Category: News

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: Update

Recently the Leaders in Continuous Improvement were able to participate at K-Day as well as hold their first official meeting!

At K-Day many students walked by the booth inquiring about continuous improvement, and what the new student organization will be about.  Additionally there was a ball “game” that was used to demonstrate the importance of standardizing work.  Players of the game had to sort balls into five different buckets, representing each day of the work week, as quickly as possible.  Then, the players standardized one day – meaning that they no longer had to sort their work (balls) for that day.  This exercise resulted in almost 30 additional data points for the student Process Improvement Coordinators to further improve the exercise and show the importance of standardization.

During the first meeting, The Student Process Improvement Coordinators, Kaylee, Megan, and Mike presented a Lean Overview as well as a little bit of the future goals for the organization.  There was free pizza and an atmosphere of excitement.  Leaders in Continuous Improvement will hold their next meeting on Monday September 23rd from 7:00-8:00pm room 101 of the ROTC building.  At this meeting Industry speakers from Caterpillar and Target will be speaking about their improvement journey.  This will be a great opportunity to not only gain insight into how continuous improvement is done in industry, but also to network the day before the career fair.  We hope to see you there!

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!

Theresa Coleman-Kaiser New Volunteer Greenbelt Coach

This past week Theresa Coleman-Kaiser was informed that she will be a Greenbelt Coach for the third cohort of State of Michigan employees to go through a Lean Greenbelt certification program.  She volunteered through the Michigan Lean Consortium.  From a press release on May 20th, 2013, “Good Government 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.”  Below is a video clip of Lt. Governor Brian Calley at the project orientation in June of 2012.

Lt. Gov Brian Calley Project Orientation 2012

Welcome Chris!

Chris Maxson has joined the Office of Process Improvement as an interim manager and will be assisting the office through September.  Chris serves as the Skier Services Manager for Mont Ripley, which is owned and operated by Michigan Tech.  Previous to MTU, Chris worked as a robotic technician on a start-up team for a company with a deeply rooted culture of continuous improvement.

Here Chris will introduce himself and share some thoughts about his new role:

By this time of the year, normally my work at Mont Ripley has drawn to a close and I’m off to some summer adventures before getting back to work in the fall. But this summer I’ve been given an exciting opportunity to work with Michigan Tech’s Office of Continuous improvement as interim manager. I have always enjoyed assisting with improvement projects, so a summer to continue my Lean journey will be great.

I have been getting the question, what is the Office of Continuous Improvement? What do they do?  The first time I got this question, I thought the answer was obvious. I mean, we help us all work better, right? But after the fifth question, I began to wonder: wait, what does the Office of Continuous Improvement really do?

As it turns out, we not only improve processes; we are in the empowerment business. The role of Continuous Improvement is to share knowledge and spirit with the students, faculty, and staff of Michigan Tech, placing them on a path of eliminating extra, unnecessary steps in processes making room for more capacity and value every day for all of us. Michigan Tech’s Office of Continuous Improvement is an investment into its true assets, its people.

ThedaCare Improvement System Experience!

Last week, I was fortunate to be granted the opportunity to participate in an improvement event at ThedaCare in Appleton, Wisconsin. I was a “fresh eyes” participant on a team that was looking to make improvements in the outpatient lab scheduling process at ThedaCare hospitals. As someone who has interests in both healthcare and Lean, participating in this event was a fantastic opportunity to see firsthand how the two work together.

The biggest “a-ha!” moment I had during my week at ThedaCare was the use of a SIPOC Process Map. I only had a vague understanding of what SIPOC was and did not really know the value or purpose of the tool prior to this event. The SIPOC map, in addition to showing the suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, and customers, identifies the “trigger” for the process to start and the signal that the process is complete.

A SIPOC map can be used to provide a high-level overview of the process and define the scope. The well-defined “trigger” and “done” signals in a SIPOC map help prevent “scope creep” from occurring. “Scope creep,” is when the team widens their improvement discussion beyond the goals of the project.  In the ThedaCare kaizen event, any issues the team identified that were outside of the scope (not on the SIPOC diagram) were put into an Out of Scope Parking Lot for future referral.  This allowed the team to focus on our scope, but ensured that the other ideas for future improvements wouldn’t be lost.

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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.

New Student PIC

Hello there,

I am Mike Leveille, a new Student Process Improvement Coordinator working in the Process Improvement Office.  I am a fourth year Mechanical Engineering student with a minor in Mathematical Sciences.  When I graduate in spring 2014 I will be commissioned as a 2d Lieutenant into the US Air Force.

Two concepts that are important in the Air Force are situational awareness and attention to detail.  The OODA loop is one way that these concepts are emphasized when making a decision.  The OODA loop was originally developed by US Air Force Colonel John Boyd for military strategy.  This decision making loop has also been adapted for use in the business world.  The OODA loop stands for:

Observe: Collect information.

Orient: Analyze the information you’ve gathered and use it to get in tune with your current state.

Decide: Decide on a plan of action.

Act: Carry out your plan.

I am relatively new to Lean concepts and continue to learn more about them every day.  I have learned that OODA loops can be compared to a cycle commonly used in Lean practice, the PDCA cycle.  Like PDCA, OODA is a continuous cycle where you continue to collect feedback and make adjustments to your decisions and actions as needed until you have the desired result.

I am looking forward to begin my first Lean projects for the office.  You can contact me at  Have a good day!


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UPLMC Presentation and the Affinity Diagram

On March 7, a group of Michigan Tech employees gave a panel presentation at the U.P. Labor Management Council’s annual conference in Harris, MI.  The panel presentation, “Lean Principles: A Strategy for Improved Labor Relations,” was given by:
  • Amanda Cadwell (Administrative Aide, Civil/Environmental Engineering & UAW President)
  • Wendy Davis (Manager of Process Improvement)
  • Bob Hiltunen (Director, Auxiliary Services)
  • Ellen Horsch (Vice President for Administration)
  • Rhonda McClellan (Facilities Helper, AFCSME member)
  • Barb Ruotsala (retired, past UAW President).
Theresa Coleman-Kaiser (Assistant VP for Administration) moderated the panel presentation.
At the beginning of each presentation the panel used a tool called the Affinity Diagram to gather thoughts and opinions from the audience on what they thought about “Lean” in 3 words or less.  While a presentation was given regarding the key concepts of Lean and how Michigan Tech has been utilizing Lean methods and tools, Theresa Coleman-Kaiser was organizing sticky note responses from guests into family groups by their affinity.  This tool allowed us to better understand our audience, gave them a connection to our presentation, and allowed us to have a well moderated and engaging open discussion period.