Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Golden Muda award...


The Golden Muda (Japanese word for waste) award is an honor bestowed on businesses that excel in wasteful expenditures of all types such as customer time, money, and the like. It's my way of saying...stop wasting and get lean!

Today's recipient is the Lowe's store on the east side of Indianapolis. I needed to locate some fire bricks for a fireplace project and so I called in to see if they had any in stock. After navigating through the needlessly long IVR menu, the phone started ringing. I lost track after ten rings and started praying that someone would answer. Once I got to a human being, the conversation went like this...


Lowes clerk #1: This is (name deleted) in Masonary. How may I help you?

Kaizeneer: Do you have any firebrick?

Lowes clerk #1: I don't know...let me check. (Puts me on hold)

Lowes clerk #1: I'll transfer you...

Lowes clerk #2: Lawn and garden, how can I help you?

Kaizeneer: Do you have any firebrick?

Lowes clerk #2: This is Lawn and garden, why did they transfer you to me? I'll transfer you...

Lowes clerk #1: This is (name deleted)in Masonary. How may I help you?

And this loop went on two more times before I hung up out of frustration. As it turned out, my dad and I developed a kaizen that didn't require firebrick at all once we reasoned through that the brick would never get more then maybe 125 degrees F based on what we were doing. So, we used bricks that I already had saving us a few dollars and at least 45 minutes driving. In this case, Lowe's muda led to a Lafever intergenerational kaizen. So, I award my first ever Golden Muda to Lowes on E 25th street in Indy! Congratulations on this prestigious honor.

What did you improve in 2008?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer


Monday, December 29, 2008

Kaizen at home - 8,154 reasons why continous improvement works for our family!

As I am ending the year of our Lord, 2008. I decided to go back and calculate the monetary value of various improvements made this year in our family budget. As I began to go back and determine the financial benefits, I was astounded at the savings...and I am not done with my totals yet.

So far, I have calculated $8,154.83 of savings, cash recovered from selling stuff we weren't using, recovered long lost gift cards, and other financial improvements. In a future column, I'll break down many of these from the big ones (Furnace replacement) to the small ones (picking free local apples and bike riding to work). Even the tiniest kaizens that save time and money can make a big difference when combined with medium and large scale improvements. In addition, I will attempt to determine the time savings and other benefits gained in 2008.

"There's a way to do it better - find it." Thomas A. Edison

What did you improve in 2008?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Great Household Purge update - 12/16/08

We started our journey of purging the waste, or muda(Japanese word for waste) in July. Our household didn't become bogged down with junk in a day and it will take months to complete the process. Here's some of my latest stats:

-$1791 cash recovered from selling unused stuff
-$71 in cash and unused gift cards found during purging.
-Over 800 hundred items donated to charity
-A vehicle donated to a family of a cancer victim.
-At least 100 square feet of storage space recovered.

We're slowed down a bit as we coast to 2009 but slowly were are still purging. With Christmas and the year end approaching, we're trying to get the last of anything donated for a tax write off. I added $11 to the total as I took in more scrap metal although the scrap prices have fallen dramatically. The biggest opportunity I see is to to keep purging our household now while we have a chance. As the economy turns sour, we'll see garage sales of like we have never seen before and probably more bargain shoppers than you can shake a stick at. I have also been surprised at the local thrift store because they have stopped taking donations most days of the week. My guess is that customers aren't buying so they can't reduce their inventory. Which leads me to an improvement idea...

Kaizen opportunity - I am going to approach our local school to see if they use any of the excess supplies that I have to help students. That way, I am purging my items as well as helping needy kids in school. Practicing Kaizen helps you find win-win opportunities. Now more than ever, it's time to use creativity over capital!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, December 15, 2008

Commercial Electric CFL bulbs - why these failed the kaizeneer's test

One of my kaizens at home several years ago was to replace all the incandescent bulbs with compact flourescent bulbs (CFL). The CFLs were more expensive so I made the replacements slowly over a matter of months. Later, I noticed the some of the CFL bulbs were failing pre-maturely. I had put my trust in the manufacturers claims of longer life but it wasn't panning out. So, I started writing the date of replacement on the base of the CFL with a black Sharpie so I would know how many days had elasped from installation to failure. Due to poor CFL quality, I was not able to realize the financial ROI that the Commercial Electric company claims-in fact, I am sure I lost money using this product.

To make a long story short, the Commercial Electric CFL bulbs I bought have had a high failure rate and have not lived up to the claims of long life when I checked the installation dates recorded. Foolish me, I didn't save the packaging or my receipt(another kaizen!) so I can't get them replaced. However, my kaizen of writing the installation dates on the bases has paid off and I will no longer purchase CFLs made by Commercial Electric. The brand names CFLs like Sylvania have fared much better. Here's the exact information on the bulbs that failed:

Commercial Electric CFL
SKU:292-460
Model EDXO-14
120V 60Hz
14W .200A
V # 42836

Keep on improving. You can't afford not to!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, December 12, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 12/12/08

Signs you've had too much egg nog...

Leaving out too many cookies for Santa...


Overdoing the light displays...
Funny video on Funnyplace.org

Cartoon characters sing carols...


The Tweleve days of Christmas sounds like...Toto's Africa?


Merry Christmas!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mix and match employer benefits to save cash.

Several years ago, my wife was a part time worker at a local hospital and I was employed by another. As a part time employee, she was not eligible for any benefits. So for years, I carried all the insurance our family needed. Then, two changes occurred that allowed us to explore new options and do a kaizen or improvement idea to get the same benefits at a lower cost.

-My wife’s new employer gave part time employees full benefits
-My employer no long made all benefits exclusive i.e. you could pick whatever insurance benefits you wanted (all, some, or none) instead of all or nothing.

The kaizen idea we came up with was to mix and match benefits for the best price. Here’s what we did this year:

If we took full medical, dental, and vision insurance from my wife’s plan, the cost was $216.91 per pay.

If we took full medical, dental, and vision insurance from my plan, the cost was $206.24 per pay or a savings of $10.67.

If we chose medical, dental, and vision insurance at the lowest price in each plan, the cost went down to $187.42, a savings of $29.49 over the most expensive benefits package. The really cool thing was that the dental and vision plans from each employer were identical. So, we get the same insurance at the lower cost-in case of the dental, it’s almost $30 less a pay.

The really cool thing is that my employer will pay any employee a set amount NOT to be on the company’s health insurance. So, our savings are now $79.49 a pay. That’s an almost $2000 a year saving. Try this mixing and matching benefits kaizen and see how you can use creativity over capital!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prime numbers at the dental office.

