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Continuous Improvement Tools

2 min read

To achieve success with Kaizen – the Japanese philosophy of change for the better – it’s beneficial to adopt some of the tools in the continuous improvement toolbox.

Kaizen Newspaper

A kaizen newspaper is a document that lists current ideas, problems, solutions, and responsible parties. The newspaper is usually in spreadsheet or chart format and it is posted so everyone can see it. The document also indicates which phase of the PDCA cycle an idea is in. The goal is to help keep people on track and prevent ideas from falling through the cracks.

Visual Boards

Some workplaces create a larger visual board where kaizen ideas are posted. Alternatively, this board can highlight kaizen successes, sort of like a kaizen “wall of fame.” Seeing these successes can do several beneficial things. It can motivate employees to find new ways to improve, it can make employees whose ideas were successful feel appreciated, and it can help everyone in the organization track progress over time. This tool can serve as a record of continuous improvement.

Suggestion Boxes

A suggestion box is a traditional method for soliciting ideas from employees, and some workplaces that use kaizen employ suggestion boxes – either physical or electronic – for submitting ideas. These boxes can be useful, but it is important for a workplace to make sure someone is checking the box regularly and responding to ideas quickly. It’s easy for suggestion boxes to get neglected, and when that happens employees may feel their ideas aren’t taken seriously. All ideas should receive a response.

Quality Circles

A quality circle is an activity that engages employees in improvement efforts regularly. Quality circles are small groups that have been used frequently in Japan. These groups often contain employees who perform similar functions in the company and they meet regularly to solve problems and discuss quality, cost, delivery, and other important topics. These circles can help people learn how kaizen works and reinforce the importance of paying attention to improvement possibilities. Implementing kaizen takes work. People need to be educated about kaizen and the role it will play in the workplace. Events may need to take place to demonstrate how improvement processes such as the SDCA and PDCA cycles work. Quality circles or other tools may be instituted and time may be scheduled for daily kaizen. Management, supervisors, and employees all need to know their roles and feel that their ideas are respected. At first, the improvements may seem small, but as time goes by, organizations using kaizen will likely see notable gains in the way processes work. Ultimately, this can lead to happier customers, which means a more successful business.


Going Lean: Push vs Pull Production

2 min read

Pull system in a facilityLean manufacturing aims to eliminate wastes and improve productivity, primarily by operating on a pull system known as just-in-time (JIT) production. The JIT method is opposite to push systems on the spectrum of supply chain management and can often be the barrier for a company going Lean.

In a push system, production is scheduled to meet the forecasted rate of demand. Also known as mass production, the push method has been around for centuries and while there are instances in which it might be beneficial, this kind of system can easily become a wasteful strategy. There are no limits on WIP and products are processed in large batches before moved down the production line or into storage. An inaccurate prediction can have a major impact on inventory levels or cycle times, and many organizations find themselves producing excessive inventory,

Pull systems on the other hand, are dependent on actual customer demand. The idea is that nothing is made, and no process is started without a submitted order from the customer. It’s virtually impossible for an organization to order materials and plan a strict pull system, which is where Heijunka comes in.  Developed as part of the Toyota Production System, Heijunka translates to mean production leveling. By leveling either by volume or type, you can develop a system that not only works for your specific product and facility but sets your organization up for Lean success.

JIT and Kanban

Arguably the most important tool in operating this kind of production method is Kanban, a tool also developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation. Kanban uses visual cues, like cards or bins, to trigger an action further down the production line. Processes (like value-added activities) only occur when the bin or card is received, and operators ensure only quality products are moving to the next stage. Kanban can be tailored to fit the needs of an organization, some companies just starting out may go with a 1-card system while others may choose to use a more sophisticated electronic system with barcodes and scanners.

Other tools you may want to be familiar with in a Kanban system are:

  • Kanban Boards: A simple visual representation of work in process. A basic board would usually be split into three different stages of “To Do,” “in Progress,” and “Completed.” People can quickly track orders as they move through the process and office departments can even utilize them for administrative purposes.
  • Other visual cues: Bins and cards don’t need to be the only visual trigger! Think outside of the box and use something like color-coded floor markings to indicate when something may need to be produced or ordered.

