Tag: Lean

Daily Continuous Improvement

The ultimate goal of a Lean practitioner is to incorporate continuous improvement into every facet of their life. Contrary to popular belief, Lean is applicable in more environments than just industry. Tools like 5S and “Plan, Do, Check, Act” (PDCA) allow anyone to revamp the areas of their lives that may be creating “muda” or waste.

In our office we’ve used 5S to organize our supplies and we continue to sustain it by auditing twice a month. I have gone on to use Lean tools to clean and de-clutter my apartment, inspiring others to do the same. Life is chaotic, but when things are broken down piece by piece like Lean allows us to do, we can get more done with less stress.

Every day is an opportunity to improve and if what we have already implemented fails or has problems, we can fix it. Nothing is perfect the first time, but through continuous improvement we can sustain an environment that always changes for the better.

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Welcome Rylie Store!

Joining the team in the Office of Continuous Improvement is a new Process Improvement Coordinator (PIC), Rylie Store. Rylie is a first year student pursuing a degree in Medical Laboratory Sciences with hopes to utilize her degree as a Pre-medicine parallel and eventually ticket her way into medical school. Although Rylie is only a first year she was actively involved in many clubs and organizations in high school such as Student Council, Prom Committee, and Yearbook Committee. Rylie is currently working on building up her involvement on campus and is currently an active member in the Alpine Ski and Snowboard Club. Prior to becoming a PIC, Rylie began her employment by forming her own photography business the summer going into her senior year of high school (July). She also received her certification as a Professional Ski Instructor of America in the spring of her senior year (March 2015).

Rylie will now introduce herself and share her own opinions on jumping on board with our team.

Coming into this position I’ll be honest, I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what Lean was. It wasn’t until a former employer of mine had guided me to the application for the opening of a PIC position and encouraged me to apply that I began to gain some basic knowledge of what it is that Lean necessitated. I’ve been on board officially now for about a week and in that time I’ve managed to complete some basic training. However, I still have a long ways to go before I’ll fully understand Lean to the capacity I feel that it deserves. With the minimal information and background that I have acquired I can say that I am most excited to become a factor in this journey to better improve processes and eliminate waste efficiently throughout Michigan Tech’s endeavors. Joining this team has encouraged me, even more so to expand my campus and community wide involvement while implementing continuous improvement in the process.

Although still being new in the office, I’ve managed to gather that my tasks in the office will be to not only grow my lean knowledge. but to do so through the arrangement, encouragement, and compilation of Kaizen Events.

I’m excited for this coming journey of mine as a PIC, but I’m even more so thankful to be given this opportunity to expand my horizon while also expanding the spread of Lean throughout  campus.

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Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day

Any college student from around the world will tell you how fast-paced and hectic it is trying to figure out the rest of your life. Between classes, student organizations, figuring out our financial situations (and trying not to drown in them), and truly trying to enjoy this time in our lives, students are busy! Likewise, any professional in the workforce will tell you the same thing–being an adult isn’t easy. Can it all be done?

Process mapping and standard work for any task allows for smoother running and less stressful experiences with better outcomes. In one of my classes this week, we looked at the writing process for a research document. It was highly recommended to be taken a step at a time so as to not overwhelm the writer. The paper is to be taken piece by piece and improved upon gradually. The writers were advised to take detailed notations of their process goals in order to complete all of the necessary tasks in a timely manner and fully report on all of the key points of their topic. Things cannot be made without time and effort, and one can’t do everything at once.

Lean principles are everywhere and, if studied, are not difficult to implement. Many people misconstrue continuous improvement as solely a manufacturing or workplace fad. In reality it can be applied in many aspects of your daily routine to provide a more organized, efficient, and beneficial way of doing things. How do you use Lean in your everyday life?

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Document Management – A 5S Opportunity

I was recently given the opportunity to be a Lean facilitator for a 5S Kaizen event. The goal of the event was to organize the Van Pelt and Opie Library staff document management system. I found this to be a great project and was inspired by the event to write a blog post going over some of the lessons learned. The project also remind me of how the 5S method (Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) can be applied to both Google Drive documents as well as Network Drive documents. documents   Here are some things to try when working with a large documentation systems:

  1. Have a standard naming convention – Having a standard naming convention helps documents and key information be found quickly with minimum effort.
  2. Include key people from different departments –   When this is done insight into how different people use documents is come to light and a more logical system can be created for all participants.
  3. Eliminate extra files – If there are four revisions of a document from over a few years ago don’t be afraid to get rid of these files, especially if no one is using them!
  4. Define upkeep roles and a timeline – Last but not least this step is what is going to ensure the work put into creating an organized system stays organized. This timeline will define how often and who will go through the document system and make sure that previously outlined steps are followed. For example a rotating schedule where every Friday 15 minutes is spent on ensuring that there are no loose files.

5S If you want to see some of the tools and templates that our office has compiled on 5S feel free to check them out here. To learn more about continuous improvement at Michigan Tech visit http://www.mtu.edu/improvement/, or call (906) 487-3180.  We have multiple resources for you, including a Lean lending library!


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.



