Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Visual quick and easy kaizen

Monday, October 26, 2009

Muda Monday - 2nd waste at home - Inventory

Muda is the Japanese word for waste and I hope to illuminate how the waste of inventory, too many and too much of anything, can be reduced at home saving time, money, and effort. The Toyota Production system the removal of waste as part of "lean" principles. Let's look at some examples of how the waste of inventory has played out in my home:

Food Inventory - unconsumed food excess on plates, food leftovers that spoil and are subsequently thrown away, food purchased but never consumed, etc.

So many examples of wasted food!
  • We love to eat mashed potatoes and gravy but the gravy leftovers are hardly ever eaten. Our countermeasure is to make only enough gravy that is eaten at that meal.
  • Don't buy things you won't eat...food drives are proof that people empty their cupboards with canned goods that no one wants.

The USDA estimated that 96 billions pounds of food or about 27% of food production is wasted each year.

Household inventory - too many clothes, excess household goods, garages overflowing with inventory, endless yards sales, and so on.
  • Goodwill Industries and other second hand stores exists because of excess personal inventories
  • Obsession with stuff leads to unhealthy behaviors and materialism
  • Loved ones have to sort through mountains of junk once a person passes away
  • Inventory can create a "denial of service" by taking up space that should be used for other purposes i.e. garage not used for cars but storing inventory

Our countermeasure was to start our Great Household purge last year which we are still in the process of doing. I recently sold a few things, had another round of donations and trash removal from my garage. We use the garage to park our car in. Also, buy only what you will need or find a way to make it, grow it, or trade for it so you don't accumulate uneeded items.

Information inventory - too much junk mail, endless electronic communications, excess information from TV, newspapers, and Internet, records retained beyond appropriate time, etc.

  • Cable TV where there are hundreds of channels yet only a few are watched
  • Mailboxes that are filled with expired emails that are not deleted
  • Cellphones with volumes of text message still hanging around
  • Telemarketing calls that waste your time
  • Files with obsolete or redundant information

Countermeasures that we have taken include dropping cable TV, eliminating unnecessary email boxes, getting on the do not call lists, and purging information on a regular basis. In addition, we are working on better processes to address the over consumption and overproduction of data and information.

These are but a few examples of inventory muda. Consider how you can reduce the waste of inventory and live a simpler, happier, and calmer life.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Great quotes on waste...

"Waste is worse than loss...the scope of thrift is limitless"

Thomas Edison

"Waste neither time or money but make the best use of both. Without industry or frugality, nothing will do, and with them everything"

Benjamin Franklin

"Willful waste makes woeful want"

Scottish proverb

"Let's make toast the American way: you burn and I'll scrape"

William Deming

"All organizations are at least 50% waste-wasted people, wasted effort, wasted money, and wasted time."

Robert Townsend

"The most dangerous kind of waste is the waste we do not recognize"

Shigeo Shingo

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pockets of resistance

Our home was built in the 1950s and it has an interesting history. The builder of the house was a secret service agent during that era and he raised his family here. He designed the home and built most of it home himself as I understand it. The second owner was a Branch Davidian and we purchased the property from he and his wife in 1995. To our real estate agent's chagrin, Mrs. "Davidian" was home at time of our showing and I will never forget the lecture she gave us about the evils of automatic dishwashers. In truth, I believe story was to cover up the fact that the washer was broken and they were too cheap to fix it. As the third owner, I keep hoping that I will find a hidden cache of weapons or a treasure trove of classified documents on who really was responsible for the Kennedy assassination. Indeed, I have discovered some mundane secrets such as the original house blueprints, a box full of brass drawer handles, and very inefficient air duct work system for the furnace.

This fall, I have been working to improve the air flow and improve our homes comfort for the coming winter. Our bedroom has always had a pocket of warm air in one part of our room. As I delved to the root cause, I inspected the warm air register. The louvres could be opened to perpendicular but they pointed to the left. Two feet from this register is the wall and our northern exposure window. It hit me like a bolt of lightning-the warm air was going either straight up or to the left to the wall and window! No wonder there was always a pocket of air in that little alcove. This problem had been going on for years and I had never really looked closely to see if this could be improved. The lesson I learned was don't simply accept sub-optimized systems but rather to learn and understand...learn by doing!


The improvement to this problem was very simple. After taking apart the register, I rotated the metal assembly 180 degrees and now the louvres point to the right and the air moves to the center of the room. It was a five minute improvement that cost nothing and I wish I had examined this part of our HVAC system long ago.