A system using JIT manufacturing and following the principles of Lean with a pull system will find their system is much more flexible. If demand fluctuates or market conditions shift unexpectedly, you will have an easier time adapting production accordingly. It ensures production is only happening effectively eliminating overproduction and over-processing, which can hide defects and cause a whole bevy of other wastes.


Muda, Mura, and Muri: The Three Wastes

2 min read

Mura Muda MuriIdentifying waste using the 3 Ms can help you more easily set goals and create conditions that avoid unnecessary repetition of efforts (muda), unevenness of those efforts (mura), or efforts that cause strain (muri).

By focusing improvement activities on eliminating the non-value-adding parts of the production process, balance between capacity and load can be achieved.

Muda refers to waste in the most basic sense: any activity that doesn’t add value. There are seven wastes of manufacturing identified as muda, each one a common cause of loss during production. It includes: defects, waiting, motion, inventory, overproduction, over processing, and transportation. These are relatively easy wastes to spot in your facility, but the concepts of mura and muri warrant a little more explanation. Let’s take a closer look.

Mura – Unevenness in process or production

Elements of Mura

Mura, when translated refers to unevenness or irregularity, specifically in production levels. occurs because of wasteful allocations of materials or people. For example, employees might be directed to work intensely during the morning shift, which results in a lack of work to do in the afternoon. This start-speed up-stop scenario can be unhealthy for both workers and machines and can lead to unnecessary fatigue, stress, breakdowns, and accidents.

Muri – Overburden of Assets

Elements of Muri

Muri is the consistent overburden of equipment, facilities, and people. Muri pushes machines or people beyond their natural limits, causing fatigue and stress and increasing the likelihood of an accident. Overburdening equipment can also lead to breakdowns and increased defects, which results in wasted materials and products.

Ask yourself…

When you head out on a Gemba walk, keeping muda, mura, and muri in mind can provide a useful starting point for looking at your operations. The questions below can help you determine whether these wastes and misuses of resources are present in your facility and what activities are not adding value for the customer.

What Is Creating Waste (Muda)?

Look for and identify:

What Is Creating Unevenness (Mura)?

Look for and identify:

  • Inconsistent output
  • Fluctuations in quality
  • Stop and Go processes
  • Accumulation and overproduction

What Is Creating Strain (Muri)?

Look for and identify:

  • Overburdened workers
  • Overburdened machinery
  • Unbalanced work loads

Poor Visibility = Poor Process and Outcome

Look for and identify:

  • Poorly defined directions
  • Confusing signals
  • Metrics that are not easy to read or understand

Muda, mura, and muri are three separate categories for waste, but are also heavily connected to each other; addressing one area of waste will affect the other two wastes. Every strategy in the Lean toolbox can be used to reduce these wastes. For instance, if you are looking for a way to level the production in your manufacturing line to eliminate the waste of overproduction, implementing a Kanban system is a visual system to ensure production only happens when needed. It will be important in your journey to Lean to analyze your facility and identify areas of wastes. Take a Gemba walk and talk to frontline employees and develop a plan to address these wastes.

Kaizen Case Study: Siemens Oostkamp

2 min read

Siemens Oostkamp produces electronic components such as relays, connectors, and coils. The combination of fewer orders from their parent company and increasingly intense global competition forced them to look for new markets.

On his first tour of the plant, the kaizen consultant asked the supervisors if specific information was available, such as failure rate or setup times, and the answer was always, “It’s in the computer.” But when asked to retrieve it, no one ever could. The first task was to get the management to understand the need to collect data and make this information visible and accessible. Without this data, there is no way to know where to start.

kaizen case studyThe management at Siemens Oostkamp overcame initial resistance to change with their hands-on approach. They knew that their place was in Gemba and continuously motivated their workers to collect data and review their work.

Within a few months, they had enough data to know where to start. To put the kaizen activities in motion, self-managed work teams were formed in which the goals of kaizen were carried out with methods that the teams developed themselves.

With each employee a part of a team, they became more conscious of problems on the line and were able to solve the problems themselves. With this new clarity, they suggested and implemented small, incremental changes. And using the newly collected data, they assigned themselves specific goals to shoot for.