1,2,3,7, and 13.

The kaizen given to me by Dr. Goldsmith’s office worked beautifully. They told me to set my appt. up first thing in the morning to reduce the wait time to be seen. I took their recommendation as well as taking my timing device and recorded each process step and rounded up to the nearest minute. Here is what I measured:

Arrival time: 7:35AM ( I must confess that I was 5 minutes late!)
Lounge wait time: 1 minute
Dental chair seating and Xray: 3 minutes
Wait to see dentist: 2 minutes
Root canal evaluation time: 7 minutes
Departure time: 7:48PM
Door to door turnaround time: 13 minutes

I was thrilled at the improvement and reduction in wait time and very pleased at the service I received. Both the assistant and Dr. Goldsmith set the appropriate time expectations and were very professional. One reason that I see that kaizen, or continuous improvement, works so well is that it embodies the value of humility. A proud person might complain or be rude in an effort to get better service instead of humbling themselves to ask the person who schedules appointments for help. In this case, I engaged myself, the expert of my own customer service expectations, and the office scheduler Jara, an expert at scheduling patients, to achieve an improvement of reducing wait times. Working together, we made it better.

I am so grateful for their collaboration to improve.

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Reducing my wait time at the dentist

If you have read my post about my wait times at the dentist http://littlebylittlechange.blogspot.com/2008/11/muda-monday-waiting-at-dentist.html, you know I don't like to sit around doing nothing. I spent some time trying to figure out how to reduce my waiting when I realized that I should just call and ask since they are a stakeholder in this process. Fortunately, the office called me to schedule a follow-up appointment. Here's how that conversation went:

Dentist office: "I called you today to schedule an appointment for a follow-up on your root canal"

Kaizeneer: "OK. I just wanted to let you know, that I measured my wait times the last two times I was there. The first time I waited 40 minutes for the root canal, the second time I waited for 45 minutes. I wanted to inform you that I if I have to wait more than 15 minutes for my appointment, I will cancel my appointment and re-schedule."

Dentist office: (slight concern in voice) "Oh. Well if you do not want to wait, I would suggest scheduling your appointment when we open at 7:30 or at 1PM after we return from lunch."

I'm pretty sure that my data and my promise to wait 15 minutes and cancel motivated the person that called me to offer this kaizen. To their credit, they responded with a way to improve my service and keep my business. Regardless, I will take my stopwatch and report back to see if I experienced a reduction in wait time. So, take some measurements of the service you receive and share the results with the business you are measuring. If they respond well, they surely value your patronage. If they don't respond, it's time to find one that does. The data you take share removes the fuzziness and provides objective metrics which can be improved. To quote William Deming, father of the modern quality movement:

"In God we trust, all others bring data."

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer




Monday, December 8, 2008

Muda Monday: Lessons from my grandparents

Muda is the Japanese word for waste. My grandparents never new any Japanese, but they knew about reducing waste and getting the most out of what they had. My Grandpa Lafever had an 8th grade education and started life in the now submerged valleys of the TVA reservoirs in eastern Tennessee. When he died, he was a successful farmer in east central Indiana, left a sizable farm and estate to his two college educated sons, and passed on a prosperous legacy for all six grandchildren of whom have university degrees. One of the key factors in his prosperity was the astute financial management and common sense of using resources to their fullest extent. Along the way, I saw how my grandparents optimized their farm operation and turn muda into money:

1) Waste of one kind became a raw material for something else.

Baby food jars became screw containers. Old appliances and machines were taken apart and the bolts and fasteners became the "hardware" store which not only saved Grandpa money but also saved time making trips to town. Even old soup cans became tractor mufflers for a very low cost repair. Baling twine got reused as gate ties, and old rusty fence got a second life repairing holes where calves could escape

2) Food unfit for people became animal feed.

There was no curbside trash service to Grandpa's house so food waste got sent to animals. The cows would eat pretty much whatever was left over from supper as soon as it was thrown over the fence. What was left after the bovine crew ate was usually eaten by some nocturnal scavenger. Even the gnarly old apples off the backyard tree got thrown over the fence so that a four legged beast could have a treat. Every bit of food could help fatten cows and pigs for market.

3) Plentiful poop powers produce!

Oh yes, bovine waste makes good fertilizer. Not only did Grandpa spread it around on crop fields, but when he saw a dried up pile in the pasture, he would kick it as hard as he could to bust it up and spread it around to fertilize the grass. Everything, even cow manure, had its purpose and opportunity. The joke used to be that if you could smell cow or pig feces, you would say, "I smell money!"

4) Everything has some value or use.

I could never see any use for thorn or hedge apple trees. But even the the old thorn trees could be cut down and used for firewood. Old rotted fence posts could be part of a bonfire or the good parts were cut up to be made into something else. There was no end to their sense of thrift.

My grandpa and grandma didn't like to see us leave food on our plates so they insisted we eat everything. They hated waste...they were great kaizeneers in their own right. Their frugal ways paid dividends not only to them but to their children and grand children. I am most grateful for their lessons.

Take a minute and reflect to see what you could use more efficiently. In our culture, most people don't stop and consider what they waste, let alone what is not optimized. You may not only find some great kaizens to improve your life and save time, and you to might find ways to "smell the money."

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 12/5/08

The dark side of Santa...

(Please note - I try to put nothing on my site except G or mild PG videos for the whole family to enjoy. Sometimes the videos that come up from youtube afterwards are not family friendly. If anyone knows how to stop that, please let me know! )

How he pays for all those toys...


Bowing to political correctness...


Why PETA hates St. Nick...


Happy Non-denominational Winter Holiday!

Dan Lafever. Kaizeneer

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Kaizen - your secret weapon in a down economy

We all hear it everyday. Bailouts, layoffs, closings, and the endless parade of bad news. It seems everyone is in cost cutting mode. Using Kaizen or Lean techniques, you can start your journey to improve and find the money wasters that eat away at your income and gnaw at your wallet. Here's a story of how I save a bundle on a furnace using Kaizen. Just using one simple question, "How can I do this better?" led to the result below.

My home furnace was 23 years old and needed to be replaced. I received an estimate from the outfit that inspected and cleaned it of $3100 to replace it.

First Kaizen improvement - gets estimates from different companies for competitive bidding.

I called several places for bid and only two called back. On top of that, only one bidder showed up. He gave me a bid of $3195 for the same furnace. I guess all those other places had so much business that they didn't need my money. My hunch is that they didn't have an efficient process for retrieving messages from voice mail. Another example of where muda, or waste, can stop new business.