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


Create Constancy of Purpose

W. Edwards Deming
W. Edwards Deming

William Edwards Deming, a statistician and professor, developed a theory of management based on fourteen points that he considered critical for management to become transformational and thus lead their business to greater success. He published his ideas in a book titled “Out of the Crisis” and I recommend you get a copy for reference. His thoughts and published works have led to the development of systems like Total Quality Management, Six Sigma, and Lean. Deming’s work is not a blueprint for success, ready to be copied, but his fourteen points are a starting point for discussion, consideration and contemplation when it comes time for you to begin your journey of management transformation and improvement.

Let’s start this journey together, now, as we discuss Deming’s points and see how they may relate to you and your leadership style and business goals.

Point One: Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.

Seems pretty simple right? Well, this one little sentence is packed with complexity just waiting for us to unravel. This point squarely puts the onus on Management to make looking out for our employees the number one job, while the responsibility of the employee is to improve their product or service. The focus is not on the product or service; rather, the focus is on choosing to dependably improve our product or service. Acknowledge that what you offer isn’t perfect and can be done better. And if it isn’t done better by you, reliably, your competition will do it for you and put you out of business.

Deming also advocates that you focus your business on being competitive and providing jobs. To truly improve our competitiveness, I feel we must recognize the value our staff bring to our business, and concentrate on allowing them to self-improve. People—not the thing we produce or the service we provide—are at the core of our operation. Without our employees, nothing is made, nothing is sold, and no amount of marketing nor motivational speeches will change that – our staff make our business. Empower them.

The secret to success...
Benjamin Disraeli said it succinctly

Benjamin Disraeli said it most succinctly – and I believe Deming would agree – that to truly succeed in your business Management must fully embrace continuous improvement as a living element in our operations, making it the basis of the corporate culture. Staff should be 100% supported by the the company and the management. Staff should be empowered to make positive changes to improve their working environment and better their product or service.  And there should never be any doubt that the company fully supports continuous improvement efforts.

As we continue this journey through Deming’s fourteen points, we’ll see how each point can easily stand on its own, while at the same time often reinforcing one another—much like management and staff have their own jobs to do but must work together to keep driving improvement forward to increase productivity.

Next Article: Point Two – Adopt the new philosophy


Lean at Tech Update

Michigan Technological University campus

At Michigan Tech, continuous improvement is being integrated into the everyday operations of the university. A central Office of Continuous Improvement supports departments and individuals in their efforts and functions as a knowledge bank for people seeking more information. This office connects people who want to do a continuous improvement event with a trained facilitator; the university’s 24 facilitators are all volunteers.  

Training, workshops, and coaching help to develop a continuous improvement culture. The Lean facilitators and Lean Implementation Leaders attend monthly continuing education to keep their skills fresh. All new supervisors are required to receive basic training in Lean principles. In addition, periodic workshops on topics like 5S and Process Mapping make Lean immediately useful and accessible to university employees.

Michigan Tech’s Continuous Improvement program also increases campus and community awareness, exposure, and engagement. Initiatives in this area include an active website, this blog, a recurring article in the university newsletter Tech Today, a Twitter account (@Lean_at_MTU), and a Lean Library. A Lean Model Office tour showcases Lean practices in an office environment; stop by the office at 136W Wadsworth Hall to take the self-guided tour. Michigan Tech also organizes a quarterly meeting for the Copper County Lean Group made up of 26 area businesses who gather to learn more about Lean and continuous improvement, share stories, collaborate, ask questions, and celebrate successes.


New Manager of Process Improvement

Ruth Archer, Manager of Process Improvement
Ruth Archer, Manager of Process Improvement

Hello! I’m Ruth Archer, the new Manager of Process Improvement. I’ll be maintaining and building on the excellent foundation of continuous improvement using Lean principles already established at Michigan Tech. I’m responsible for the leadership and support of process improvement activities on campus. I’m pleased to be leading this highly skilled team and look forward to taking on the challenges of the position.

I believe that following a continuous improvement philosophy is an excellent way to be successful, both professionally and personally. Integrating continuous improvement into your work can increase your effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity. Bottlenecks and non-value-added steps can be identified and eliminated. Costs can be reduced through savings in money, time, and materials. In addition, continuous improvement can increase your job satisfaction because you’ll feel empowered. Decision making is pushed down to the lowest possible level. Employees are enabled to challenge the status quo and offer ideas for improvements. And the system ensures that people’s ideas are listened to and discussed, so, even if your idea isn’t ultimately used, you’ll still feel valued. Finally, continuous improvement increases customer satisfaction because the customer gets a quality product at the lowest cost. Satisfied customers will return for more and recommend your organization to other people.

The best part is that you don’t have to figure this out on your own! Our team of experienced facilitators and process coordinators will help you form the right team and lead you through every step to get your process improved.

I personally enjoy practicing Lean principles. When I was an aircraft technician in the Air Force, my shop lived by the 5S’s: Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Our tools were carefully arranged, including our bench tools and our toolboxes. Our workplace was cleaned at the end of each shift, and our work on the aircraft had to be meticulous. We used technical orders to standardize tasks and regular inspections to sustain adherence to procedures. As a university instructor, I used continuous improvement as an integral part of teaching. I applied the Lean principles of creating value for the customer, eliminating waste, and respect for people to improve my courses. For example, reviewing the type and spacing of assignments to provide a steady work load for students, explicitly relating assignments to learning outcomes, and ensuring all assignments have a clear format and grading rubric are all continuous improvement processes for faculty.

Contact us and we’ll come and talk to you about how you can incorporate continuous improvement practices into your everyday activities.