5S, visual management, and just-in-time were the main kaizen tools utilized by the teams to achieve their goals. In areas where 5S was implemented, the machines and floors were spotless, and the machine layouts were changed for a more efficient process ow.

Visual management was evident everywhere. Large charts were displayed that showed plant goals with numerical data and trend charts for each item. Tools had specific, clearly marked homes, and floors were marked showing designated areas for supply carts and finished products.

The just-in-time model revealed that changeover times at the molding department were taking too long. They instituted a new procedure that minimized the batch size and the number of boxes of work-in-process, thus decreasing the changeover times.

So, did kaizen help Siemens Oostkamp?

→ They were able to reduce the cost of inventory by 30%. Lead time for their brake coils went from 12 days to half a day.

→ Before kaizen, they kept a three month inventory of cable connectors; this is no longer necessary because the lead time has been reduced to three hours.

→ The number of product types has been reduced by 33%. Storage area was reduced by 10%.

→ The employees are now problem solvers. When a defective product was found, it used to take days to find the problem. Now they can see it right away and make adjustments.

Those are the tangible results. What the numbers don’t show is a happier, more fulfilled staff that enjoys coming to work. That translates to fewer sick days, less employee turnover, and better safety. That’s a success by anyone’s standards.

5 Tips for Kaizen Continuous Improvement

4 min read

Implement Kaizen Continuous Improvement in 5 Steps or Less

KaizenKaizen, the Japanese term underlying the concept of “continuous improvement,” continues to dominate work flow theory and the training that improvement professionals receive when they look for ways to bring their charges ‘to the next level’. Of course, the traditional tools and teachings of Kaizen are time-proven and ultimately brilliant in their own right, but there are undoubtedly other factors that can influence the effectiveness of Kaizen.

Today, I want to focus on five contextual factors that a workplace manager or Lean/Six Sigma professional can do to help improve the way they, well, improve!  Contextual Kaizen involves bettering one’s self and one’s work environment to be better equipped to implement Kaizen in the first place. Some of these will pertain to very specific tasks or skills, while others are more about training your mind to view problems and improvement opportunities in a certain way. As with just about any piece of advice, these tips will work better when customized to your own operations, and some of them will be better suited for your business than others. Without further adieu, let’s jump right in!

Top 5 Tips to Make Kaizen Work for You

1. Don’t Do It All The Time, Just… Don’t

Kaizen Continuous Improvement SignConfused yet?  I’m actually talking about Kaizen itself, because one of the best ways to shut yourself off to new ideas, to get overwhelmed, or to get stuck into a solution or category of solutions that just isn’t working is to tunnel vision yourself into one pursuit. Creative industry professionals know that the best ideas usually don’t come from sitting at a desk thinking about the idea itself, they come from stimulating the brain in other ways.

While training and learning about Kaizen in a traditional sense are important, challenge yourself to completely get out of the house/office and dedicate some “outside time” to your continuous improvement efforts. The hardest part about this tip is that many people will disregard it as counter-intuitive, if you’ve got an issue that needs tackled, how is ignoring it going to help? And, really, I’m not telling you to ignore it, but to just try and draw inspiration from other things and places. Remember, the very first time a great idea was implemented, it had to be thought up. Sure, there were influences from previous iterations, but something truly innovative can’t be simply picked out of a book or online course. Find your golden acorn out in the open world.

2. Teach Others

Kaizen Small ImprovementsWhen it does come down to the booksmarts, one of the absolute best ways you can crystallize LSS teachings in your own mind is by teaching them to others. For example, when I was in college I tutored a student who was struggling in our basic calculus class. When he started doing better on his tests, I wasn’t all that surprised, but then something even more interesting happened:  I improved too. I went from A’s and B’s to straight A’s (and several 100% grades) for the rest of the semester!

Teaching others the skills you learn forces you to fully understand them. You can’t just breeze over things and think “yeah, yeah, I get it,” you have to really know what you’re talking about if you’re going to explain the ins and outs of it to others. In Kaizen, a great way to do this is to workshop with your employees and go through various hypothetical (or real) improvement scenarios. By doing this, you’re likely to not only improve your own knowledge but also help get people on board with your continuous improvement efforts as they’ll better understand both the means and objectives.