Second Kaizen improvement - deduct cost of furnace cleaning from the bid.

Now I had reduced the cost to $3025 with an email. My next Kaizen was to negotiate the bid down and see how much I could reduce it by removing the old furnace myself. What happened then was unexpected but led me down a new path. My father called me and needed help replacing his furnace and I spent a couple days helping him which led to my next kaizen.

Third Kaizen improvement - use this project to educate myself and evaluate the difficulty of replacing a furnace.

After helping my dad, it didn't seem so bad to replace my own gas furnace. Now I can tell you that if you go out and look at various internet forums that everyone will tell you not to replace your own furnace because you will blow your house up. This is classic FUD - Fear, Uncertainly, and Doubt. I called my city government and they insisted that a homeowner can't do it. However, a contractor friend of mine said that a homeowner can do this and then he came over and gave me guidance. Just a note, some contractors want you to be afraid so you will hire them.

Fourth Kaizen improvement - replace my own furnace

My same contractor friend had some older furnaces that he bought from a merger with another company. He had a scratch and dent model with a full 5 year warranty for $385.00 so I bought it. In yet another bit of good fortune, my brother had recently worked on his gas furnace and offered to help my replace my old one. Now I had a new furnace and labor...we did the work in a weekend and I am so grateful for his help since he knew how to handle natural gas.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: I am not advocating replacing your furnace if you don't know what you are doing-proceed at your own risk!

The total cost of my furnace replacement started at $3100 and with Kaizen and constantly finding ways to improve, I replaced it for about $425. Total saved on the project was $2675.

If you use Kaizen correctly, you can find improvements that can really save you money during hard times. Use it as a secret weapon!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer















Monday, November 17, 2008

Muda Monday - waiting at the dentist

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that I had a root canal in the last few weeks. I am happy to report that my two trips to the dentist were a success...and during this recently concluded political season, the phrase, "Drill baby drill!" took on an entirely new meaning for me. Although my switch to Dr. Goldsmith has reduced my gas expense and travel time to a 4 minute walk from home, my wait time in the lobby has greatly increased. It is nice that they have a really nice big screen TV in the lobby, but I could have spent my time better doing something else other than watching Martha Stewart. This practice may help the office juggle patients and keep them pacified while they sit, but it represents a complete waste for me. I measured the wait time and here is what I discovered:



Visit #1 40 minute wait

Visit #2 45 minute wait



First of all, let me just say that I really like Dr. Goldsmith and his staff. I believe that the quality of care is outstanding. However, the questions has to be asked: Why the wait? About a month ago, my son reported waiting for almost two hours when he has his six month appointment. These wait times represent a huge customer dissatisfier and should not be tolerated. One of my co-workers recently told me that she waits no more than 20 minutes before she walks out of any appointment. So in the brave new world of 21st century healthcare, the customer is king! Waiting is one of the seven wastes that should be eliminated and that costs money and causes customers to take their money elsewhere. So, I offer the following suggestions to reduce wait time.



1) Map the process of seeing patients at the dentist office.

2) Identify the root cause that prevents patiences from being seen.

3) Start measuring the average wait time of patients in the office to benchmark progress.

4) Identify the waste in the process and eliminate it.



Other ideas:




  • Offer Wi-Fi in the lobby so patients can access the internet from their laptops.

  • Offer Ipods or music during long dental procedures.

On Muda Monday, let's get rid of those wastes. In the coming difficult days of our economic downturn, using kaizen techniques will be even more important to improving business processes and profitability. Those that don't adapt and get more efficient will simply go out of business. So, go find the muda and remove it. When you do, you'll make more money and keep your cusomters happy...and not blogging about their excessive wait times!


Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, November 14, 2008

From Thou Shalt Laugh - the high energy humor of Thor Ramsey!

Part One




Part Two




Have a great weekend!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #11 - Mow your leaves...

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.



#11 - Mowing leaves



Pretty self explanatory. I marvel at how much work it is to blow, bag, rake, and move bags of leaves to be picked up-lots and lots of muda...and that's the beginning. There is even more waste and inefficiency once the leaves are picked up and carted all over the place to be burned at the end. How wasteful can this be...and for basically no value.



Here's why I mow instead of bag:


  1. Much easier on my back-bagging requires lots of bending.

  2. Better excercise to walk and mow rather than raking, bending, and moving.

  3. Leaves are mulched up and put back into the local soil-that way God intended.

  4. Reduces the number of tools used to one lawn mover versus a rake, blower, bags, gloves, ties, and a mower.

  5. Leaves are processed faster than the bagging method(which can take weeks to finally eliminate leaves).

  6. Less petroleum used in lawn mowing than in leaf removal trucks.

  7. Reduces goverment waste by eliminating need for more garbage trucks, more fuel, and more people to dispose of.

So, stop bagging leaves-just mow'em!


Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Great Household Purge update - 11/8/08

We started our journey of purging the waste, or muda(Japanese word for waste) in July. Our household didn't become bogged down with junk in a day and it will take months to complete the process. However, there have been some really cool things happen as a result. Here's some of my latest stats:

-$1780 cash recovered from selling unused stuff

-$71 in cash and unused gift cards found during purging.

-Over 800 hundred items donated to charity

-A vehicle donated to a family of a cancer victim.

-At least 100 square feet of storage space recovered.


Last month, I took more stuff to a garage sale to raise money for a needy family which was encouraging. My biggest challenge today is that the pace of our purging has slowed down quite a bit as the school year has picked up. So many other things seem to be getting in my way with the onset of winter but I hope to get back to purging. I want to do a "pre-Christmas" purge because will will be buying gifts and bringing holiday decorations and food in for the season. I must keep the possession arrow pointing outward meaning that more things are going out than in.

If anyone has any great ideas for reducing your stuff over the holidays, email me at me new address: dan.lafever@att.net

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, November 3, 2008

My son's Kaizen saves me 75 bucks. Cha-ching

A few months back, my son gave me a pharmacy kaizen he saw on TV. He told me that different pharmacies charge different prices for drugs and that I should shop around. I made a mental note of this tip, and stored it away for a later time. Then came the root canal.

After being triaged for my tooth abcess, the dentist gave me a prescription for anti-biotics and a pain medicine. When I got home, I remembered his tip and began to let my fingers do the walking. I started calling various pharmacies and here's what I got:

1st pharmacy call: $90 for both medications. Ouch!
2nd pharmacy call: $75 for both medications. Headed the right direction
3rd pharmacy call: $54 for both medications. Yes!
4th pharmacy call: One free and $21 for the other. Even better!
5th pharmacy call: $4 for one and $14 for the other.

