Tag Archives: Lean in Industry

A Lean Future Is Wonderful!

We are pleased to present this guest blog post by Laurie Stark, Department Coordinator for the Van Pelt & Opie Library at Michigan Technological University.

While I was an intern at Honda I worked on several major projects within their Business Administration unit, including one that involved their key management process for the entire plant. Their current key management process was not working very well.  Keys were given out and never returned, they were not sure how many types of keys they used throughout the plant, their key box looked like a junk drawer, and if someone asked for a key, they might not have it on hand!

I was asked to help solve this problem during my time as an intern.  I was told that I would be taught all of the tools that would help me do so: root cause analysis (fish bone diagrams), going to the “spot,” gathering metrics (pictures and data), developing and prioritizing countermeasures, and creating activity plans.  Using these tools, I developed a standard process for key management, created a new form, reorganized the keys, and mapped out how many keys were used in the plant.  These countermeasures immediately helped solve most of the problems.

honda process

Almost ten years later, I started working at Michigan Tech and was asked if I wanted to get involved with the Lean movement on campus.  I started going to Lean Facilitator training this past fall and after the first two sessions, I had a lightbulb moment! I’ve seen this before…Honda does Lean?!?  How come they never talked about it?

During the four months I worked there, I did not hear the word Lean once, yet now that I look back, I can find countless instances where Lean was used every day.  Lean is their everyday way of solving problems.  Most employees who work there probably don’t know or realize that they are using Lean tools to solve their problems and improve their processes.  It is so embedded into their culture, it has just become the way they do business.

Michigan Tech is on a Lean journey right now, and I have seen a glimpse of the destination–it is wonderful!  At Honda, I saw employees who were very productive and engaged in their work.  Employees were not fearful to share their ideas on any matter, in fact, they were encouraged to do so!  If there was a problem somewhere, everyone went to the “spot” to help problem solve, they were encouraged to submit new ideas to their supervisors and HR reps and I got the sense that people truly enjoyed working there. I would love to see the day that Michigan Tech reaches this same destination.

What can we do in our daily work to get there too?


Lean and S.W.E.

I just got back from the national Society of Women Engineer’s (SWE) conference held this year in Nashville, TN. I was pleasantly surprised because there were three different sessions being held on continuous improvement. I was able to attend two of the three and really enjoyed them.

The first session I went to was titled “Shark Tank! A Creative Approach to Drive Continuous Improvement” and was given by Jennifer Walsh, an Engineering Program Group Manager from Medtronic. In the talk, Ms. Walsh presented some creative approaches to continuous improvement that I thought were great. An example was by using social media to convey ongoing continuous improvement techniques that were being used around her business unit.

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The second session that I was able to go to was titled “The People Side of Lean” held by Kimberly Sayre, PE from the University of Kentucky’s College of Engineering. Ms. Sayre, the Lean Systems Program Manager, talked about Lean as a systematic method for eliminating waste within a process. She explained “Lean was developed at Toyota (internally called the Toyota Production System), and the People Side of Lean is a critical piece of sustainable Lean transformation. Organizations first implement the tools, improve efficiencies and eliminate waste, but then reach a plateau until they are able to gain full employee buy-in.” Ms. Sayre went on to explain this “natural struggle point” in getting improvement throughout the whole system. This talk helped me navigate through this phase of my Lean journey, and she even included a hands-on exercise about communication skills. I especially loved how she was from an academic setting and saw how this could relate to Michigan Tech’s campus.

The last session that talked about Lean was held by Claribel Mateo, the HR Director at Turner Construction Company. Her talk, entitled “Using Technology to Build Better Buildings through Efficiency and Visualization,” talked about how Turner implements BIM (Building Information Modeling) and Lean Construction principles and practices on projects from early design to construction, to enable the project team to drastically reduce field requests for information and change orders while enhancing quality and compressing construction schedules.

Overall I had a great time at the conference and look forward to implementing what I learned back here in Houghton, as well as in my life after graduation.

 

 

 



Lunch and Learn at the Lean Enterprise Institute

This summer I had the great fortune of being a mechanical engineering intern at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory. While in Cambridge, John O’Donnall, Executive Director of the Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI), was kind enough to reach out to me and invite me to visit the office. Mr. O’Donnall and I had the chance to meet on campus last year when he was the keynote speaker at the 2015 facilitator graduation.