3. Find Other People’s Stuff That You Love, Document It

Not every single idea is going to be a game changer, but marginal improvements can be made in many aspects of your business just by simply observing what others are doing. This could be your direct competition, or companies in completely unrelated industries that are doing something you like.

When you’re at the store and come across packaging that catches your eye, slogan ideas that stick in your head, or see employees in another warehouse doing something that you think would work well in your own, document it. Take pictures and notes using some combination of a notepad/phone/camera as your current situation allows, then take these ideas back to the office and see if any of them could work for you.

4. Become A Entertaining Presenter

No really, become the Tony Robbins of the boardroom; get people pumped about your ideas!  Continuous improvement means continuous change, and change can be intimidating. While I’ve done plenty of articles on compliance amongst improvement efforts, a stand out factor is “selling” people on what you want them to do. While step number 2 (Teaching Others) is one way to do this, you probably won’t have time to teach everyone everything, after all, they do have other jobs to do!

Instead, take public speaking and even art classes, and learn to draw and illustrate your ideas effectively while talking about them at the same time. Continuity of ideas and confidence both inspire people to follow you, and these small things you can teach yourself will help you to exude both of those.

5. Improve Yourself First

The Kaizen Revolution Book

The Kaizen Revolution Book

You’ve probably noticed that many of these ideas ties into “self-improvement,” and that’s for good reason. One of the hallmarks of a true Kaizen expert is that they’re always evolving and keeping up with the latest trends and knowledge. In order to stay relevant and knowledgable, try your best to make a conscious effort to always improve yourself, much in the same way you want to improve a company.

Read daily blogs, subscribe to useful twitter feeds, join groups on LinkedIn that discuss continuous improvement strategies regularly, etc. Then go old school and buy books, CDs, tapes (wait, do those even still exist?), and whatever else you can get your hands on.

When it comes to Kaizen, don’t feel selfish putting yourself first – your ideas, and thus your workforce, bottom line, etc., will benefit from it greatly.

How Kaizen is Imperative to LEAN Success

4 min read

Kaizen is a Japanese term that relates to making continuous improvement in organizations through improving the process. Kaizen events have been met with opposition by many organizations because for it to work successfully, employees must step away from their jobs between three and five days to participate in the events. Rather than take a preventative approach, employers are more likely to use kaizen events to address problems retroactively. This approach is ineffective. To have the most impact in your organization, there should be some proactive assessments of the organization to achieve LEAN success.

What to Expect From a Kaizen Event

The three to five day events will consist of activities, which may include: brainstorming, training, documenting the current state of the organization, and defining problems and goals. Once these activities are complete, a kaizen event may address the implementation process, how to address a follow-up plan, and how to present results. The events will also teach organizations to celebrate successes and keep their employees motivated through rewards.

How Kaizen Events Have Been Used to Achieve LEAN Success

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) has been used in the past to improve equipment reliability. Product development process and product design manufacturability has been improved using kaizen events also. Some companies have used kaizen events to organize the workplace using 5S concepts or change a process using equipment. 5S can promote efficiency and productivity by sorting, straightening, shining, standardising, and sustaining processes to achieve the goal.

When kaizen events cannot solve a problem in an organization, Six Sigma analysis is often employed to reduce waste and yield improvement. In general, if a team needs to meet regularly over a period of time to solve a problem, Six Sigma is recommended. Otherwise, it will require only a kaizen team meeting.

During a kaizen event, employees are encouraged to come up with ideas that will achieve results and improve efficiency and productivity. In order for a kaizen event to be successful, several activities must occur or milestones must be achieved:1. Discover and Address Problems at the Source

During a kaizen event, team members must discover problems and create solutions to address them at the source. This will prevent the “band-aid effect” where problems keep reoccurring because the root of the problem was not eliminated. Kaizen events teach employees to avoid this problem, which leads to LEAN success.

2. Concentrate on Small Improvements for Immediate Results

Team members must concentrate on small improvements to get immediate results. This may involve the use of creative investments. Small improvements are less daunting and more achievable. Focus on creating small improvements for big overall results. This is important for LEAN success.

