Creative Safety Supply
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

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 side-by-side 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







1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Jim Womack’s Top Misconceptions of the Lean Movement

3 min read

This fall marks the 25th anniversary of the Lean movement which continues to revolutionize the manufacturing industry and is now spreading into other industries as well. Jim Womack, former MIT researcher and well-known founder of the Lean movement was a keynote presenter at the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) in Toronto last month.

Womack was introduced by CME president Jayson Meyers, who said he is “someone who has changed the world” by launching the Lean revolution. In response, Womack stated “all I have done is repackage stolen goods, I just tell stories.”

He’s done more than just tell stories though. Womack has authored three books and wrote countless essays regarding Lean. His book titles include:

  • The Machine that Changed the World: The Story of Lean Production
  • Lean Thinking, Lean Solutions
  • Gemba Walks

The growth of Lean over the last 25 years has prompted several non-manufacturing industries to adopt Lean techniques and processes. It’s popularity and progress has actually come as a surprise to Womack.


I’m surprised we’ve made as much progress as we have, with so much misunderstanding of what we [the leading Lean gurus] have been saying.

Jim Womack

Jim Womack’s top misconceptions of the Lean movement:

Misconception No. 1: “People heard that Lean is a cost-cutting exercise.” Womack wanted to make it clear that the methods his team studied at MIT were geared towards producing more output, with less waste. This was meant to be less time wasted, space, operating costs, capital expenditures, and worker injuries. “People think it’s a headcount reduction system, people heard the less, but they didn’t hear the more,” Womack added.

Misconception No. 2: “People thought it was a book about factories.” Womack felt his first book The Machine that Changed the World, in regards to the Toyota Production System was interpreted to be more about factories than anything else. He went on to point out that his book included chapters on managing customers, how to listen to your market, and running your entire enterprise on Lean principles. “You have to read the other four-fifths of the book,” Womack said if you want to understand that Lean is not just about production.

Misconception No. 3: “Most people think Lean is a within-the-walls activity to fix your company.” In fact, as Womack points out, Lean is at its best when your supply-chain partners team up to reduce inefficiencies and maximize flow as well. “It is impossible for you to get very far when the people in your value stream don’t get any better,” Womack said.

Misconception No. 4: “Lean is an improvement process production can do — management doesn’t have to do anything. Management can ‘check the box’ and move on.” Womack went on to add that lean required continuous co-operation at all levels, with upper management building two-way communications and trust with staff, restructuring to support decision-making at lower levels, shepherding investment in Lean projects, and generally championing Lean initiatives.

Lean isn’t going away, at least not in the foreseeable future, but it is up to those adopting Lean’s methods to truly embrace it’s methodology if they want to have success. There is no reading between the lines with Lean. The proof is in the work laid out by pioneers like Womack and organizations like Toyota who have shown that Lean does equal success.


I am a modest optimist. I think people and societies learn more slowly than they should. In the long-run battle for competitiveness, the winners will be those organizations that get better, faster than anyone else.

Jim Womack

Free 5S guide and poster









Information used in portions of this post were from a post on by Rick Spence.



1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Red Sox Lean Way To Title

4 min read

Red Sox Win Their Way

The 2013 Major League Baseball season came to a roaring end in Boston last week, crowning its 106th World Series Champion on the sacred Fenway Park grounds. For the Boston Red Sox, it was their third title in ten years and eighth overall, fourth behind the Oakland Athletics (9), St. Louis Cardinals (11), and New York Yankees (27). It was also the first time they clinched a title at home since 1918, which made it that much sweeter for one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of sports.

Boston Red SoxBut does this all have to do with Lean?

What is Lean?

Simply put, Lean is about creating the most value for your customers with the fewest resources. There are several processes and methodologies behind Lean that give companies the tools necessary to pursue such goals. However, for the purpose of this analogy, we will stick to the basics and break down how the Red Sox went from worst to first in a little over a year, using the most basic Lean concept of all –eliminating waste.

Epic Collapse

To understand exactly how the Red Sox went from a laughing stock cellar dweller, to one of the best sporting stories of 2013, you have to go back to the 2011 season.

On August 27, 2011, the Red Sox held a two game lead over their rival New York Yankees in the division and a nine game lead in the wild card (final playoff spot) race over the Tampa Bay Rays. The season was nearly over and looking great when the team literally self destructed. They went on to lose 21 of their final 29 games in what was one of the biggest late season collapses in sports history.