Yeah, they could use a good cleaning! Take the kaizeneer challenge: Examine something at your home that is not optimized and see if you can improve it.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The truth about compact flourescent bulbs (CFLs)

This is a story of a CFL bulb that expired before its time. As you can see, I wrote the installation date on the base. It was deployed in my garage on 9/21/09 but it failed to survive even one month. This bulb was a Sylvania 13W CFL13EL/MINITWIST 3000K. My improvement idea was to write the install date so I can know how long they are lasting.

A number of CFL bulbs I have purchased in the last year are failing. This is disappointing because of the claims of very long life. This kaizeneer has not found even brand name CFLs living up to the promise of extended use. So, I have summarized what I have learned using CFLs:

  • Never buy the off brand CFLs-they are not worth it.
  • CFLs will lower your electric bill - I believe they have lowered my electric bill by 10-20% a month
  • The warranty on CFLs sounds good but it's a hassle to track down the receipt and take the time and effort to send it back for a replacement bulb
  • CFLs will sometimes cause other problems like having to get a bigger globe when the CFL replaces an incandescent bulb
  • I haven't had issues with dimming causing CFL problems...they just don't dim because they are more a binary light than incandescents
  • CFL disposal is not easy or readily available
  • Premature CFL costs reduce the monthly electricity savings.

Overall, I can tell using CFLs have helped but I am disappointed in the performance over time. Hopefully, they will improve as the product matures.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can a safety pin make your home warmer this winter?

Before: Curtain is blocking the warm air duct sending warm air behind the curtain and out of the room:

After: A safety pin added to pin back the window drapes allows all the warm air to get in the room.


  • Hot air is no longer diverted behind the curtain
  • Room feels warmer

Cost of improvement: 2 cents

People have said to me that kaizen work like this is "common sense". Indeed. Why then isn't everyone improving things and making their lives better? Because it's not common sense or everyone would be doing it.

Kaizen is not common sense...it is uncommon wisdom.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, October 12, 2009

Muda Monday - 1st Waste at home - Transportation

Muda is the Japanese word for waste and I hope to illuminate how the waste of transportation, excess movement of items and people, can be reduced at home saving time, money, and effort. The Toyota Production system incorporates the continuous removal of waste as part of "lean" principles. Let's look at some examples of how the waste of transportation has played out in my home:
  • Driving multiple cars to the same location - this happens frequently when everyone in the family goes to the same spot at different times.

For example, if we use the 2009 AAA mileage rate for trips, here's what it cost for a forty mile round trip with our vehicles:

1 car (compact sedan at .55/mile) = $22

2 cars (2 compact sedans) = $44

3 cars (2 compact sedans & large vehicle at .86/mile) = $78.40

As you can see, taking 3 cars almost quadruples the costs of the trips. In addition, every car has empty space in it which is waste and contributes to the problem. As a countermeasure, we work together to synchronize schedules and use the highest mileage vehicles for the longest trips. Yesterday, we rode to church in one vehicle although we were going in different directions after service. We simply coordinated rides home with some friends and only needed one vehicle.

  • Going medium or long distances to get services or goods that are locally available.

We installed a fireplace insert in our home last year but we lacked wood to burn. I could drive a couple hours to get free wood from relatives or buy it locally. Instead, I decided to implement a countermeasure and first find all the free wood that was available within walking distance. There were unburned logs for an outdoor fire pit that I had in my yard, the neighbor across the street had sawed up an fallen tree, seven houses down was a large pile of logs that no one wanted, and two streets over was a massive stump with cut up sticks free for the taking. Not only did my fuel for the insert swell, but I did my neighbors and friends a service by removing flammable dead tree remnants. Needless to say, it's also been amazing to see how fast the wood added up while I was getting exercise and time outdoors.

  • Placing items at their point of use

For years, I couldn't get my kids to change a roll of toilet paper when the roll was empty. They would complain about having to go find the toilet paper in the basement or in a closet. In their own way, they identified the transport waste of having to go down two sets of stairs and move toilet paper up to the bathrooms. As a result, we moved multiple rolls into the bathrooms and stock them on the plungers and hid them in the corner. Now, re-stocking the rolls takes seconds most of the time and the refresh rate for new toilet paper is much better.

These are but a few examples of transportation waste in the home. Please consider what transportation you do such a errands, trips, moving items in the home, etc. When it comes to the muda of excessive transportation, there is no end to all the ways at home that waste can be eliminated...and just watch the benefits add up.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, October 9, 2009

A flu-sey improvement

Everyone remain calm. As the onset of the flu season commences, I find myself home with my son who is ill with some sort of sickness. Even though I am home bound, the desire to eliminate waste has once again helped me pass the time until the boy becomes well. As I have been working from home and tending to my child, my wife and I came up with kaizens to make the nursing time at home a little bit easier.

