Monday, July 16, 2018

Lean Leaders Meeting at Legrand Wiremold

I wanted to share with everyone a recent article written by Joe Rizzo. Director of the New England Lean Consortium, who visited my place of work recently.

The New England Lean Consortium is a dynamic, member-driven organization dedicated to advancing Lean in all sectors of our economy. Driven by members needs, the NELC can provide the philosophy, tools, and techniques to meet today's business challenges through members serving members, including but not limited to the following sectors: manufacturing, service/transaction, businesses, education, healthcare, and government.



The New England Lean Consortium held its June 2018 Lean Leaders Meeting at Legrand Wiremold in West Hartford, CT, on Thursday, June 28th. This was a Member only meeting as Legrand Wiremold, is not a member of the New England Lean Consortium. The NELC recognizes that not all the best practices in Lean and Operational Excellence reside in the member companies. Therefore, we visit non-member companies that are considered Centers of Excellence, or companies that are well down the road on their Lean Journey. Legrand Wiremold was prominently mentioned in the book, “Lean Thinking” by James Womack and Dan Jones. At the time the company was Wiremold and since been purchased by Legrand of France.



Michael Kijak, Plant Manager, and Timothy McMahon, Lean Champion, provided an extensive tour of the facility, and answered numerous questions along the way. All throughout the plant there was evidence of a strong Lean culture, employee engagement, and the implementation of Lean tools, philosophies and principles.

The plant operates on the philosophy of making a little bit of everything every day. This requires a flexible workforce, short setup times and quick changeovers of equipment. It also requires cells, minimum WIP, good flow, an efficient kanban system, and the extensive use of heijunka boxes to schedule the plant.


Our first stop was at a typical assembly cell, where all the tools, parts, supplies and materials were stored at point of use. Each operator assembled a full unit, to a given TAKT time. The operators kept track of their daily progress with the use of an hour by hour board.
Assembly Cell with "Chase the Rabbit" Technique    

A stamping press with a changeover time of ten to fifteen minutes    


“Pizza slice” listing of PPE requirements in each work area

Collection of Andon lights outside die maintenance shop  

Employee engagement through submission of improving ideas

Kanban cards     


Michael Kijak explaining the cards in the heijunka box


Daily performance indicators with status  

Daily accountability board with tasks and due dates for corrective action

As a reward for allowing the NELC to tour the facility, we conducted a Plus/Delta session to conclude the meeting. The Pluses were all the things that the attendees saw and liked. The Deltas were the improving ideas that the attendees offered to the host company.



As a token of appreciation, Michael was given a copy of a recently published book, “The New Collar Workforce” by Sarah Boisvert.


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Friday, July 13, 2018

Lean Quote: Oh, the Places You'll Go!

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"And will you succeed? Yes you will indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed." — Dr. Seuss

Of course there are no 100% guarantees in life, but when you have a positive mindset like the one this quote instills you’ve got a pretty good shot at getting it right.

Success begins in the mind, and if you go in with a defeatist attitude you’ll surely come up short. Just think of what you could accomplish if you had the belief that you would succeed.

You don’t need to be completely assured of success, it’s good to have a bit of a possibility of failure or it wouldn’t be interesting. Just go into it with the confidence that there’s a high chance of success for you.

People just give up too easily. They’re robbing themselves of their more interesting ideas by giving up too soon. Perseverance is what allows creative geniuses to keep pressing on through failures and bad ideas in order to uncover truly valuable concepts. No matter what your endeavor may be: if you aren’t invested to make it through the work until the end, you don’t stand a chance at succeeding. Persistence matters.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Seeing Beyond The Glass - The Lean Thinker's View


Nine years ago I posted the question Is the glass half full or half empty? Since that time I've seen many bloggers post about this very question. I wanted to revisit this again.

Is the glass half full of half empty? The optimists will likely say it is half full and the pessimists it is half empty. Maybe some will say it depends on whether you are pouring or drinking. The Lean Thinker says why is the glass is twice as large as it needs to be. 

The purpose of the question is to demonstrate that the situation may be seen in different ways depending on one's point of view and that there may be opportunity in the situation. A 'glass half full person' is an optimist, someone who always thinks that good things will happen. Meanwhile, as you might imagine, a 'glass half empty person' is a pessimist, someone who always thinks that bad things will happen.

The key word to describe the difference between them is ‘perspective’. Perspective is like a glass on the eyes. The things in reality remain the same but due to the glass being fitted on the eyes, one tends to see things differently.


Lean is about learning to “see” the wastes in front of us. It is a mindset of challenging status quo. A case of questioning the question you might say. It would be easy when presented with this example to say the glass is half full or half empty but if you observed the situation you might question how much water is needed. What does the customer want? If you understand the value from the customer’s point of view then you be in a position to eliminate everything else (the waste of the excess cup). This line of thinking is why the Lean Thinker questions why the glass is so large.

