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

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!

What is DMAIC?

By Megan Johnson, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

This summer while I was at Caterpillar, I had the opportunity to train and test for my Six Sigma Green Belt.  In the Six Sigma improvement methodology, there are belts that, similar to karate, indicate a level of expertise or experience.  Yellow Belts have basic training; Green Belts learn more about Six Sigma tools and participate in CPI (Continuous Product/Process Improvement) or NPI (New Product/Process Introduction) projects.  Black Belts and Master Black Belts have more advanced Six Sigma training and devote 100% of their time to improvement through Six Sigma.  My Green Belt training was in the DMAIC methodology.

DMAIC means:

Define: Define the problem, the Voice of the Customer (VOC), and goals.

Measure: Measure, collect data.

Analyze: Analyze the data and seek the root cause of the problem.

Improve: Improve the process or product—identifying the countermeasure(s).

Control: Control the future state—create a visual workplace, monitor the product/process, etc.

Having had a Lean background prior to my 6 Sigma Green Belt training, I felt that the DMAIC methodology correlated well to the Four Step Problem Solving Process that is used in Lean Kaizen Events.

Image from :http://leanhrblog.com/what-the-heck-is-dmaic/six_sigma_phases-dmaic/

Formula for Success is Rise Early, Work Hard, and Strike Oil

By: Puneet Kumar Vasudev

Continuous improvement is an ongoing effort to improve products, services, or processes. These efforts can seek “incremental” improvement over time or “breakthrough” improvement all at once. Delivery (customer valued) processes are constantly evaluated and improved in the light of their efficiency, effectiveness and flexibility. I work as a student process improvement coordinator at Auxiliary Services.  I have been working on an improvement project with Kathy Wardynski, Manager or Purchasing and Process Improvement, looking at fryer oil consumption. Wadsworth Hall was consuming more than twice the amount of oil as compared to the oil consumption of any of the residential halls when the figures of oil consumption per number of students catered was compared.

According to the work instruction at each work station in Wadsworth Hall, fryer oil is cleaned daily during the last shift and the oil is changed on every Saturday, if needed. The oil change instructions require a dip test with a tester in which a paper strip is dipped in oil and the color on the strip left by the oil is compared with the chart to indicate whether it is fit for use or not. This practice was not being followed effectively.  This led to two different situations, either the oil was being changed even if it would have been good for 3-4 more days or oil change was delayed leading to bad food quality.

Since oil quality measurement was a concern, it was decided to remove the ambiguity related to existing oil testing method, with a new digital oil tester. In addition to the new tester, a data capture sheet was drafted to monitor the deterioration in oil condition and oil changes of different work stations.  Oil is now changed as needed, at any given day of the week.  Through the data collection at Wadsworth Hall we hope to come out with new data and figures to implement more improvements with fryer oil consumption.   

It is estimated that the small changes made will save $5,000 per year in fryer oil consumption at Wadsworth Hall.

Fryer Oil in Use
Digital Fryer Oil Tester

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.

Metrics Boards

Blog post written by: Kaylee Betzinger, Student Process Improvement Coordinator

Metrics boards are used to showcase an area’s leading performance indicators and valued or strategic goals.  Over the past few weeks, staff in each residence hall kitchen have been working together to standardize metric board layout and eliminate the “waste” associated with the current state of their boards (or lack of boards). 

The 5S methodology was utilized to see this project out.  Sorting through the metrics that were currently being displayed, creating an order, shining (purchasing new boards where needed), and a weekly rotation schedule to insure all the metrics get updated each week (sustain).  

There are now metrics boards, as well as safety boards, in each of the halls.  Metric boards track food waste in dollars and pounds, inventory on hand, and other key performance indicators.  The safety boards track days without incident and display lockdown and evacuation procedures, weekly operating reports, and monthly kitchen safety inspection sheets. With the new metrics boards in place, there is less confusion amongst staff and key performance indicators are reinforced.  It is also recommended that Daily Team Meetings take place at the metrics board.  

Take a look at some of the before and after pictures from this project:   

Before – General Information Board


Before - Misc. information everywhere!



After – Metrics Board



After - Safety Board

Megan shares her CAT experience!

I’m back!  This summer I took a break from my job as a Student Process Improvement Coordinator to participate in a Technical Marketing internship with Caterpillar, Inc. in Peoria, Illinois.  Although my primary job functions did not include continuous improvement work, I was able to gain exposure to both Lean and 6 Sigma efforts at Caterpillar during my internship.

During my internship, I took both my DMAIC and DMEDI 6 Sigma green belt tests.  DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.  DMAIC is useful for CPI processes, which are Continuous Product/Process Improvement projects.  DMEDI stands for Define, Measure, Explore, Develop, Implement.  DMEDI is useful for NPI projects, which are New Product/Process Introduction projects.  As someone who was only familiar with the Lean methodology prior to my experience at Caterpillar, it was interesting to see some of the overlapping of concepts and tools used, as well as the new concepts and tools I was unfamiliar with.

In addition to my 6 Sigma training, I was also exposed to CPS– the Caterpillar Production System.  Like Lean, CPS stems from TPS, the Toyota Production System.  The use of CPS was very apparent on the various facility tours that I was able to participate in.  At the different facilities there were metrics boards on display, and visual controls used for a variety of things, such as lines on the floor indicating where walking space was, signs to let people know that they are entering an area where extra safety equipment is required, etc.   Assembly lines were also set up to work for the people working on them; every tool seemed to have a place that it belonged.  On assembly lines there were also error-proofing methods used to make sure that the product was being made to exactly meet the specifications of the customer.

My experience this summer with Caterpillar was a fantastic opportunity and I learned so much, so I am excited to use my new 6 Sigma knowledge as I dive back into being a Student Process Improvement Coordinator at Michigan Tech!

-Megan Johnson

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

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!