Stories of beer drinking in the clubhouse during games, players who didn’t care, and a manager who had lost control of his team all surfaced throughout the media.

How did management respond?

About half way through the slump they decided to buy all the players $300 headphones and have them out on the owner’s yacht for a private night to “re-group.” Surprisingly enough, this was not the motivation the team with a $161 million payroll needed.

The season ended terribly for the Red Sox. They spent money like it was growing on trees in 2011 and had nothing to show to their fans (customers) for it.

First elimination of waste: Part ways with manager and bring in a fresh face to try and change the culture.


The 2012 season brought new life to the Red Sox. The offseason was spent in turmoil and mostly answering questions about the previous seasons collapse. Needless to say, just getting back on the field again was a win for the club. They were a preseason favorite and with the third highest payroll in baseball at just over $173 million, the fans were expecting big things.

The new manager was tough and hard-nosed, a complete opposite to the previous manager. Upper management felt the club house needed this change to eliminate the “waste” that formed at the end of the 2011 season.

Quickly though, 2012 started much like how the 2011 season ended and was not looking good for Red Sox nation. The 2012 season was looking like a complete waste and the fans were left feeling like they were not getting the product they anticipated.

The Trade

Most trade deadlines in sports come and go in sports with a few trades here and there, but nothing to out of the ordinary. However, on August 25, 2012, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox managed to pull off one of the biggest trades in sports history. The Red Sox sent four players (some of which who were at the front of the 2011 waste issues) to the Dodgers and more importantly, cleared up nearly $270 million in payroll –massive waste elimination.

The team finished in last place and lost its most games in a season since 1965. To some, this trade was seen as a sign that they had given up and were about to enter a long rebuilding phase, but the Sox would have the last laugh. The Red Sox also wasted no time firing their first year manager.  –more waste eliminated.


For the first time in years, the Red Sox were on no one’s radar to win a pennant. They had their lowest payroll in years ($159 million) and a manager that few had even heard of. They stayed away from the big name free agents and instead, brought in pieces they felt could help them win while building a culture that was sustainable throughout a season. The fans had low expectations for win totals, but were desperate for a good product on the field.

What happened next was one of the biggest surprise stories the world of sports had seen in years. Even at the halfway point in the season, skeptics doubted the Red Sox hot start and predicted them to fall out of their first place position before the season was over.

The Sox never did look back though. They finished tied for the leagues best record and stormed through the playoffs, eventually defeating the St. Louis Cardinals four games to two, in route to their eighth and  maybe most unprecedented title in franchise history.

Red Sox and Lean

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide

I’m gonna go out on a limb here and assume that no one in the Red Sox organization picked up a Lean handbook or attended a Lean conference and decided to start running things differently as a result. However, the idea is still the same. It’s a true testament to how powerful a transformation can be when you start dedicating yourself to eliminating waste and improving the culture around you.










1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Why Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED)?

3 min read

The path towards continuous improvement in your lean journey is not always as clear as you’d like it to be. Many of the processes and methodologies behind Lean take time before your organization has success with them. It’s a learning process well worth the investment, but can be frustrating at times. Same goes for the Lean process known as Single Minute Exchange of Die (SMED). The increased efficiency and reduction of costly inventory that results from SMED, only comes when your organization has fully committed and dedicated the time to fully understand the process.

Background of Single Minute Exchange of Die or SMED

SMEDThe SMED process was developed by Dr. Shigeo Shingo in Japan during the sixties and early seventies at Toyota. Dr. Shingo was given the challenge of increasing production capacity without purchasing new equipment. His research at first was mostly spent observing machines in action and trying to understand how to make them run faster. However, this was not giving him the information he was looking for.

To his surprise, his aha moment came when he observed a machine sitting idle. While spending all the time focused on the machine in action, he failed to realize the lack of emphasis on the machine’s cycle time. When a production order was complete the machine would lay idle while workers slowly gathered the materials for the next order. Dr. Shingo then realized that in order to achieve full production capacity, you have to reduce setup and changeover time.

His new focus led him to realize that changing production equipment from the last good piece to the first good piece, should take less than 10 minutes. Which is where the term “Single Minute Exchange of Dies” (SMED) came from.

What Can SMED Do For You?

Most people refer to SMED today as “quick changeover” or “setup reduction.” Even though it was originally developed to improve die-press and machine-tool setups, the concept applies to all changeovers in all types of product setups.