How do you answer the question "Is the glass half full of half empty"?

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Monday, July 9, 2018

Organize Your Email By Applying 5S Principles


Email has become an all too convenient way to communicate. Some much so for many of us that our inboxes are overflowing with new messages. There have been hundreds of productivity related strategies written about for dealing with email. I have even shared some of those myself. There must be a better way.

In Lean manufacturing we utilize 5S to improve the workplace organization. 5S is a systematic method of identifying, organizing, cleaning, maintaining, and improving your workspace. It is often referred to as the foundation or building block of a Lean transformation and aims to create a structured and disciplined approach to continuous improvement.

You can use the principles of 5S with your email to keep your inbox clear and your emails organized.

Step 1: Sort
First things first, it’s time to get rid of all of the messages that are old and obsolete. Be aggressive in this step. Don’t keep messages that you know will never be returned. If there are attachments that need to be saved or printed, do so now. Get rid of as much as you can.

Step 2: Set-in order
Straighten the inbox, as in "a place for everything and everything in its place." Find a place for all of your e-mails. The easiest and most obvious way is to create folders based on tasks or other buckets of work where emails can be neatly filed for future use. Put e-mails you need to act on in the proper folder. The goal is to remove as much from your inbox as possible.

Step 3: Shine
Since we’re talking about computer applications, there really isn’t the necessary cleaning activities that would be required in a physical workspace. Shine in 5S is cleaning to prevent future cleaning. E-mail 5S shine is to get rid of e-mails and prevent them coming back. Block spammers who make it into your inbox to prevent repeat offenders. Unsubscribe to newsgroups or other e-mail marketing rather than deleting them. Don’t reply to informational e-mails with "Thanks" and certainly don't CC everyone.

Step 4: Standardize
Standardize how you handle e-mail. This step is critically important as you will need to set rules for yourself to keep your e-mail account clean. Some rules you may consider:

  • Set a maximum number of e-mails in your inbox and once that number is exceeded, complete another sorting and sifting cycle. 
  • Check e-mail at certain times of day rather than playing whack-a-mole with every new "you've got mail".
  • Spend a set amount of time on e-mail checking.
  • Agree to limit who is Carbon Copied (CC) so that extra inbox material is not created.

The key is to set rules for yourself to keep things organized.

Step 5: Sustain
The final step in the process is setting up a quick audit process to make certain your rules are being followed and your account is staying in good shape. In the beginning, this audit may need to be more frequent to force the discipline to adhere. Overtime, it will become a learned way of working and you will be the envy of all your coworkers.

By applying 5S, the management of emails can be simplified and restructured. This will enable you to add value to your day and minimize the time spent on dealing with emails. You will no longer look at your e-mail workspace with dread and you will be far more responsive in replying to other’s requests. At the very least, this exercise is a great way to apply one of the cornerstone Lean tools to the knowledge world. Give it a try.

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Friday, July 6, 2018

Lean Quote: Don't Make Excuses If You Want to Succeed

On Fridays I will post a Lean related Quote. Throughout our lifetimes many people touch our lives and leave us with words of wisdom. These can both be a source of new learning and also a point to pause and reflect upon lessons we have learned. Within Lean active learning is an important aspect on this journey because without learning we can not improve.


"99% of failures come from people who make excuses." — George Washington

Excuses are rationalizations we make to ourselves about people, events, and circumstances. They are invented reasons we create to defend our behavior, to postpone taking action or simply as a means of neglecting responsibility.

There are many reasons why people make excuses. In fact, everyone has a variety of reasons for making them. However, we mostly only make excuses for the following key reasons:

Fear of Failure
Fear of Embarrassment
Fear of Success
Fear of Change
Fear of Uncertainty
Fear of Responsibility
Fear of Making Mistakes
Perceived lack of confidence or resources

Fear traps and locks us away in the confines of our comfort zone. However, for the most part, fear is very much misunderstood.

Our fears typically emerge due to a lack of understanding, information, resources, experience or perspective.

To overcome your excuses, you must first admit that you’re making them in the first place. This can, of course, be difficult. However, it’s entirely necessary if you want to avoid succumbing to the inevitable consequences. Ask yourself:

What excuses do I tend to make?

        What am I settling for?

        Why am I making these excuses?

Finally, list down the consequences that result from making excuses. Ask yourself:

         How do these excuses prevent me from moving forward?


         How do they cripple my ability to get what I want?

Living a life of excuses can have dire and lasting consequences. Not only will excuses prevent you from reaching your full potential, but they will also hold you back from recognizing opportunities, strengths, and skills you might have that could help you overcome your life’s problems.


If you don’t challenge yourself to reach new heights, you will never really know what you’re truly capable of.

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