3. Make Better Use of Capacity and Capital

For LEAN success, team members must make better use of production capacity and capital. When production capacity is increased, more product can be produced as long as the process is efficient. They must also increase employee retention with a kaizen event. When new employees do not have to be constantly retrained, the processes remain more efficient and fewer defects are produced. LEAN success can be achieved when team members master this concept during a kaizen event.

4. Decrease Waste in the Production Process

Team members must work to decrease waste in all aspects of the production process. When waste is reduced, less money is spent trying to dispose of the waste and also on materials that created the waste. Plans can be devised at the Kaizen event to decrease or eliminate waste in the production process. This will lead to LEAN success.

5. Eliminate or Transform Existing Procedures

Team members must work to eliminate extraneous procedures or transform existing procedures. This will give the organization more productivity and efficiency and get team members one step closer to LEAN Success.

Keep in mind that the Kaizen approach involves applying best practices and using your employees strengths to grow your business. You can develop your competitive advantage by identifying how people can contribute to the business. Start by measuring all of the possible metrics and standardizing your work culture. This will help you address the problem and achieve success sooner.

How to Guarantee Success at Your Kaizen Event

1. Create a Cross-Functional Team and Involve Employees

Create a cross-functional team of employees that works in the process area where the kaizen event will be held. Members from other areas with a fresh perspective can also be invited. Operators should also be invited to facilitate communication throughout the organization. This will prevent confusion.

Many facilitators recommend placing a flip chart in the area where employees work. When ideas are posted before the event begins, discussions will be more fruitful. For the most success, employees must remain informed throughout the entire event and the operators should be evaluated after the event.

2. Plan Your Event in Advance

Most people fail to plan the event in advance, and the events become ineffective because there is no clear direction. LEAN success cannot be achieved in this instance. Thus, to ensure success objectives, deliverables, and metrics must be defined. Bring all the necessary supplies to the event such as post-it notes, paint, and tape. Be sure to reserve a space large enough for your event.

3. Spend More Time on the Floor than in the Classroom

Eighty percent of your time should be spend on the floor planning and designing. The remaining 20 percent of the time should be spent in the classroom. This will ensure the event is fruitful, which will lead to LEAN success. Keep in mind that a Vision event will require more classroom time.

4. Implement the Plan, Do, Check, Act/Adjust (PDCA)

Apply PDCA to your kaizen event for LEAN success. Plan what you are going to accomplish on each day. Then, review what you did each day. Next, determine the results, and determine what you plan to do the next day. Adjust the plan for additional success. Always follow up to determine the success of the event.

5. Stay Focused on the Event

Stay focused on the event and don’t let big issues deter you from completing the tasks in your organization. Any homework from the event should be minimal.

Kaizen events help organizations think long-term rather than short term. Organizations must learn how to view beyond just an operational point of view. Instead, they must realize that Kaizen is about cultural change. The concept created by the kaizen master, Masaaki Imai, in the 1980s is highly effective if applied properly. Organizations must use the concepts and learn how to avoid failure in applications that have not been successful in the past. LEAN success can be achieved when kaizen events are held and the plans are implemented. Try a kaizen event in your organization.

What is Kaikaku?

3 min read

When most people think of Lean ideologies and methodologies, they think of kaizen and continuous improvement first. However as one moves deeper into Lean, you begin to add new vocabulary and processes to your Lean tool bag. Today’s word of the day: kaikaku.

Most that know or have heard of kaizen think of it as a slow continuous improvement that is necessary to sustain a successful operation. Kaikaku, on the other hand, translates to “radical improvement or change.” While the two can coincide together, they do possess stark differences in their approach, vision, and subsequent results. Here is a comparison of the two:

Kaizen Continuous Improvement

  • Planning and execution timeline of hours to weeks
  • Smaller projects
  • Smaller staff and resources required
  • Faster results with small, individual contributions to the bottom line
  • Tactical

Kaikaku Large-scale, radical change

  • A lean initiative or event with a planning timeline of weeks to months, but execution can range from hours to weeks
  • Generally larger projects
  • More staff and resources required
  • Results are seen slowly, however with larger, coinciding and various contributions to the bottom line
  • Strategic

kaikaku can determine success or failure Both kaizen and kaikaku require a skilled, vested group of individuals that believe in the organization they are trying to improve. However, which approach your organization decides to implement will depend on their overall skill set and readiness for the change they are about to take on. The challenges both kaizen and kaikaku present are cannot be overlooked and must be addressed by management, prior to implementation.

