Category: News

Dining Services Lean Journey Article is published in The Business Officers

Brittany Wood, Market Research Analyst Intern and I began working on an article that was to discuss the Lean “journey” Michigan Tech’s Dining Services has experienced over the past four years. After lots of research, interviews, and multiple drafts the article was completed in October.

The Business Officers magazine has published the article in their February edition! The article is the feature piece in the Business Intel section of the magazine.

Special thanks to Kathy Wardynski, Ellen Horsch, and Bob Hiltunen for letting us interview them on multiple occasions, and to Ann Kitalong-Will, Wendy Davis, Megan Johnson, Ellen Horsch, and Gina Sayen for reviewing and editing the many drafts of the article.

You can read the article online, or contact Wendy Davis to borrow a copy of the magazine out of the Lean Library.

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!

Michigan Tech Staff to be Trained

A few Michigan Tech Lean Implementation Leaders/Facilitators will be traveling in the upcoming months for various Lean trainings.  Stay tuned for updates regarding their training experiences:

Heidi Reid – “Toyota Kata” at University of Michigan

Wendy Jones – “Developing People with Capability for Lean” and “Coaching Skills for Lean Implementation Leaders” from Lean Enterprise Institute

Wendy Davis – “Lean Office Certificate” University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Training for these staff is supported by a grant from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Local Businesses Practicing Lean

General Manager, Scott Raffaelli showcasing their "shopping cart"

I had the opportunity to take a tour of Pettibone in Baraga, MI earlier this week.  Pettibone is currently working on incorporating Lean practices into its operations, and they are one of  12 local business in Houghton County that make up a group that we have coined the “Local Lean Group.”  We have been meeting every few months to learn from each other.  In the picture above, Scott is showing a cart that you or I could walk into the plant and complete without flaw.   They have highly visible, standardized operations and practices (which result in fewer mistakes and serve as a platform form even more improvement).  If you are interested to learn more about our group, give me a call or send me an email

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.

July Lean Training

The third training session for Michigan Tech Lean Facilitators and Lean Implementation Leaders was held this week.  These two training groups have four more sessions to complete the training.  As a result of the training sessions, the participants will be expanding their training knowledge as they support future Lean improvements here at the University.  If you are making improvements in your area or department, please contact me to have a facilitator help you out! 

Lean Consultants Mike Taubitz and Larry Osentoski with Wendy Davis
Team working on a Strategy Deployment Exercise
Team practicing Problem Solving using Affinity Diagrams

Welcome Kaylee and Puneet

Two new student process improvement coordinators began working this summer, Kaylee Betzinger and Puneet Vasudev!  Kaylee and Puneet’s role is to support kaizen teams and improvement projects at Michigan Tech.  Below they each have shared a message to intorduce themselves:

“I am Puneet Vasudev, a new Student Process Improvement Coordinator, I am a Master’s student in Mechanical Engineering and I’m from New Delhi, India.  Before coming to Michigan tech in August 2011, I have worked for a total of 7 year at various positions in Manufacturing Industry. I have had hands-on experience of implementing lean tools like kaizen, SMED, Visual Controls, 5-S and Kanban. I gained more knowledge of lean tools by taking up Lean Manufacturing course at Michigan Tech in spring 2012. I am looking forward to working on projects this summer.  Currently I am working with dining to implement ‘HEIJUNKA’  in the food court  and stores clerk standardized work. My email address is, Please feel free to contact me.”

Hello!  I am Kaylee Betzinger, I am a third year Marketing and Management Information Systems Major and am from Cedar Springs, Mi.  This is my first experience working with lean and I am very exciting to learn about the lean systems and processes and put them to good use throughout campus and in my personal life. One of my first process improvement projects that I am working on is a custodian waste experiment. I have been collecting data (time cycles) at the Lakeshore center to see if there are any possible improvements that can be made when it comes to custodial work.  I can be contacted at if you have any questions or need anything of me.”

If you see Puntee or Kaylee around, please welcome them aboard!

Lean Consultants Coming to Campus

With grant funding from Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a team of two Lean professionals have been selected to provide Lean training on campus:

  • Mike Taubitz is a retired General Motors manager.  He has over 40 years of experience implementing Lean practice and culture.  Mike currently serves as the Michigan Lean Consortium Secretary and is the principal of Lean Journey, LLC.
  • Larry Osentoski is a Michigan Tech alumnus from Electrical Engineering.  He is the owner of DRIVE Developments, Inc. and uses Lean concepts to shape his business practices.  

 The goal of this training and grant project is to build labor and management relations and communication using a Lean culture building model and approach to continuous improvement.  Two groups of employees will be trained:

  • Lean Facilitators – facilitate Lean improvement events
  • Lean Implementation Leaders – lead a Lean transformation in their unit

There will also be opportunities for Lean learning available to all staff and faculty during consultant visits.  Mike and Larry will be on campus about 2 days per  month from May – November 2012.   Please watch this blog and Tech Today for Lean training announcements!