In the book Quick Changeover Simplified, authors Fletcher Birmingham and Jim Jelinek offer six reasons why a quick changeover process like SMED will help benefit your company. They are as follows:

  • Simplify your manufacturing process. A quick setup and changeover program simplifies processes and makes manufacturing jobs easier and more fulfilling for employees. This leads to happier employees, which leads to a lower turn-over rate.
  • Improve the quality of products. When you define, simplify, and control your manufacturing processes, the end result will be a better, higher quality product.
  • Increase throughput. A quick setup program allows an increase in throughput, helping to improve deliveries. Improved deliveries help customers sell more products, thus increasing their need to order more products from you to keep up with demand.
  • Permit smaller lots. The old rule of thumb was to produce goods in large lots because long setup times make it costly to change the process frequently. However producing large lots for this reason has several disadvantages, including:

~Inventory waste: storing what doesn’t sell costs money and ties up company resources without adding value.
~Quality loss: storing unsold inventory increases the chance that it will have to be scrapped or reworked.
~Delay waste: customers must wait for the company to produce entire lots, rather than the quantity they need.
~Non-standardized setups: Infrequent setups often aren’t standardized; thus they are difficult and risky.

  • Make your company more competitive. A quick setup and changeover program reduces the time , cost, and resources associated with switching from one manufacturing job to the next. Any savings you have can then be passed along to your customer to make you that much more competitive.
  • Save jobs. Not implementing a quick setup program makes your company noncompetitive because it needs to absorb the cost of lost potential savings that could have benefited your company and customers.

These benefits of SMED are just the start of the continued improvement you will see to your facility in the long and short term. Stay tuned for more on SMED, including tips on how to implement SMED into your Lean facility.


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

An Engaged Employee is a Productive Employee

3 min read

Get the most out of each employee

To measure the success of an organization, you don’t have to look much further than the employees that make it go. Are they happy to be there? Do they take pride in their work? Can they acknowledge they’re a part of something bigger? The answer to these questions will more often than not, be dependent upon your employee’s level of engagement.

Employee If you’re a Lean organization, then you know first hand how import an employee’s level of engagement is to your culture and success of your business. Creating a culture where each and every employee is equally engaged is a challenge that few have the answers for, but all are in search of.

So what do you do? First off, you need to have a complete understanding of the dynamics that make up your organization’s population. You don’t need statistics, raw data, charts, or any kind of number for that matter. In fact, just throw the numbers out the window and engage your employees with the same energy that you expect from them.

To get started, seek out the employees who are visibly the most productive and find out what makes them tick. Find the disinterested employee and ask them what’s on their mind. This is the type of information that moving forward, will help you develop the tools to get the engagement you need from each employee and increase productivity along the way.

Easier Said Than Done

Maybe, but in a Lean organization, every employee is a valuable asset and should be treated as such. This type of respect and trust goes a long way when you’re trying to build a culture that everyone feels equally a part of.

A culture, like any ecosystem has many dynamic parts that are always changing and evolving. In order to understand its needs and help it thrive, you need to be on the ground level to help push it along. You can’t do this from an office or a cell phone, you need to get to the “gemba,” get to the front lines and be the motivator that employees want to model themselves after.

Bring People Together

The difference between the employee who does the minimum amount of work to the one who puts in everything they have every day, may be smaller than you think once you start digging.

These same two employees may despise each other on the job because of their differences in work ethic, but given the opportunity outside the typical work setting, and you might find the two have more in common than they thought.

The more company functions you can promote, will go a long way in building your culture and engagement among your employees. From the company softball team, to the Friday BBQ, these type of events bring employees together that might have never spoken to one another. This allows them the opportunity to engage with one another, building solid relationships that can help motivate and improve effort in the workplace.

Providing opportunities that bring employees together not only builds employee moral, but shows that you care about your employees. You can’t expect an employee to fully engage themselves into your organization if they feel like just another body. Make them feel a part of something bigger and watch the transformation unfold.


Interesting Numbers

A survey by the consulting firm BlessingWhite shows the value of an engaged employee to your organization.

  • 40 percent of employees reported feeling engaged in 2012. A 33 percent increase from 2011.
  • 55 percent said they “definitely” intend to stay in their jobs. With “intent to stay” being an indicator of their commitment to company success. 12 percent said “no way.”
  • 48 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they have career opportunities with their employer.
  • 74 percent of engaged workers agree or strongly agree that they trust their manager. For disengaged workers, the number was just 14 percent.