The Challenge of Kaikaku

  • Increased resources and time: The amount of resources necessary for a successful kaikaku implementation is much larger than a normal kaizen event. Senior management must be engaged in the process due to the significance of the change about to occur. This will require them to set aside other tasks and make major decisions that could ultimately decide the fate of the organization, if gone wrong.
  • Takes creativity and capital: Kaikaku is supposed to lead to a revolutionary change that drastically improves the bottom line and/or value stream of the organization. This takes creative minds that can think outside the box, but also the capital to allow them to implement their creative ideas. Typically, a Lean process is supposed to do more with less, but in the case of kaikaku, it sometimes takes a little capital to provide the large scale change you’re looking for. However, the benefits are usually large with kaikaku, so the return on investment is worth it and seen faster than normal.

Swinging for the Fences

The risk/reward factor is significantly higher with kaikaku, over kaizen. If you’re a sports fan, think of baseball and the difference between a home run hitter and one that hits for a high average, with lots of base hits. The home run hitter goes up swinging for the fences every time. The reward is high because if they connect, the result is a minimum of one run for the team. The risk is that they strike out and your team now has an out for the inning. However, the one who hits for average is up there just trying to make contact and get on base. The reward is low because they may just get a single and never get further than first base, but the chances of them getting out is also low.

The baseball analogy might not click for everyone, but the point is; you can use them both to win. Baseball like all team sports, takes a team to win. Therefore, intertwining your singles and home run hitters can lead to tremendous success is done correctly.  The same could be said about kaizen and kaikaku.


In order for your organization to have success with kaikaku, you have to appreciate the importance and value kaizen has. If not, your organization’s ability to sustain the “radical” change, may fall flat on its face. When dealt with a problem or situation that requires a revolutionary change (kaikaku) to happen, you may not always get the initial results you were looking for. However through continuous improvement (kaizen), you can continue to push towards the results you were initially looking for.

The Ten Commandments of Kaikaku

By: Hiroyuki Hirano

  1. Throw out the traditional concept of manufacturing methods
  2. Think about how the new method will work, not how it won’t work
  3. Don’t accept excuses; totally deny the status quo
  4. Don’t seek perfection; a 50% implementation rate is fine as long as it’s done on the spot
  5. Correct mistakes the moment they are found
  6. Don’t spend money on kaikaku
  7. Problems give you a chance to use your brains
  8. Ask “why” five times
  9. Tens person’s ideas are better than one person’s knowledge
  10. Kaikaku knows no limits

Vocoli Takes Suggestion Box To New Level

3 min read

Has Vocoli saved the suggestion box?

The traditional suggestion box has long been thought of as a thing of the past. The dusty wood box that no one can usually find, sitting with a couple of broken pencils and some half doodled pieces of paper, has been in desperate need of an upgrade for years.

Vocoli, a product of a Brighton-based Web development firm Massachusetts Technology Corp, was launched in September and is attempting change the way you think about suggestion boxes.

Any company founded on the will to continuously improve needs voices to push it along. Often times, these voices tend to get choked out in a dusty box. They get forgot about, left for too long, and by the time they make it into the hands of someone who can make a difference, it’s a lost cause. In attempts to spark innovation, collaboration, and maybe most importantly, participation, Vocoli is a cloud based, virtual suggestion box that allows employees to submit suggestions, comments and ideas from anywhere, anytime, from essentially any device.

Vocoli is a pay-for-service software that allows organizations to offer a fully interactive platform for employees and managers to rate ideas, add comments and input additional data on how a particular idea impacted operations.

Vocali suggestion boxVocoli Benefits

Create Campaigns

A nice feature with the Vocoli software is the ability for leaders to target specific organizational challenges and allow the team to collaborate on finding a workable solution.

