Category Archives: Lean Experiences

Leaders in Continuous Improvement Partner with 31 Backpacks!

A recent partnership has been formed between the student organization Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) and local non-profit 31 Backpacks. 31 Backpacks is a non-profit organization that sends food home in backpacks every Friday and school breaks for eligible children. The teachers, principals, and counselors at each school identify the children who need assistance and aid in the giving of the food bags.

Before
Before
Before 4
Before

Laurel and Melissa Maki, the founders of 31 Backpacks, were very enthusiastic about partnering with Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) and a game plan was formed right away. It was decided that LCI would begin with a storeroom 5S.

5S is a workplace organization methodology used to eliminate waste, organize a workplace, and create a system to sustain improvements. The 5 S’s stand for Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. The members of LCI were able to completely re-vamp the existing storeroom (as you can see in the pictures). In order to properly sustain this improvement, a weekly audit was created. This will allow various volunteers to “audit” the

After
After

storeroom to ensure sustainment of the improvements.

Although we haven’t fully implemented the new process, this is still a huge improvement from where we were at the beginning. This is a great starting place for a hopefully long partnership.

Be on the lookout for future improvements from the LCI and 31 Backpacks partnership!

 


The Quarter Pounder

During a recent Auxiliary Services Report Out, Bob Hiltunen gave an incredible teachback demonstrating the benefits of one-piece flow over traditional batch and queue. He was able to do this through an exercise we call “The Quarter Pounder.” One-piece flow refers to the concept of moving one work piece at a time between operations. This may also be referred to as the OHIO method (only handle it once).

To learn more about The Quarter Pounder activity, read a previous blog post by fellow Process Improvement Coordinator Nate Hood by clicking here.

The group of participants really enjoyed this fun, hands on exercise. It was great to see the mental light-bulbs going off when each participant saw the difference between batching and one-piece flow.

QP

No matter who is participating in this activity, the results are always the same. By eliminating the batching and implementing one-piece flow, the team is always able to decrease the total process time, and the time it takes for the customer to get their first item plummets. During this round of the exercise, the team was able to decrease total processing time by 289%!! How can implementing one-piece-flow in your organization benefit you?


Batch-and-Queue vs. One-Piece Flow: Quarter Activity

At Wednesday’s (7/9) Lean Implementation Leaders and Lean Facilitators meeting, Bob Hiltunen (Director, Auxiliary Services) provided a wonderful teach back activity on the advantages of one-piece flow processing vs. batch-and-queue processing.

Background

One-Piece flow is one of the most important principles of lean manufacturing. One-piece flow means that parts are moved through operations from step-to-step with no work in process in between; either one piece at a time or a small batch at a time. Once work on a product begins it never stops moving until it is a finished product.

As opposed to one-piece flow, batch-and-queue processing is the action of producing more than one piece of an item and then moving those items forward to the next operation before they are all actually needed there. Batching and queuing tends to drive up inventory and lead time, and creates inefficiency in an operation. It also increases the space needed for production.

Teach back Activity

LIL’s and Facilitators Participating in the Teach back Activity

To complete this activity, 2 “directors,” 4 “managers,” 4 “workers, and 1 “customer” are needed. Each worker is a “station” at the table (as seen in the photo). The first three workers are assigned the task of flipping quarters and passing them to the next worker and this process repeats until the quarters reach the last worker who is asked to “stamp” them, and pass them to the customer.

The activity begins by simulating a batch-and-queue system with the first worker flipping all 30 quarters before passing them, in a batch, to the next worker and so on until they reach the customer. The batch sizes that are passed between workers are reduced after each subsequent round until each worker is flipping and passing only one coin at a time, to represent a one-piece flow system.

To measure the effect of the transition to one-piece flow, time measurements are taken at many times during the process:

  • At the start of the process when the first coin is flipped
  • When each worker first receives a coin from the previous worker
  • When each worker flips and passes their last coin
  • When the customer receives the first coin
  • When the customer receives the last coin

As the activity progresses, the time each work station is active gradually increases, however, the time it takes for the coins to reach the customer dramatically decreases. In our simulation, the process time was reduced from 1 minute 30 seconds to 20 seconds.

The ideal state for a production process is continuous one-piece flow. If you can’t manage to get down to one-piece flow, always the question … can you get two-piece or three-piece? The most important thing to remember is the idea of continually moving closer to the ideal state.


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.


Calumet Electronics Tour

Recently, Todd Brassard, Vice President/COO of Calumet Electronics, spent an afternoon giving our group a tour of their operations in Calumet, MI. During this tour, we were able to see the complex process (over 40 steps!) that it takes to produce a circuit board. In their manufacturing operations, there were several examples of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma in practice. I’ll talk about a few examples that we saw during our tour.

  • Many pieces of equipment had a three-color light (green, yellow, or red), that indicated the status of the machine, an example of andon.
  • Machines that drilled holes into the circuit boards automatically picked the necessary drill bit needed for the particular hole size it needed to drill, and tested the bit prior to drilling any holes into the circuit board. If a bit is damaged, then the red light on the machine comes on (andon!) so that a worker can come to the machine to inspect the bit and address the issue.
  • Workers that inspect the quality of each of the circuit boards worked in a left-to-right pattern in their work area to ensure that untested circuit boards don’t get mixed in with circuit boards that have either passed or failed the quality inspection (error proofing); only the boards that had passed the inspection made it into the stack on the far right of their work area. These workers also test the circuit boards in small batches of 25 that their computer confirms the count of; this ensures that the whole stack of 25 has been inspected before the next batch can be tested. The computer also says, in clear and large text, “Pass” in green or “Fail” in red (a visual control) when telling the worker the results of the inspection.
  • Todd also noted that for many of their process, they are tracking Cpk, which is the actualized process capability. As a rule of thumb, a Cpk of at least 1.33 indicates a capable process.
  • At the end of the tour, Todd showed our group some awesome data collection and metrics that they’ve begun keeping to track the “health” of their business. To the “data geeks” among us, this was pretty neat!

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.”