It stands to reason that managers who develop awareness of trust and how to earn it will have much greater success in engaging their team members.


Free Kaizen Guide











1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

Eight Steps To Practical Problem Solving

4 min read

The Toyota Way To Problem Solving

The art of problem solving is constantly trying to evolve and be re-branded by folks in various industries. While the new way might very well be an effective method in certain applications. A tried and true way of identifying and solving problems is the eight steps to practical problem solving developed by Toyota, years ago. The system is structured, but simple and practical enough to handle problems of the smallest nature, to the most complex issues.

Using a fundamental and strategic way to solve problems creates consistency within an organization. When you base your results off facts, experience and common sense, the results form in a rational and sustainable way.


The Eight Step Problem Solving Process

  1. Clarify the Problem
  2. Breakdown the Problem
  3. Set the Target
  4. Analyze the Root Cause
  5. Develop Countermeasures
  6. Implement Countermeasures
  7. Monitor Results and Process
  8. Standardize and Share Success

problem solving The eight steps to practical problem solving also include the Plan, Do, Check and Act (PDCA) cycle. Steps one through five are the planning process. The doing is found in step six. Step seven is the checking . Step eight involves acting out the results of the new standard.

This practical problem solving can be powerful tool to issues facing your organization. It allows organizations to have a common understanding of what defines a problem and what steps are going to be taken in order to overcome the problem efficiently.

The Eight Steps Broken Down:

Step 1: Clarify the Problem

A problem can be defined in one of three ways. The first being, anything that is a deviation from the standard. The second could be the gap between the actual condition and the desired condition. With the third being an unfilled customer need.

In order to best clarify the problem, you have to see the problem with your own eyes. This gives you the details and hands-on experience that will allow you to move forward in the process.

Step 2: Breakdown the Problem

Once you’ve seen the problem first hand, you can begin to breakdown the problem into more detailed and specific problems. Remember, as you breakdown your problem you still need to see the smaller, individual problems with your own eyes. This is also a good time to study and analyze the different inputs and outputs  of the process so that you can effectively prioritize your efforts. It is much more effective to manage and solve a bunch of micro-problems one at a time, rather than try and tackle a big problem with no direction.

Step 3: Set the Target

Step three is all about commitment and focus. Your attention should now turn towards focusing on what is needed to complete the project and how long it will take to finish. You should set targets that are challenging, but within limits and don’t put a strain on the organization that would hinder the improvement process.

Step 4: Analyze the Root Cause

This is a vital step when problem solving, because it will help you identify the actual factors that caused the issue in the first place. More often than not, there are multiple root causes to analyze. Make sure you are considering all potential root causes and addressing them properly. A proper root cause analysis, again involves you actually going to the cause itself instead of simply relying on reports.

Step 5: Develop Countermeasures

Once you’ve established your root causes, you can use that information to develop the countermeasures needed to remove the root causes. Your team should develop as many countermeasures needed to directly address any and all root causes. Once you’ve developed your countermeasures, you can begin to narrow them down to the most practical and effective based off your target.

Step 6: Implement Countermeasures

Now that you have developed your countermeasures and narrowed them down, it is time to see them through in a timely manner. Communication is extremely important in step six. You’ll want to seek ideas from the team and continue to work back through the PDCA cycle to ensure nothing is being missed along the way. Consider implementing one countermeasure at a time to monitor the effectiveness of each.

You will certainly make mistakes in throughout your problem solving processes, but your persistence is key, especially in step six.

Step 7: Monitor Results and Process

As mistakes happen and countermeasures fail, you need a system in place to review and modify them to get the intended result. You can also determine if the intended outcome was the result of the action of the countermeasure, or was it just a fluke? There is always room for improvement in the problem solving process, but you need to be able to recognize it when it comes to your attention.

Step 8: Standardize and Share Success

Now that you’ve encountered success along your problem solving path, it is time to set the new processes as the new standard within the organization and share them throughout the organization. It is also a good time to reflect on what you’ve learned and address any possible unresolved issues or troubles you have along the way. Ignoring unresolved issues will only lead to more problems down the road.

Finally, because you are a true Lean organization who believes continuous improvement never stops, it is time to tackle the next problem. Start the problem solving process over again and continue to work towards perfection.