 

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Lean Enterprise Institute located in Cambridge, Massachusetts

 

While there it just so happened that they were also having a guest speaker come in and talk about Lean in the civil engineering world and how much waste happens at construction sites because the main currency is the amount of time it takes to complete a project. Although I had to leave before the whole event was over I found her talk to be very interesting. It really opened my eyes to the need to integrate Lean practices into the civil engineering world the way mechanical engineering has integrated it into manufacturing. Below is a picture of the talk from an outside view.

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Presentation on integrating Lean principles into civil engineering projects

 

I also got to meet with James P. Womack the founder of the LEI, as well as some of the M.B.A. summer interns who were in the office. Every summer the office hired a few M.B.A. students from the area to work with them and learn in an immersive experience about Lean principles. John O’Donnell and I mused about the possibility of bringing in Michigan Tech M.B.A. students on as summer interns and I think that it could be a mutually beneficial experience for both parties. 

 

 

Elizabeth and John
Selfie with Mr. John O’Donnell

 

Before leaving John showed me around the office and I was pleasantly surprised with how much our own Office of Continuous Improvement here at Michigan Tech resembled the  Lean Enterprise Institute. A picture of their office can be seen below.

 

 

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Snapshot of the open floor plan office at Lean Enterprise Institute

 

I had a great experience there meeting up with Mr. O’Donnell, Mr. Womack, and meet some of their M.B.A. summer interns.  

 


Leaders in Continuous Improvement visits Parker Hannifin

Leaders in Continuous Improvement (LCI) recently had the opportunity to go on an industry tour to Parker Hannifin’s Manitowoc Wisconsin facility. With the help of a Michigan Tech Alum who is now a Value Stream Team Leader at this plant, the students in LCI were able to see first hand what a Certified Lean Model Plant (Parker’s Manitowoc facility became Lean Certified in April 2013) looks and feels like.

Parker Board Walk 3

From the moment you walk through the doors you can see how truly “Lean” this plant is. From the visual signs and lights, to the tape outlines all across the plant floors, to their daily huddle area they call their “board walk,” Lean is definitely a theme at this plant.

The tour began with everyone becoming equipped with the proper safety equipment. Each individual was given a bright orange safety vest, protective eye goggles, and a head set with a walkie-talkie so we could hear our guide properly once on the plant floor. It was exciting to see how valuable a safe working environment was for the Parker Hannifin team.

Once everyone was suited up, we were able to attend their daily board walk. Within the huddle space there are nine different white boards that represent a different team or topic. There is a representative for each board that gives an update to the team. What I found so great about this style of daily huddle is that they did some actual problem solving on the spot. One team was having an issue so they started asking questions and brainstorming different improvements. In addition to the white boards themselves, Parker utilizes visual cues in the form of plastic solo cups. On top of the boards are stacks of red and green solo cups. If there is a problem or issue the team will place a red cup on a peg, indicating a problem. If the team has no issues they will place a green cup on the peg. This was just the beginning of the visual cues throughout the facility.

Once we began walking through the facility we really began to see just how deeply rooted Lean is in the Parker Hannifin culture. Each team at Parker Hannifin uses a team communication board. This board contains the different metrics the team tracks, daily audit sheets, a 5S checklist, the different job description sheets needed for all the different tasks, and a space for various communications. In addition to the communication boards, many teams use a kanban board that allows the team members to see exactly what materials/tools they will need for the current job and the job “on deck.”

All in all, the industry trip was beyond what we expected. It was a great opportunity for the students to learn more about continuous improvement tools and concepts and see what a lean culture truly is. A special thanks to Megan Mattila, who helped to coordinate everything and was our fantastic tour guide.


Integrating Lean into Student Organizations on MTU’s Campus

One of the initiatives that the office of continuous improvement has for fiscal year 2015 is to incorporate more Kaizen events into student organizations. As president of Michigan Tech’s American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) student chapter I was having frustration regarding the current state of our process of supporting the annual Student Design Competition (SDC). In this process a group of students builds a robot to go through an obstacle course. Trouble lied in communication and failure to compete in the competition even after thousands of dollars was vested in the activity. It then struck me that I could integrate my two activities, my work at the Office of Continuous Improvement and also ASME to be mutually beneficial.