  • Set campaign start and end dates
  • Set reward amounts for motivation
  • See number of related ideas and pre- and post-campaign.

Social Collaboration

Contributors will have an option to improve each other’s ideas with the organization’s collective knowledge.

  • Discuss and rate ideas before submitting to management
  • View the latest and trending topics
  • Incorporate comments into the submission
  • Up- and down-vote to bring the best conversations to the top.

Established Workflow

Never lose a great idea again!

  • Program administrators can assign department heads to review ideas and then accept or decline them
  • Dashboard tools help quickly keep ideas progressing through each step of the process
  • Mange the idea process with reminders to department heads, follow-through and status tracking
  • Ideas can be set aside for further evaluation and clarity from the author.

User Friendly

Employees want something that’s user friendly and allows them flexibility. The interface Vocoli offers is easy-to-use, allowing contributors to focus on their creativity, instead of how to figure out how to use it.

  • Customizable screens to meet your organizations needs and audience
  • Desktop, tablet, and mobile compatible from any browser, anytime, anywhere.
  • Users can upload documents and images to clarify and support their ideas
  • Contributors can share credit with others
  • Save an idea and finish it later.

According to Boston Business Journal reporter Sara Castellanos, the company has about a dozen customers after the first few months and anticipate further growth in the upcoming year. Their target market, according to their CEO Richard Kneece, is for companies with more than 100 employees, but their site claims the benefits could help any organization.

We are trying to create an avenue.. to allow somebody who has these ideas to submit them in an organized way.

-Richard Kneece

Tools like these can be an encouraging sign to your employees. A sign that you care about their opinion and value their input on serious challenges facing your organization. Employees that feel like they are a contributing factor in the progression and continuous improvement effort, are more likely to put forth and more importantly, sustain the effort needed to make programs like these a valuable asset to your organization.

Engaging your employees is a critical part of your operations. The first one to put out a suggestion box years ago was forward thinking and innovative for the time, but over time, it became misused and abused. The Vocoli software is innovative and forward thinking as well, overtime, we will see if it can help to sustain improvement in organizations and keep them moving forward as well.

SDCA Cycle for LEAN

3 min read

continuous improvement meeting for the sdca cycleSDCA (Standardize, Do, Check, and Act) with LEAN principles. The SDCA cycle is simply a refinement of the PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, and Act) cycle. The goal of both processes is to stabilize production. Many companies use this process to improve their product or service. Here is what your company may want to know about this process.

1. LEAN Marketing with SDCA

Marketing cycles can be improved with iterative processes. Customer value is most often the focus of LEAN marketing with SDCA. When companies use LEAN combined with SDCA, they often have a greater degree of success.

2. Keep in Mind that Standardization Requires Tenacity

Improving a process, even with automation, is never easy. Once a process is standardized, it can become the foundation for a subsequent improvements or kaizen activity. No kaizen process can be established without some sort of standard work first. When companies follow this process, they can accomplish things faster, easier, better, and cheaper.

3. SDCA Ensures the Entire Organization is Following Procedure

SDCA process involves auditing to ensure that the procedures followed are standardized. The process requires every employee across the organization to adhere to the principles that will yield standardized work. If the procedure is not followed, there may be countermeasures to restore the process to normal after the reason for failure or lack of adherence is determined. Some of the most common reasons why procedures are not followed is because of willful disobedience, and insufficient training.

4. Employees Need Patience to Successfully Execute SDCA

Most experts require that employers experiment with standardized work for a period of time before best practices are implemented in writing. This will ensure that the process is repeatable by whomever reads the instructions and follows the process. When everyone can be instructed on how to consistently execute th process, then the process may be disseminated across the company. This is why it requires patience to successfully execute SDCA.

5. Andon Teaches Employees to Respect the Process

If the process is not sufficient or it’s not consistently repeatable, some employers apply andon. The andon pull will solicit leaders attention and call them to escalate the process when necessary. Problem solving begins the andon process. If you respect the process, then you’ll have better results and better lean leaders.