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide












1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Self-Checkout: Efficient or Added Waste?

5 min read

It’s a Love/Hate Thing

Self-Checkout machines have come under a lot of scrutiny of late for many reasons. The biggest being the question of their efficiency.

A recent report from Dechert-Hampe Consulting, notes that about 85% of American shoppers have used a self-checkout machine for a purchase (almost as many as have used ATMs), and surprisingly embraced the technology for its convenience and speed. I say surprising, because while I myself try to use self-checkout machines as much as possible it is very rare to not find someone struggling with their self-checkout experience. Whether you like them or not, the clerk-less grocery process is worth another look, seeing how they seem to be popping up more and more — at least for now.

U.S. supermarkets have a rich history with Lean concepts. When Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda and their chief engineer, Taiichi Ohno first came to the U.S. after World War II, they set out to study Henry Ford’s manufacturing empire for ideas. However, the three were unimpressed. Their goal was to find methods for eliminating waste and felt Ford’s methods failed to address this directly. The three didn’t leave the states empty handed though. They visited a Piggly Wiggly supermarket and were thoroughly impressed. In fact many Lean concepts still in place today, came from their observations at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket.

We’ve come along way from the Piggly Wiggly days, but have we improved? Are self-checkout machines an improvement to our shopping experience or are they just more of the waste our friends from Japan were looking to eliminate?

“Please Remove Item From The Bagging Area”

Self-checkout problems For the time being, big corporations seem to be split on self-checkout’s ability to add efficiency to your grocery experience.

Albertsons, Costco and Big Y have all recently decided to pull self-checkout machines from their stores after evaluating their performance over the past few years in specific locations.

Costco CEO Craig Jelinek believes that humans are just more efficient and based his decision to eliminate the machines over the fact that he felt his employees do a better job than the machines.

An internal study by Big Y revealed that delays in self-checkout lanes were caused by customer confusion over coupons, payment methods, theft (intentional and accidental), misidentifying produce and baked goods as less expensive goods, and other issues that ultimately led to the decision to remove the machines.

Wal-Mart however, has decided to expand it’s self-checkout service to its customers. The company reached a deal with NCR Corp. that will have 10,000 more machines in 1,200 stores by 2014.


Our multiple checkout options give us a unique advantage to provide our customers with the quick, easy and convenient checkout experience they tell us they want.

Jeff McAllister, senior vice president of innovation at Walmart U.S.

Big corporations may disagree as to their efficiency, but they’re still coming. The London based research group RBR forecasts that the number of globally installed self-checkout machines will rise from 170,000 in 2012 to 320,000 by 2018. With NCR Corp. being the world’s largest vendor of self-checkout machines, accounting for 70 percent of the total shipments in 2012.

Dollars and Sense

The machines themselves are not cheap. They start at around $20,000, but compared to the money spent on staffing a register, over time could be a big savings. Studies also show that just because the machine has replaced the human in the front of the store doesn’t necessarily make the human disposable. In fact, some actually claim that they are more efficient because they can use their employees in other areas of the store that lacked attention. They claim their stores are cleaner, more organized and shelves get stocked faster among other things.

There are side effects. Aside from the “accidental” entering of the banana code instead of the expensive coffee, stores are missing out on potential revenue that traditional register systems have been banking on for years. Front-end merchandising has been a major source of revenue for many supermarkets, but studies indicate that self-checkout lines are lacking in this category. Another study by Dechert-Hampe found that only 22% of self-checkout lanes had merchandising that could be characterized as good or excellent and 20% had no merchandising at all.

Front-end research suggests that getting self-checkout merchandising right, can pay off and potentially improve checkout sales by 40% or more.

Self-Checkout Competition?

self-checkout competition

In an era where an expensive high-tech purchase is outdated the day after your purchase, it should come as no surprise that a new technology is starting to gain interest in grocery checkout services. In a small northwest town of Snoqualmie, Washington, a mobile self-checkout service has been successfully tested and is ready for expansion.

QThru has developed an app that allows shoppers to scan barcodes as they shop and then check out by entering their pass code and scanning a QR-code at a QThru kiosk machine. Users would have to first download the iOS or Android app, fill in their credit card details and they’re ready to go. The program is currently being tested among 14 more grocery stores in the Seattle area and the results are soon to come.

The cost to the store is “several thousand dollars” for the QThru hardware, and there is a monthly service charge to go with it.