To help launch the Lean mindset in the student organization I invited Ruth Archer, Manager of Process Improvement,  to introduce at a very basic level some tool they could integrate into their daily life. This helped show the members common industry practices of Lean, and continuous improvement. Ruth also spoke to them about how Michigan Tech works to make sure that there are continuous improvement efforts being done on current processes through the office of continuous improvement. This gave the students new insights into how the university was working at improving their experience as students of Michigan Tech.

A few days after this presentation the pre- meeting for the ASME  SDC team Kaizen event. I was put on as the team leader with Laura Henry and Jim DeRochers acting as co- facilitators and Kaylee Betzinger acting as the student process improvement coordinator. The current state was outlined and can be seen in the image below. Items included the lack of definite rolls and lack of time.

Current state photo

 

A week later the actual Kaizen event was held with the team members of the design team, the executive treasurer of ASME, as well as all support persons  facilitating the Kaizen present.

Some images of the current state were taken from the Kaizen event and can be seen below.

Start of p-map

 

 

The competition took place on April 10th and I look forward to seeing how integrating Lean practices helps the team in years to come as the most use from this event will come in this years preparation for the competition. One of the major outcomes is that Kaizen communication has been streamlined between the team and the executive board and an increased amount of documentation though Google Drive.

If your student organization is having trouble with a current process contact the Office of Continuous Improvement at: 906-487-3180, e-mail improvement@mtu.edu or request a Process Improvement Event here

 


Trend Prediction

Hello, this is Elizabeth, one of the student process improvement coordinators at Michigan Tech. This semester one of the classes I am taking within the department of mechanical engineering is “Engineering Design Process.” Within the class we are charged with designing a way to change the landscape of the moving luggage industry. Innovation is one of the main objectives. I decided to look at how I could integrate my course work and job. Taking advantage of the Lean Library in the Office of Continuous Improvement  I checked out the book The Innovators Toolkit.

Book

The book starts off with having the user define the opportunity. It stated that, “Taking thousands of shots at an undefined target (unfocused ideation) won’t result in any innovation goal”.  From here the book is broken up into four parts; defining the opportunity, discover the ideas, develop the designs, demonstrate the innovation. Within these four parts there are different techniques to be used. I chose to focus on part two – discover the idea and more specifically technique 16: trend prediction.

In this age of rapid change and a push towards innovation it is important to be able to accurately predict where future trends will be in order that one’s invention matches the needs and wants of those trends. After searching around online I found that a lot of the organizational templates used in the book are available to the public for free. I would encourage you to look at them and use them to your advantage

 

 


Lean Principles and Tools in Industry: Part 2

Thank you to our returning guest blogger Mary Fogelsinger-Huss for another excellent article on how Lean is used in industry. Mary is 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.

Many Lean devotees are very familiar with the idea of 5S and the benefits an orderly work space provides.  Not only does the 5S tool make the work better, it provides a much less stressful working environment.  To take that thought to another level, the work process itself needs to be studied. A very powerful tool in identifying waste in a process is the Process Map. There are many types of maps that can provide insight into the workings of a process. One of the maps used frequently in a Lean activity is the Spaghetti Diagram. It’s called this because if it’s done correctly, your drawing will look like a plate of tangled up spaghetti! This tool helps you understand the route the product, or operator, takes through the process. The idea is to trace the route over a period of time, to actually see the movement. The map is typically done with paper and pencil, and follows the movement through the physical space, so they’re usually quite messy!  They are also very revealing.  This example is in a test lab:

spaghetti diagram

The different lines represent the number of trips a person took in performing a test.  The background is the layout of the lab, with the test equipment noted by numbers (or dots in this poor image). This shows that the operator performing the test walks back and forth quite a bit between the different pieces of equipment.  Depending on your goal, this could be good or bad…good for exercise, bad for productivity!

The project team recognized the “waste of motion” in the process, using the spaghetti diagram, and was able to move equipment around to minimize the trips from one bench to the other throughout this test. This change allowed the test to be completed in less time, improving customer relations (production buildings want to know results FAST!) and increasing testers’ productivity.  A simple tool, providing impressive results.

 

 


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?