My Kaizen was to go to one pharmacy where I got the anti-biotics for free and then drive to the other for the $14 pain med. It was only a 6 mile drive and it was't far to go to save that much money. So, the combination of humility(listening to my teenage son), 5 minutes of calling, and a short drive saved me $75 dollars.

Invest time in "Kaizening" - it's worth it!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, October 31, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 10/31/08

What race is that guy? Enjoy the inter-ethnic comedy of Dan Nainin.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #10 - Bank account nicknames

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#10 - Bank account nicknames

We have several bank accounts under our families names and before nicknaming them, it was hard to remember which belonged to whom. The only way I could know for sure is to open each account and look at the deposits because our kids each work for different organizations. Then I dicovered the easy way with online banking to rename them for each child. Man, what a nice feature when you have four kids and I made points with my wife. Nice.


Before: Bank account numbers were confusing, time lost due to sorting.

After: Nicknamed online accounts with each person's name for easier identification.

Benefit: Faster processing, less searching, time saved and reduced mistakes when transferring money around.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Root canals

Well, I'm back and comfortably numb. I had a root canal today which has certainly made me think about improving the process of my home dental healthcare program. These will be a kaizen or two come out of that but I will start this week again with regular posts.

Thank you for your patience!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Coming soon

New internet up and running. Will start posting again tomorrow. Thank you for your patience!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Still waiting on my new DSL provider...

Will post again soon.

Dan Lafever
Kaizneer

Friday, September 19, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 9/18/08

The Comedy of Michael Jr.

Cars and Airport security...


A brother jogging...


Jesus little brother...


Have a great weekend!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What has funny videos got to do with Kaizen?

What has funny videos got to do with Kaizen? Well, they improve by making you laugh and lighten up a little. It's just my way of trying to improve your day and make it better!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #9 - Free antibiotics

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#9 Free antibiotics

I guess I am the last one to know but Wal-Mart, Meijer, Publix, and other store pharmacies are giving free antibiotics(see store for details). Yesterday, I had to go to the doctor and he gave me a script for an antibiotic. Meijer then filled my script and I paid nothing for a 14 day supply. This saved me some money and was only about a two mile trip from the doctor's office.

I guess doctors really can hand out antibiotics like candy! If they would only waive my co-pay...

Before: Pay for Antibiotics

After: Get them for free!

Benefit: Free. I'm just about out of my flex spending account money med expense money for the and this was great!

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Update - New Internet provider

Today's Kaizen means switching to a new internet DSL provider saving me $15/month over the old one. However, it may be a few days between service and to get through the change. Postings may be infrequest for a few days...I'll be in touch.

Keep on improving.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Friday, September 12, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 9/12/08

The rise and fall of a german engineer...no translation necessary.

Discovering his calling early on...



His over achieving science fair project...




Building his first bullet train coaster...


All grown up and still messing with cars...


His final tragic creation that ended his career...


Auf Wiedersehen and have a great weekend!

Dan Lafever
Kiazeneer

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #8 - Recharging station

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#8 Recharging station


Don't you hate it when your cell phone goes dead? Well, because of our re-charging station, I have never run our of battery life yet on my phone. This is a very simple kaizen that took about 5 minutes to set up and complete.

I used an existing power strip and installed it in to recharge anyone's phone in my family that wanted to use it.



The process is that in the evening, the phones(and our digital camera) get put in the home position to recharge. They charge until I turn it off the strip for the night. In the morning, I turn it on when I'm up and all devices get a full charge without everything being on all night and creating a phantom load and wasting electricity.

This improvement has helped improve our phone availability and reduce phone outages due to battery failures.

Cost: Nothing-already owned power strip.
Time to install-about three minutes

Before: Cell phones wouldn't get recharged regularly, fail due to battery not charged properly.
After: Cell phones charged daily, improve availability.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Great Household Purge update 9/09/08

We are about 8 weeks into the great household purge. I am amazed at the impressive amount of junk that we have accumulated over the years. Or should I say, the amount of junk that we have accumulated over the years is oppressive because we are just getting started in this lengthy and time consuming process. However, we are seeing many initial positive results that keep us motivated and focused on continuing this process. Just as a recap, here are some stats on what has been recovered from the purge:

  • $1520 cash recovered from selling unused stuff
  • $71 in cash and unused gift cards found during purging.
  • Over 800 hundred items donated to charity
  • At least 100 square feet of storage space recovered.

This week's ah-ha moment came when I found several pieces of old scrap metal including a heavy plate of bronze, several pieces of brass, copper, and other metals that had been left by the previous owner of the house. These should bring some cash at the scrap dealer which will improve the overall funds recovered. In a way, I look at this as our "salary" that we are earning as we do this job.

Also, I am starting to think about the things I own in a different way. The question now is not "how much do I have" but instead "how much do I really need?". It's an interesting question that I will explore in future entries. But for today, I am enjoying the sweet success of decluttering and enjoying a more simple life.

Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer




Monday, September 8, 2008

Muda Monday - finding financial wastes

In today's entry, I am turning my eyes to household monetary waste and scouring my bank checking account and see what financial muda occured in July 2008. Many of the seven wastes cost money so I thought I would see the what money is wasted directly. Just like other precious resources, I want to understand and reduce the cash that is spent needlessly. Here's what I found after examining my bank account:

1) PRITCHETT ORTHO $100.00

This charge for orthodontic services for one of my kids should have come from a Flex spending debit card account instead of our bank checking account.

2) Financial Management Software: Monthly Service Fee
$9.95

Neither my wife or I authorized this charge or know what it is.


3) LIBRARY books $26.50

Overdue library books. Ouch.

So, in total there was $136.50 wasted in July. That's enough money to fill my honda up with gas 3 times! Now, I follow Mr. Ohno's tenet and work to eliminate these wastes in August. So, here's my improvements to reduce or zero out these losses for each identified financial waste.

1) This was a simple matter of using a personal debit card vs. the flexible spending debit card when taking my child to the orthodontist. So, I had a conversation to remind my whole family to use this card for trips to the doctor, dentist, or orthodontist. Fortunately, I can recover the $100 but I will spend 20 minutes collecting, copying, filling out, and faxing the proper paperwork and waiting for up to two weeks for reimbursement. In addition, I called the orthodontist office to put a note on the account to remind is to pay with the flex spending account card when we come in.

2) We called the bank and had the charges disputed and added back to our account.

3) Our family is working on a bette system to return books. We are going to sign up for reminder emails for my wife's library account so she gets email reminders of when the books are due at the library.