 The Verdict

I think it’s safe to say the jury is still out on whether or not a self-checkout system adds efficiency to the store’s process or the shopper for that matter. Like with any Lean process, it seems a majority of the success lies in the implementation. The store’s that are having success have a plan and work continuously to improve upon it.

The machines do take up a lot of valuable floor space. If the stores can’t figure out a way to capitalize on the space, the big bulky machines may just end up being waste. It’s one thing to try and make your customers experience better, it’s another to lose money in doing so.

Free Kaizen Guide Some suggest placing an employee at the self-checkout kiosk at all times. They feel this might be an added value to the customer in terms of efficiency, but it is also defeating the purpose of the machines being there in the first place, thus creating waste.

Where are grocery experience goes from here is anyone’s guess, but as far as self-checkout goes, there is still lots of room for improvement. Whether we are scanning our groceries with our iPhones or Google Glasses in the future, it still needs to be a process of efficiency, not waste. The initial idea of self-checkout was great at the time, but those times are quickly changing. The next couple years will be the make or break the self-checkout industry. It will ultimately come down to it’s ability to be more efficient than anything else out there.

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor:

People have lots to say about self-checkout machines. Here’s a few opinions (in a 140 characters or less) on the new technology.




1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Leader Standard Work

3 min read

At the core of any Lean philosophy is the pursuit and sustainment of continual improvement. However, this continues to be a struggle for many Lean transformations as they attempt to implement these processes into their culture. Part of the problem, lies in the hands of the leaders that attempt to push new agendas into their organization. Leaders can make or break a Lean culture. With the help of Leader Standard Work (LSW) the make, is far more a reality than the break.

Leader Standard WorkLeader Standard Work requires a whole new mindset in your leader’s routines. It takes the leader from the boss’s chair to the coaches corner, promoting a show, not tell type of attitude. When leaders mimic the behavior they wish to see, it gives everyone else an example that they can use to establish their own actions for best practices.

The beauty of LSW is that it fits perfectly into Lean and especially Kaizen concepts, instilling a sense of ownership, accountability, empowerment and responsibility throughout the entire organization. This mentality is the glue in many organizations that holds the culture together and promotes an attitude that believes continuous improvement is possible at all times.


To standardize work methods is the the sum of all the good ways we have discovered up to present. It therefore becomes the standard. Today’s standardization is the necessary foundation on which tomorrow’s improvement will be based. If you think of standards as confining, then progress stops.

Henry Ford

Leader Standard Work

Leader Standard Work is the repetitive pattern of activities that represent the current least wasteful method of planning and controlling normal business processes. In simplest terms, LSW is a check-list of leadership activities that are performed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  Once something becomes repetitive it can become standardized and taught to anyone. A lot of a leader’s standard work will focus on specific activities where the work is being done (Gemba), but it is also important to set aside time in your routine for continual improvement as well.

The key is the repetition. Doing this daily will not only confirm that work is being done correctly, but also ensure that everyone is being held accountable for working up to standard, including leaders. The idea sounds simple enough, but it can be quite the task to implement.


Components of LSW

1. Auditing:

  • Your front line is the start of your standard work tasks. The supervisor starts a LSW cycle by verifying direct reports from the front line.
  • Supervisors then can report to their superior or director. The director’s standard work entails the verification of work tasks completed by the supervisor. From there, the director is able to report back to their superior or administrator.
  • The administrator reports to their superior and so on.
  •  This creates an interlocking layer of accountability, laying a foundation for sustainability.

2. Expectations

  • Define outcome metrics that indicate the department is achieving success.
  • Assign the characteristics and attributes to a process that help achieve the desired outcomes for success.
  • Define the behaviors that help achieve those outcomes.
  • Have controls in place to ensure the desired behaviors are present every day, in every situation.
  • Determine how you as a leader will verify these expectations are being met.

3. Tasks

Three categories of leadership tasks include:

  1. Scheduled tasks- puts the appropriate audits in place to verify disciplined adherence to the process
  2. Unscheduled but predictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets
  3. Unscheduled and unpredictable tasks- ensures adherence to service level targets and does not interrupt already scheduled tasks.

 Moving Forward

Implementing Leader Standard Work requires a culture change within the culture. It truly takes dedication and true leadership skills to be successful at it. However, the end result is in many cases is the key to sustaining other Lean methods that lack the checks and balances that LSW provides.

