagement, change management, and performance management.


Lean Thinking Aligns with Deliberately Developmental Organizations

This week’s post is a guest post from Theresa Coleman-Kaiser, Assistant Vice President for Administration and campus Lean Facilitator.

I recently read the blog post referenced below that introduced me to Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDO’s).  Defined by Kegan, et al. (2014), DDO’s shape their culture through dedication to the “conviction that the organization can prosper only if its culture is designed from the ground up to enable ongoing development for all of its people”

The concept that work provides “as essential context for personal growth” (Kegan, et al., 2014) with the flipside being that personal growth or continuous development and improvement are essential to an organization’s success, reminded me of the foundational lean principle of respect for people and the sometimes forgotten eighth form of waste – knowledge waste.

Respect for people is often depicted in both the foundation of the Lean House and as one of the supporting columns, and can be simply described as putting people before products and services.  A DDO demonstrates this culture of respect for people by integrating the work of improving yourself as an essential function of all jobs.  It is visible through an infrastructure involving your own deep and forced reflection (hansei kai), one-on-one sessions with others who can guide your improvement work, and through meetings designed to identify your blind spots and then identify root cause so that appropriate countermeasures can be put in place.  It’s all designed to disallow you from being able to “unwittingly limit your own effectiveness at work.”  (Kegan, et al., 2014)

(Carroll, R., n.d., Box Theory)

In the 8 wastes of lean, Knowledge waste is alternately described as unused creativity, under-utilized people, not engaging all, non-utilized talents, and untapped human potential.  DDO’s are committed to developing employees so that their potential can be developed and fully tapped to benefit both the individual and the organization.  Whether accomplished through formal training or through a reflective, iterative process, the result is a happier and more productive employee.  In fact, DDO’s recognize that creating a no-blame culture where inadequacies are continuously and systematically reviewed as part of the work is in itself a waste-elimination effort since employees don’t have to spend time and energy “covering their weaknesses and inadequacies” and “managing others’ good impression of them.” (Kegan, et al., 2014)

DDO’s approach individual inadequacies as potential assets that have not yet been fully developed.  By putting people first, the respect and commitment shown by prioritizing development and dealing with it in a transparent manner helps to eliminate wasted knowledge and wasted time covering up shortcomings.  Is your organization on its way to becoming a DDO or do you need to shift some mental models and behavioral practices to get there?

References

Carroll, R. (n.d.). Lean thinking for small business – Add value!  The Systems Thinker Blog.  Box Theory.  BoxTheoryGold.com [web log].  (Accessed February 18, 2014).  Retrieved from: http://www.boxtheorygold.com/blog/bid/62547/rcarroll@BoxTheoryGold.com

Kegan, R., Lahey, L., and Fleming, A., (2014, January 22).  Does your company make you a better person?  HBR Blog Network.  Harvard Business Review.  Retrieved from:  http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/does-your-company-make-you-a-better-person/


Using Lean When Transitioning Into a New Job

This week’s post is a guest post from Heidi Reid, Executive Assistant in Human Resources and campus Lean Facilitator.

It’s always a little stressful when one moves into a new job…

  • What do you do with all those old files from your predecessor?
  • Duties and activities your predecessor “did it just because…?”
  • Jumping into new projects with little training
  • Organizing your desk for the most efficient work flow
  • Where do you find the files or information you need?

These are all concerns when taking on a new position. The good news is it doesn’t have to be a scary transition if you start out the right way.

What is the right way?

To try to incorporate Lean/Continuous Improvement aids, techniques, tools, and standards.

How do you get started?

1. Map out your office and its best layout.

  • Your desk (facing the door if possible)
  • Computer placement (ensure you have desk space to work)
  • Your essentials (tape, pens, stapler, etc.)
  • Is your phone easy to access?
  • Do you need your phone close to the computer?
  • Are your files easily accessed?

2. Once you’ve mapped out your space, you can create standards for where things are housed by outlining them or simply use your maps as a guide to audit your desk daily. Example: Are my essentials in the correct place? Do I have anything on my desk that doesn’t belong there? If so, find where it does belong and move it there immediately.

3. Create a standardized work sheet for your daily duties. Even include basic steps, such as: turn on computer, put on name tag, check emails, walk the Gemba and greet staff, attend daily team meeting, etc.

A simple example of a daily work sheet.

Use this work sheet to prioritize and “map out” your day. List all the duties you need to perform (AKA your “to do” list)– even if you know you won’t get them all done today. Prioritize your list (for example, from A to Z); this will help you when wondering “What should I do next?” Simply follow your priority list until all items are complete, highlighting or striking through as items as they are completed. It feels good to mark tasks as “Complete”! If an item on your list is not complete, add it to your next day’s priority list.

There are many different ways to achieve the same outcome; this is just an example. You can create a system that works for you! Some choose to use what is called a “priority matrix” (from Steven Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People).

Covey's Prioritization matrix for time management (Image from http://itsunderstood.com/).

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.”