Waste happens. These days, you have to watch carefully what is wasted and optimize your finances to be a great steward of your finances. It's easy to want more but it's surprising how content one can be when you get the most out of what you already have.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Friday, September 5, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 9/5/08

Cats!

The classic EDS commercial...Cat vs. Man.



Cat vs. Bird Take #1



Cat vs. Bird Take #2



Cat vs. Fish



Have a great weekend!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #7 - Dad tax

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.




#7 Dad Tax



You pay taxes to uncle Sam, why not Dad? This is a little excercise that I do to teach my kids to be self-sufficient and learn to be do it yourselfers. Here's an example of how it works:



"Daddy, would you do(whatever) this for me?" (this assumes that my child didn't want to do a certain task that they were capable of)



"Sure, but there will be a dad tax(basically, if I do the work, you have to pay dad or find a way to do it yourself). If I do this, you have to pay me for my tax."



After a few times, the kids caught on. Just like adult world, you can do it yourself or pay someone else to do it.



"That's OK dad, I can do it."



This may seem unfair but it teaches children about the real world and the choices they make. Do it myself and save or pay someone else to do it. Sometimes you have to hire work out because you are not capable to do it which is OK but you should plan on that expense. The point of this is to get them to think.



As I watch my oldest daughter at college, I can see the benefits of her financial choices. She handles her money wisely(I was pleasently surprised at her bank balance) and she impressed us at well by decorating her apartment bedroom on her own. Instead of spending a fortune at Target or BB&B, she and a friend decorated and cleverly crafted her room for less than $5. The coolest part of all for me was the lamp she repainted and created recycling and improving the lamp shade. She did a wonderful job and she has a style all her own. She opted to empower herself to create a one of a kind room instead of paying someone for that service. She has learned well from the dad tax. Too bad she has to still pay uncle Sam tax.



What have you improved today?



Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #6 - Starting the car

Happy Labor day! Let's find some kaizens to reduce our labors...

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#6 Starting the car.

This one comes from my daughter, a 3rd generation Purdue Boilermaker I might add, about starting the car. I highly recommend that teens pay for their own gas because it makes them take ownership and motivates them to conserve and be more efficient.

Before: Started the car, adjusted the seat, check the mirror, look at the cell phone for messages, turn on the AC/Heater, fiddle around with the various items, then go.

After: Adjust the seat, check the mirror, look at the cell phone for messages, turn on the AC/Heater, fiddle around with the various items, then start the car and go.

Cost: nothing

Benefit: Reduce gas use and car idle time. Potential for a great deal of saving depending on how much she used the phone before leaving the driveway!

I am proud of her for this improvement and every little bit helps. My goal is to install this "empowered" thinking into my family's mindset instead of "entitlement" mindset that is so prevalent. We are determined to drive out waste and be more efficient rather than complain about the high cost of things. It's a much more positive and rewarding way to meet the challenge head on.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Monday, September 1, 2008

Jehovah-Old Testament Kaizeneer

The concept of continuous improvement is found in the Bible illustrating that Kaizen is a very old technique indeed. Let’s first look at a passage in the Old Testament addressing the “little by little” method. This one is from the book of Exodus, written sometime in the second millennium B.C. by Moses as God addresses the people:

“I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

The simple kaizen strategy employed by Jehovah to prepare the people for the Promised Land is very interesting:

• God will use the hornet to drive enemies out before the Israelites come in. A “hornet air force” as part of the conquest plan would primarily drive out people, animals, and livestock while leaving the infrastructure of homes, wells, fields, roads, cities, and other things intact. This falls in line with God’s promise to provide his people with “wells you did not dig, homes you didn’t build”, etc.
• The slow but steady taking of the land prevented it from becoming too desolate and from quickly being overrun with wild animals. Changes in war made too quickly can have “desolating” effects on the environment as witnessed in the first gulf war with the infamous fires of Kuwait set by Sadaam’s troops. In addition, it could be argued that the current insurgency in Iraq was a kind of a “wild animal” effect when change happened too rapidly and a power vacuum occurred and political instability could not be contained effectively.
• Lastly, the little by little strategy was important because the nation of Israel could only absorb societal and cultural change at a certain rate. From a population standpoint, time was needed to produce enough people to fill the new land. In addition, the people had been uprooted, dwelled in the desert for decades, and then set out to become a colonizing force in a geographical region different from where they came. In a nutshell, they made the transitions from a slave culture to a nomadic culture to a settled agrarian culture in less than two generations. The little by little pace was needed to give the nation of Israel enough time to change and avoid internal upheaval.

Jehovah knew what he was doing with his people by using kaizen. Little by little changes also can “short circuit” human resistance by executing small steps that are easier to accomplish over a long time. Hopefully, we can all learn from Jehovah, the original kaizeneer on how to use the “little by little” method.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Friday, August 29, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 8/29/08

It's mud slinging season again...where has all the humor in politics gone?

The good, the bad, and the...governor?



This candidate puts the bite on the opposition party...



A mudslinger for the movie "Swing vote"...



As they say in Chicago, vote early, and vote often!

Have a great weekend!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Great Household Purge update 8/27/08




This Kaizen is slowly transforming our home to a leaner and better place for everyone. Here's my latest stats:



Cash generated by selling unneeded items: $1520
Cash recovered: $71.00 (found 2 unused gift cards)





Items donated to date:




1995 Mercury Sable and auto supplies
Two bags of clothes
Several pairs of old shoes
800+ new, unused greeting cards and envelopes of all types




New stuff: Gave an old computer to my relatives and the other PC was donated.


Several computer accessories and bags, blank paper, unused keyboards, old laptops, etc.



Wow moment due to "kaizening" in our home:



We can see the back wall around our furnace once again. Also, our purging helped us discover a leaky pipe. For some time, we thought the leak was coming from the outside but our purging helped us locate it.



Possession arrow this week:
Net reduction in household waste and inventory.




Here's to murdering the muda(waste)!
Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen #5 - Tools

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.


#5 Tools at the top of my toolbox.


When I got my Christmas present of a new toolbox, I wanted to organize the top layer. Not only did want the tools to be well organized, I wanted a sampling of the tools that I would use 80% of the time I went to the toolbox. So, these implements are what I would need to take out for various jobs most of the time:









I also outlined the tools for two reasons:

1) Anyone could see where the tool is to be put back in place


2) If a tool is gone, I would know immediately which one was missing.


Ever since I organized things this way, I have never lost or misplaced at tool!

Time to complete: 8 minutes to add the cardboard and make the outline


Cost: Reused cardboard, nothing.