Free Kaizen Guide

Free Kaizen Guide

Once you have laid groundwork and developed the right mindset, the rest will fall into place. Established standardized routines keep goals in focus and more obtainable than before, especially with the use of visual tools to remind you. The use of visual tools to highlight the required minimum standard of work will enhance motivation. When everyone is able to see the standardized tasks, accountability becomes that much more important.

Photo-4404744 or 2440227

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Gemba Academy Training Review

4 min read

Gemba Academy Review

How do you really know which online training course is best for you and your organization? There is an abundant amount of literature, DVDs and websites out there that claim to be the “best” way to introduce or keep you on the path to continuous improvement, but how to you really know which one is best for you? I have recently heard a lot of good things about Gemba Academy and their online training program for Lean and Six Sigma. Gemba Academy offers a free three day trial period into their school, so I decided to see for myself what they were all about.

Designed With Lean In Mind

My first impression of Gemba Academy after opening up their homepage was how clean and professional it looked compared to other sites I had been on. It’s hard for me to take a training site serious, especially one that promotes Lean and Six Sigma, that are cluttered and hard to navigate. Right away, I got the feeling this site was going to be a breeze to navigate through and find what I needed efficiently. First impression–very impressed!

Gemba Academy Screen ShotAfter taking a quick tour through the site, I was able to easily navigate back to the home page and sign up for a free preview account. It was one of the easiest “free trials,” I’ve ever signed up for. They required minimal information, there was no having to remind myself later to cancel and best of all, no credit card number was required. I immediately jumped into the training videos and was surprised at the amount of content I had access to under the free preview.

The content drew me in right away. After scrolling through the list of videos, I was pleasantly surprised with the length of each video. The majority of the videos are less than ten minutes, allowing you to soak in more content in less time–efficient if you ask me! There’s not a lot of flare and overwhelming graphics, just good information in a nice tight package. Did I mention they’re all in high definition?

Short Videos=Less Waste

Gemba Academy is broken into two sections depending on your focus (or you can do both), School of Lean and School of Six Sigma. Each one is broken into categories that are then broken down into specific categories. I liked the fact that each category begins with an overview video to introduce the subject matter. This allows you to get your feet wet before diving into the specifics, which again let me point out are short, efficient and to the point!

I really can’t stress enough how important that is. Long lectures and drawn out how-to videos have been proven time and time again to be ineffective learning tools. Short, to the point visual learning tools are much more effective for individuals attempting to learn a new subject, all the way up to the expert who wants to continue with their education.

More Than Just Training Videos

Gemba Academy Screen Shot of QuizWithin each school’s sites are access to plenty of other videos from established experts in their respected fields of Lean and Six Sigma. The ability to have expert opinions like the original Lean Guru himself, Mr. Masaaki Imai, Mark Graban, Mike Wroblewski and Mark Hamel to name a few, is a big bonus and a nice break from the training modules. In the School of Lean there’s even some older footage they received from the Kaizen Institute (also a partner of Gemba Academy) that might seem a little dated at first, but really adds some nice timeless content to their library. There is also a nice mix of interviews in the content with experts from various companies, including the originator, Toyota.

There’s even a good assortment of quizzes attached to specific topics that allow you to go back and gauge what you’ve learned along the way. The quizzes are short, but in depth enough to keep you focused and inline with the main points the video(s) were trying to make. Online quizzes can be sometimes difficult to navigate and get through. I did not find this to be the case with the Gemba Academy quiz format. They were nicely laid out and even provided be with a score at the end to see how well I did.

Bang For Your Buck

Gemba Academy has a few different packages to choose from. They have specific rates for individuals and another rate for organizations. A big benefit to the organization package is that it’s site based. Meaning, when an organization purchases a package the entire organization has full access to their subscription from anywhere, to anyone within your sites location, at any time. If you are a multi-site location they do offer discounted package rates that would give you the same access across your entire enterprise.

Each membership offers you full access to the Gemba Academy library in your package on any computer, tablet and smartphone with Internet access. However, if you prefer DVDs, they have discounted rates for those as well.


All Products Include:

  • Purchase additional current and future DVDs at discounted pricing
  • Quizzes and support files
  • HD quality (1080p) videos
  • Subtitles in multiple languages
  • Mobile device access -iOs4+, Android
  • Reliable access via worldwide server network
  • Virtual support and coaching (email/phone)
  • Learning pathway plans

From the ground up, Gemba Academy is out to build and improve on a better Lean and Six Sigma world. There is not a lot of frills and extras that slow the learning process down, just good content built with the same concepts they preach. In fact, the entire process is designed with Lean in mind, from how they’ve built their site, how they approach the training modules, down to the actual production of the videos.