6. Pay Attention to Sales SDCA

When you consider sales SDCA, you’ll recognize the areas where you can improve in your processes. This is an important part of creating a valuable product that has a high degree of consistency with the public. Tactical execution or SDCA may involve the help of a creative team, but its not the wisest decision. These processes are often more inefficient.

The SDCA Cycle for LEAN

The SDCA cycle for LEAN is necessary in any organization that values perfection. Companies like General Electric, and Motorola have implemented these processes and have improved their productivity levels and reduced their error levels significantly.

Even Toyota has benefitted from this process by producing a vehicle that outlasts most vehicles on the road. The vehicles have longevity that is not present with and other type of process available. Every company should strive to improve their processes and produce products that outshine and outlast the competition. This is what the SDCA cycle for LEAN can do for your company.

Study the basic principles of SDCA and learn how the process works for your company. Keep in mind that it will require patience and perseverance to implement the process. When the objectives are completed and the process is perfected, your company will run smoother, and your productivity levels will improve. A better product should yield more sales and increase revenue, and that’s what business is all about. Isn’t it?

A Restaurant Experience Worth Mentioning

3 min read

We’ve all had a bad experience at a restaurant. It’s nothing we or the restaurant ever hope for, but it’s the risk we take each time we venture out for a meal. We generally choose a restaurant for one of two reasons, the food or the atmosphere and set our expectations accordingly. For my most recent dining experience I went with the latter and made my way to Buffalo Wild Wings. There were multiple sporting events on that I wanted to watch and they were all on at the same time. Seeing how I only have one television and they have more than I can count, it seemed like the right choice at the time.

A Three Hour Wait!

Long restaurant Wait Apparently, so did everybody else in town. After circling the parking lot for about 15 minutes looking for a parking spot, I was greeted by a hostesses inside to tell me the good news. A three hour wait! Yes that’s correct, our estimated wait time was as long as the game itself! She did say it with a smile though.

After putting my jaw back in place from it dropping to the floor, the hostess asked for my phone number. I gave it to her without hesitation and proceeded to wonder what I was going to do. That’s until about two minutes later when I received a text message saying that I had been added to the Buffalo Wild Wings waitlist.

Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t even have to be there and I could be notified that my table was ready through a text message. In fact, inside the text message was a link to a webpage that showed my place in line and how long I had been waiting.

Lean in a Restaurant?

Why not!

In working with and writing about the wide word of Lean, I was immediately drawn to this new method of handling large amounts of guests in a restaurant. I started running through the process and thinking about all the ways this simple, yet powerful new tool could be interpreted by a Lean enthusiast.

  • Less Waste: No more writing down names on paper and then having to call them out when a table is available. Gone are the plastic alert buzzers that require additional equipment and power to run them. All that’s needed, is what the restaurant and customer already have, a computer and a cell phone.
  • Enhanced Customer Experience: With up to the second information at the palm of your hands, you know exactly where you are in the order and how much time you have until your table is ready.
  • Keeps Continuous Improvement In Focus: Being able to track your customer wait times electronically with no additional software should provide the restaurant with critical information.  This should help improve wait times in an efficient and accurate manner.
  • Improved Communication: It’s a two-way system which allows the customer to text the restaurant back or if you would like to call, the phone number is included in the original text.

A Better Way To Dine

Not sure if it was the right thing to do, but my guest and I decided to walk down to another restaurant showing the games and grab an appetizer while we waited for our text message. We continued to hang out at the neighboring restaurant while monitoring our status on my cell phone. As we moved towards the top, we walked back over. Sure enough, after walking back into BWW I received a text message that our table was ready. We ended up staying there for the rest of the game and most of the following, but if it wasn’t for this new service, we more than likely would have not come back at all.

The technology the restaurant used was from Firespotter Labs called NoshList Premium. After doing a little research, it turns out this service is now being used by over 1600 restaurants nationwide. Other chains include Red Robin and Gourmet Burgers.

The full list of features include:

  • Unlimited Two-Way Texting
  • Table Number Assignment
  • Large Party Functionality
  • NoshGuest Autofill
  • In-App Statistics
  • Designated Local Phone Number
  • 30-Day Exportable Analytics
  • Weekly Email Summaries
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