Benefit: Reduce tool searching time, better organization.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen-#4 Ewwww!

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#4 Leaf roll up for dog poop.



Here's my bio-degradable feces quicker picker upper.


















Our dog Alek is walked a couple times a day down our street. Until recently, I picked up the waste in plastic bags and discarded it in the trash but I never felt good about it. It seemed like a double waste.



Now, I can discard the nasty stuff in a big shrub area at the front of my driveway and behind my house and not worry about it. I found some trees with really big leaves so taking care of the dog waste is easy. The waste and the leaf will break down organically and nothing goes in the landfill.



Time to complete: 3o seconds to collect the leaf.

Cost: Free


Benefit: Reduce plastic use, no longer send animal waste to landfill.


What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizen-#3 Security loop

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#3 Security loop in garage to lock up my bike in the garage.


Been biking to work this summer when the gas prices spiked at $4/gallon. I read that you should lock up your bikes at home in case of a burglary. This is a very good idea so I added a security loop in the garage to secure the two wheeler:




































Time to complete: 3 minutes to install.



Materials: Reused an old pipe clamp and a screw so the cost was negligible.



Benefit: Safer and more secure bike at home. Peace of mind when on vacation.

What have you improved today?



Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Friday, August 22, 2008

Funny Video Friday - 8/21/08

Silliness from other English speaking countries...

Political fun from Australia...



Pulling the wool over his eyes from New Zealand...



The state of mental health from Ireland...



How things really get done from South Africa...



Have a great weekend!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizens-#1 Wallet home position

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#1 Home position for wallet, pager, and keys.


Before: For years, my wallet has grown legs and was constantly moving around the house and I could never find it before leaving. I had the same problem with my pager and car keys and this led to blame shifting, aggravation, and great frustration.


After: My dad, a woodworker, created a rack to store my wallet, keys, and pager. This became my home position for those items and made it much easier to keep these organized:

































The effect: Wow. Much reduced stress and less time wasted looking for things. This change was simple but it has been one of the best things I have done in the last year.


Time to complete(hanging it up): 3 minutes

This is a really cool rack that my dad made and the wood is all from trees that grow on his farm. It's a family heirloom. I don't know how much time he put into it but it's a beautiful piece.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Quick and Easy Kaizens-#2 CPAP position

Quick and Easy Kaizen is an improvement that you can easily do for yourself that improves a process by improving quality, saving time, and so forth. The book, The Idea Generator, by Norm Bodek addresses quick and easy Kaizen and I have been practicing this technique at work for some time. Using the ideas from Norm's book, I have added improvements at home and here are some that have made my life better but didn't require that much time and effort to implement.

#2 CPAP machine Q&E Kaizen


Before: My CPAP machine that I wear at night to prevent sleep apnea was always getting in the way of my seeing the clock. The hoses and straps always blocked my view of the time and I had to raise up and move stuff out of the way to see-it was a hassle when I was half asleep. See the picture below:

















After: I simply turned the CPAP machine 90 degrees and it was easier to see the clock and easier to take the mask and hose off and lay it on top of the machine. See below:
















The effect: Now it's much easier to read the clock at night and nothing is blocking my view. I sleep sounder because I don't have wake up and sit up to read the clock. Also, it's easier to lay the mask down on top in the morning.

Time to complete: 30 seconds

So simple yet I had to think about making it better. What have you improved today?


Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer

Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Great Household Purge update 8/9/08

This Kaizen is slowly transforming our home to a leaner and better place for everyone. Here's my latest stats:

Cash generated by selling unneeded items: $1520
  • Sold an old car, fridge, and non-working lawn index
Cash recovered: $61.00
  • Found $61.00 in a money bag that I had completely forgotten about.

Items donated to date:

  • 1995 Mercury Sable
  • Two bags of clothes
  • Several pairs of old shoes
  • 300+ new, unused greeting cards of all types
  • Several auto supplies for the Sable

Wow moment due to "kaizening" in our home:

  • My wife was stunned and amazed when I was able to locate some of our old records in seconds.
  • I was able to locate things that she was not and that shocked me since my wife has been the uber organizer...I say that with the utmost respect dear.

Possession arrow this week:

Net reduction in household waste and inventory.

I'll try to get some pictures out soon. Here's to murdering the muda!

Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer

Friday, August 8, 2008

Funny Video Friday-2008 Olympic games

Events not sanctioned by the International Olympic committee...

10 meter pit diving...



The hide and seek long jump...



WWF adolescent wrestling...





Enjoy the competition(Go USA!) and have a great weekend.



Dan Lafever

Kaizeneer

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Word on the street...

"The paper holds their folded faces to the floor and every day the paper boy brings more."
Brain Damage, Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon 1973

We still take the local paper, the Indianapolis Star. Several months ago, my wife and I decided to take the Sunday paper. It’s full of coupons, articles, and especially the color comics page more commonly as known as “the funny paper” which we cannot live without. I have also found that we can reuse the funny papers as wrapping paper, pet cage liners, and other valuable uses. The Sunday paper was all we needed and anything we didn’t reuse was faithfully and righteously recycled.

Sometime along the way, we are now getting a daily paper. Neither my wife or I know why this changed. Now, papers came everyday producing the following muda(Japanese word for waste):

-It takes 1 minute and 1 second per day to bring the paper in from the end of driveway
-That results in 5.21 hours of time spent retrieving a paper every year Monday-Saturday
-I don’t read the daily paper so it goes to recycling
-Extra waste is produced because the paper is delivered in a plastic bag that needs to be recycled
-Several times the paper gets smashed by a car or soaked by rain resulting in a complete waste
-I have to add more recycling storage space for the extra papers
-I spend additional time taking the extra papers to the city recycle bin

As a result, I get a paper I don’t need, taking time that I don’t have, taking up space that I need for something else, and creates a headache that I don’t want.

My improvement today is to call the paper and stop all delivery except Sunday. I called up the Star’s subscriber services line to get this done. Here is my version of the conversation:

Kaizeneer: “I’d like to only get the Sunday paper. Please stop all deliveries except Sunday”
Star: “We can do that but we don’t have just a Sunday delivery. We have a Thursday and Sunday delivery-would you like that?”
Kaizeneer: “No, I just want Sunday. Tell the deliverer to not put a paper on my drive on Thursday”
Star: “Sir…you can just throw away the Thursday paper”
Kaizeneer: “I don’t want a paper on Thursday. I just want to have to pick it up and recycle it…”
Star: “Sir…you can just destroy it…”
Kaizeneer: “You don’t understand. I don’t want to even see it. Tell the delivery person he can give my Thursday paper to a person whom wants to trail the Star. I don’t want to take 1 minute and 1 second everyday to pick up the paper…”
Star: (laughing)

Well, I think I have reduced the waste newspaper from six days to one day a week. This improvement means will be less trees cut, less plastic to deal with, and less storage needed. As for my time, this means I can reclaim 4.785 hours a year for some better purpose…like taking a nap.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

It's only natural...