There is no limitation to the content, from beginners to experts, there is something to help you in the continuous improvement process and it’s not all about the manufacturing industry either. Many of their clients come from a variety of fields and are seeing major benefits, as seen on their testimonials page.

Don’t just take my word for it, the free trial is good for three days. Which is plenty of time to get you through the site and decide for yourself if it’s something that can benefit you or your organization.


The mission of Gemba Academy LLC is to provide high quality online video training for individuals and groups. By leveraging leading edge technologies such as high definition (HD) video delivered via a global network of servers on high bandwidth connections, we can deliver high quality training, on demand, anywhere in the world.

Gemba Academy

Free 5S guide and poster


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Gemba 101

3 min read

Gemba (sometimes referred to as genba) has become one of the most commonly used words in the lean vocabulary, right up there with Kaizen and 5S. The gemba 101adoption of Gemba principles into your lean culture has the potential to add numerous benefits to your continuous improvement. It’s recent rise in lean fame has come with some confusion and misinterpretation as well. As with any lean principle, it is important to fully understand the term and procedures that go along with it. That way when someone says “I’m going to the gemba,” everyone knows exactly what they mean.


What is Gemba?

The term gemba means “the real place.” It’s purpose is to get you to the exact location where action is taking place. This could be your factory floor or your kids soccer game, the point is you are at the scene of the action and can have a first hand account of the action taking place. It can also be referred to as the place where value is created. However, it takes a lot more than a good set of eyes to incorporate gemba into your lean strategies.

The gemba approach should always include the following:

  • The observer must have a rooted curiosity in the action to understand what is really going on. If you just assume or develop opinions based off what you’ve heard then the value is lost from the gemba. You must have a strong desire to know what is going on.
  •  Have a direct observation of how the work is performed. To understand the gemba, you have to be in the gemba. The goal of gemba is to fully understand the gemba behaviors and the current reality of the situation more clearly, from a direct observation.
  • Respect others and strengthen the culture. Gemba requires direct interaction with employees as they work. This can easily cause tension between upper management and employees if the employee feels uneasy about being observed if done incorrectly. However, to get the full value of gemba one must engage themselves with the employee directly while they work, not from a distance. Keeping an equal respect for everyone should be commonsense, especially in the gemba.

Going to the Gemba

Once you understand the gemba approach then you can move on to the actual process. The following steps will help you along your gemba path to success and make going to the gemba one of the most powerful lean tools in your tool box.

1. Know your purpose: If you don’t know why you’re there, then there’s no point in being there. Wondering around without a purpose is counter-productive and provides no benefit to your organization. It should also be noted and clear that gemba is NOT Management by Walking Around (MBWA). The 1980’s concept lacks the principles and purpose that gemba offers.

  • Before you go to the gemba ask yourself these questions: Why am I going to observe? What am I trying to learn? When you have the answers, you’re ready for the gemba.

2. Know your gemba: Each gemba is unique in its own way and should not be categorized into a single unit. Remember, a gemba is the exact location of an activity as it is performed that you wish to study. Chances are you have several different points of action in your organization and they should be approached as such.

3. Observe the framework: Good observation skills are hard to come by, but essential to the gemba. Observers often overlook a step or a part of the process that will hinder the improvement process later as they review their notes. It is important to take everything in all the components that make up the gemba from the equipment, to the people, to the material. A good observer is able to analyze everything as individual components, but also understand how they work together as part of the flow of operations.

4. Validate: Never assume that what you see is the actual representation of reality. There are things that you can’t see, like the thought process of the worker as he overcomes a specific challenge in the process. To get the full value of your observation you have to validate your conclusions with the person you observed. This opens up the dialogue and is a way to ensure both parties have a good grip on the current reality.

Free Kaizen Guide

As the lean movement continues to grow so will the ways we try to innovate and improve the process. The important thing is to not get ahead of yourself. It might all be about continuous improvement and eliminating waste, but if you haven’t mastered one step before going to the next, you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Gemba embraces the skills of your entire organization. It’s a powerful culture building component of lean that can have a tremendous impact on your improvement process –when done correctly.