Some people resist change no matter how small. At my work, someone recently relayed a conversation to me between two employees. Apparently, one worker apparently made the following statement to the other:

"Why do we have to improve things all the time?"

That's a good question. Why should we strive to improve things like saving money, eliminating wasted time, simplifying tasks, and reduce waiting time? Shouldn't we be satisfied with horse and buggy, whale oil lamps, wood burning stoves, and whiskey for anesthesia?

It's hard to believe a highly intelligent person would make such a silly statement. Even animals will improve their processes. Take a look at these kaizening critters...




This animal behavior goes to show that kaizen is an organic process. At least, if you use the higher parts of your brain.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Monday, August 4, 2008

Muda Monday - The seven wastes at my home

Welcome to the "Muda" Monday when I shall discuss one of the 7 wastes that affects our household. Muda is the Japanese word used to describe waste and I am learning how many valuable resources I don't use effectively. Taiichi Ohno, a pioneer of lean methods in Japan, had published a book called “Toyota Production System” in it he explained the main foundations of “lean” manufacturing. Mr. Ohno devised 7 categories which cover virtually all of the means by which manufacturing organisations waste or lose money; these have become known as “The 7 wastes”. I have adapted these to what happens at my house.

The Seven Wastes at my home are:

Unnecessary Transport of household occupants and materials

o Too many unecessary trips outside the home, trips not optimized for efficiency, one person commuting in a multi-passenger vehicle, trips up and down stairs to transport items within the home.









• Inventories beyond the absolute minimum

o Garages full of excess junk, too many clothes resulting in time consuming garage sales, multiple items of the same type, no available closet space, too much food resulting in leftovers that aren’t eaten and spoil, too much waste generated due to high inventory of stuff.








• Motions of household members

o Looking for needed things, bending over, reaching for materials, searching for tools due to lack of organization of household items, etc.







• Waiting for the next process step.

o Waiting for shared resources to become available such as the phone, bathroom, kitchen sink, washer, dryer, car, etc.






• Overproduction ahead of demand.

o Preparing too much food resulting in uneaten leftovers, gifts that won’t be used and requires return trip to store, too many refrigerators with empty space.








• Overprocessing

o Keeping the home at the same temperature all the time, cooking food with too much energy, using too much water, gasoline, soap, coffee, detergent, etc.








• Defective processes and products

o Cooking food that will not eaten due to not following recipe, hurrying through homework that is not checked, paying bills too late resulting in late fees, overdue library book fines, bank overdrafts, video late fees, taking shortcuts that result in problems later instead of making proper home repairs.









Obviously, we can't run our home like a factory but it does open ones eyes to the squandering of precious commodities and resources. As I mentioned in a previous post, our great household purge is showing our family how much we have and in turn how much we waste. Lord willing, we will reduce our uneeded consumption, save valuable time, recover and save money, and do the things we really want to do.

Mind your muda! Don't let this happen to you...






Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Friday, August 1, 2008

Funny Video Friday 8/1/08

It's Fair time...

Improve your farm knowledge...



Napoleon demonstrates fair rides of old...



Cow Cashmere...



Eat some deep fried chocolate covered elephant ears and have a great weekend!


Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Eye on the Prize

I recently had a meeting with my boss on my yearly incentive goals. We had agreed on them in April and my bonus is contingent on completing the task. Honestly, I had forgotten them so I was amazed at my last incentive goal quarterly meeting how little I had accomplished. Somehow, I needed to get these goals in the forefront of my attention so I can complete them...which led me to today's Kaizen:

Here's my desk. I decided that I needed to put these goals where I could see them everyday so they will not slip my mind. A number of options came to mind like the wall behind my monitor, my side wall, a post it note, and so on. So, here's my desk before:

















Since I want to keep these goals on the "forefront of my mind", I decided to tape them in front of my keyboard as in the picture below:
















This little change will help me keep focused on these objectives that I need to complete by the end of the year. In addition, I can keep notes on it on how I am progressing very easily. So, here's some benefits of this little by little change:
  • Goals are easy to read
  • Goals are easy to update and note progress
  • No time spent searching for the paperwork
  • I'll see the goals everyday
Problems and failures like this lead to the best improvements. When you can use a kaizen to resolve small matters such as this, you feel like you did something right at work.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Red beans and Rice

My wife Deena is a natural improver being raised on a farm. After all, she knows all kinds of tricks in the kitchen that make things easier and more ecomonical. Here's a kaizen recipe she came up with:

Take one box of









and add two cups of water and









then cook according to the directions and you get double helping of Red Beans and Rice.

Here summary of the improvement is as follows:
  • This recipe cuts the sodium per serving in half.
  • It cost an additional 22 cents versus buying another box of red beans and rice.
  • It feeds our family of six.
  • It reduces the waste of having two left over packages of red beans and rice.

We have adding our own basic ingredients stretches these kinds of mixes and made them healthier and cheaper. Based on our current consumption with all four kids, I estimate that this improvement saves us about $40 a year.

Feel free to share your own kitchen kaizen!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking the 100 mile mark

Friday, July 25, marked a historic day for me. For the first time, I have commuted to work using my bicycle and passed the 100 mile mark. It feels good, not only saving gas and saving money, to be empowered in this way. Although I am a bit tired after riding over 7 miles, it's getting easier everytime I bike it. It's a great feeling to be in control, not dependent on petrol, and the ride on the back roads is mostly quiet and peaceful. I have also lost some weight which is good.
Another improvement is that my wife started biking and she has discovered a new activity that she enjoys. We are starting to bike together and this is our first true hobby we like to do together. So, this one improvement of getting to work on human powered transportation has had multiple benefits...and the only gas involved is...well...natural. ;)

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Friday, July 25, 2008

Funny Video Friday

To improve morale and have more fun in the workplace, I have been sending out an email called "Funny Video Friday" to just have some fun and liven up the workplace. I got started forwarding clips around about fours months ago and they are usually short and are designed to add some laughs into your workday. Sometimes they are random and often they have a central theme. All of us deal with the drama of everyday work and this just a little bit of fun. This may not be a measurable improvement, but do they all have to be? Let's have some fun on the last day of the work week....you may not fall over laughing but I hope it brightens your day.

Here's today's featured clip.

Dog days of summer...



Have a great weekend.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Starting the Great Household Purge

Muda. That's the Japanese word for waste. Over the years, I have compiled a great deal of muda or what I call "stuff" and stored it around my house. It seems there is always a good reason to keep something someone gives me(or I salvage) until five years later when I can't remember the reason. I confess that I am a packrat and all that extra stuff justs adds to my clutter and reduces my available space. It's the America way of endless yard sales and two car garages that are full of junk. However I have decided to go lean and start the great household purge.

After speaking with my friend and minister Steve, I decided to join him as his family starts purging. From both a lean and spiritual perspective, purging the clutter has several positive effects which I will elaborate in the future. Realistically, it will take from 6-9 months to get this done since the muda didn't just get there overnight. However, I have spent about a month starting this process and here's a few benefits I have already experienced:

1) My camping gear is neatly organized in a 5S fashion in the garage. It takes no time(2-4 minutes) to pack things up for a weekend trip versus digging through storage.

2) I sold an old car, a broken down riding lawn mover, and an old refrigerator and collected a cool $1520 from all sales. The car had been sitting unused for two years!

3) The other car(yeah-too many vehicles...guilty as charged) I donated to a couple that the husband is dying of cancer. This is my treasure in heaven investment and I was glad to help them out. It's a great feeling to practice the Acts 2 principle of "sharing everything they had."

More of the great purge as it progresses. Keep on improving and murder the muda!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Improve your miles per gallon

Using hypermiling techniques I averaged 41 mpg driving 65MPH with the AC on full blast on our family vacation(I drove a 2003 Honda Civic). Here's a primer below:

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kaizen for the Help Desk Institute(HDI)


In my goal to "kaizen" my career, I submitted two speaker proposals to the help desk institute for their annual conference in 2009. One of those proposals is called the "Kaizen way" on how to put kaizen into practice in a call center/help desk. I spoke last year in Dallas at the conference on migrating to IP telephony and I am very proud of the feedback scores from the attendees. It is my goal to use my God given talents to help others! BTW, HDI has been a great boon to my career and I highly recommend it to other IT support professionals.

When I submitted my proposals, I got no response from the mailbox where they were to be sent so I wondered if anything made it there. I re-sent them 3 times and until I received an email from the program director I wasn't sure if they had made it. Today's kaizen was to suggest a confirmation email be sent after a speaker proposal is submitted so that speakers wouldn't go through the same waste of time that I experienced. I forwarded my idea and here's what I received back:

Hi, Dan,

The webmaster has assured me that he will add this notification capability going forward. Not a great help to you, but to others! Thanks for the idea.

Sincerely,
Cinda


It just goes to show that any process and even one you don't own can be improved. You're welcome HDI!

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Goat milk fudge

Thanks for the break! What a busy summer...

Just returned from my summer camp I invented five years ago for fathers and sons called "Dads camp". This year we rented a new camp site called "The Vine"(www.vineadventures.org) and we had a wonderful blessed time with the amazing Powell family. Part of the activities at the Vine included goat milking and making home made ice cream and fudge with the family-it was awesome. All of us at the camp give Chris, Kari, Emma, Kora, and Jacob the Dad's camp official seal of approval.

I noticed when Emma, Kora, or Kari was milking their goat(named Brooklyn), Brooklyn whacked the milk pail(not kick the bucket) with one leg when she was irritated because her chow was runing low. Emma would stop, go across the stall and grab more grain, throw it in the feeding trough,and then come back to resume miking. My Kaizen idea was to move the feed closer to the milking platform so that whoever was milking would improve their efficiency by reducing the time spent getting up and walking to adding more goat grub. With the food right next to the milking platform they could get to it faster as well as the added benefit of improved goat satisfaction. An even more interesting idea would be creating a way that when the goats stand on the milking platform that the animals weight would somehow trigger a device so that their food would automatically drop into the trough!

I would also like to thank the Powell family for the wonderful blessing from God that they were. We are so grateful for the Vine ministry and we hope to work with them in the future.

Dan Lafever
Kazieneer

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

My $8,000 Hybrid(or reasonable facsimilie)

Ok, so I tricked you into reading this posting. I don’t have an $8,000 hybrid but I did purchase a 2003 Honda Civic LX last year for that amount and I’m getting excellent mileage by using various hypermiling techniques and filling up with summer blend gas. My 1998 Plymouth Voyager was getting pretty high on the ODO anyway so we started looking for a more economical auto. Also, I have been carpooling with a co-worker whom drives a Toyota Prius and she has been getting about 42mpg. At this point I’m at 90% of the hybrid mileage benefit for a third of the car price. Since I purchased my civic, I have recorded 90%+ of all my trips and mileage and keep a regular pulse on my mpg.

Here’s a sample of my MPG readings since January 2008:

1/2/08 34.7 mpg
1/11/08 35.3 mpg
1/21/08 30.79 mpg
2/10/08 33 mpg
4/20/08 36 mpg
5/19/08 41.4 mpg
5/28/08 40.5 mpg

I believe that that there are reasons for the mpg improvement:

1) Switch from winter to summer blend gasoline
2) Improved hypermiling techniques
(You can learn more than what you ever wanted about hypermiling at http://ecomodder.com/forum/EM-hypermiling-driving-tips-ecodriving.php)

So far, I’m spending about $25 a week for gas with my civic and absorbing the fuel price hike(so far). Last fall when gas was lower, I spent about $25 a week with my minivan that got about 22mpg. This is certainly an improvement and just in time as petrol soars. I am still looking for ways to improve the feul economy on the civic and I’ll blog more about that soon. Our family have an active project migrating to better fuel economy cars and this is the fruit of these moves. Changing your behavior, your car, and improving your driving habits can make a huge difference in your fuel economy. This kaizen definitely has saved me some cash. Thank God for that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I bay-leaf in Kaizen


What were these guys thinking?






If you have ever used a bay leaf, you know that it adds flavor to soups and stews. The leaves are whole, not ground up...so why did they put on this plastic cap(pictured below)? I had to laugh because the packaging designer obviously never spent any time cooking with a bay leaf.


















Well, my kaizen is to remove the plastic lid, put it in the recycle bin, and move on. Now, I don't have to remove the lid, take the leaves out, and put it back on.
They should have left the lid off and save the expense-definitely one of the seven wastes here.






Before: Couldn't get bay leaves out of jar, had to remove lid, wasted time replacing lid
After: Easy access to bay leaves to add for a tasty stew.

Dan Lafever
Kaizeneer