Once the digital thermometer failed, I found myself too cheap and too tired to go out and replace it. So we get the old mercury thermometer...but it is in Celsius and hard to read. Neither my wife or I are good at converting from C to F and I have a hard time reading the scale because of my old eyes. Here's what we did:

1) I found the optimal process for reading the temperature. On the end of the thermometer, there is a triangle. If you hold it up to read it and point the top of the triangle toward your eyes, you can see the level of mercury and the reading is very easily seen. No more wasting time twirling the thermometer every which way trying to read the level.

2) My wife discovered that if she takes the reading in the kitchen, she can get the number and look at the outside thermometer which has both C and F , She just cross references and gets the Fahrenheit value. Quick, easy, and no calculation necessary.

Lastly, we believe in taking vitamin C to help stave off seasonal bugs but my son was resistant in taking them. His objection was due to looking on the vitamin shelf and sorting through several bottles of supplements...which he hates to do. My wife and I agreed that if the chewable vitamins were easier to find, he would take them more often. So, we simple moved them to a window sill next to the sink so that he can readily locate the bottle.

These are small things but they make a difference by reducing time, frustration, and effort when everyone is feeling a little under the weather.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Quick and Easy Kaizen #13 - Free software for home

I like free. Especially when it is good and free. On the other hand, bad and free...that's called trash. Never accept trash even if they pay you to take it. That's called stupid.

On my way to an out of town meeting a few days ago, I picked up a copy of Consumer Reports and the issue I reviewed was evaluating software such as anti-virus, spam, pop-up blockers and so on. Interestingly enough, three free products were recommended by CR for anti-virus, spam, and pop-up blocking:

Avira anti-virus
Microsoft Windows Defender
Spam fighter Standard

The computer that the family uses was in dire need of protection since the Mcafee products expired and reminded us tirelessly that we need to buy an upgrade. All these products listed above were free so I downloaded them today and installed them on the family PC. These seem to run well, were a breeze to setup, and I saved $40-$100 over retail packaged software with similar features. Don't pay for overblown app suites when you get 80-90% of the value for free. Don't take my word for it, check out Consumer Reports!

  • Free software
  • Improved protection from virus, malware, intrusions, and pop-ups

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, August 21, 2009

Improving my IT Service Desk...

OK...I'm going to depart from home and family improvement for a post...or two...or three.

I work as a manager at an IT Service Desk and we use Lean and Kaizen techniques all the time in our business. Here's a kaizen idea that one of my employees turned in:

An employee that transferred in from the night service desk noticed that she had some of her old functional access allowed her to solve certain problems that day time staff couldn't. During the day, service desk analysts had to escalate these types of problems to other teams. She submitted this idea as a Quick and Easy Kaizen. Upon investigation, no one knew why the daytime staff didn't have that access and so it was granted. Now, everyone of my staff can resolve these types of calls without escalation.

  • Better caller resolution
  • Faster resolution with no waiting
  • Elminated the waste of uneeded escalation

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Camp Kaizen

For the last several years, I have been directing a week long church camp for fathers and sons called, "Dads Camp". Each year, I use continuous improvement techniques to make the outing easier, cost less, and reduce preparation time. Here's a story about improving the financial aspects of our event.

In 2008, a number of fathers spent their own money for camp expenses and once camp was completed, it took weeks to straighten out the mess and get everyone paid. Receipts were unclear, the process was not understood, and miscommunication occurred. So, using lean improvement methods, we made the camp expense process much easier by changing the following:

  1. All camp expenses had to be pre-approved before the actual event or they would not be reimbursed.
  2. Several required camp items were paid with the church credit card in advance eliminating the need to front all the expense money.
  3. Expense forms were brought to the camp so that they could be completed and sent back to the church office immediately for faster turnaround.
  4. Thank you gifts were purchased in advance of the outing for distribution at camp instead of weeks later.

These kaizens made the wrap-up process so much easier and I am pleased to report that our camp budget was in the black. Using kaizen techniques, we didn't need a bailout. Even a few small changes can make a difference and there will be even more improvements next year.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Quick and Easy Kaizen #12 - Text your kids on home changes

Taking a page from my ITIL training, I send out "Home Change Alerts" when changes are made at our house that would affect my kids away to college. For example, I recently moved the dog cage into a vacant bedroom that my college students share when home from school. Our puppy now goes to sleep in his kennel in their room and they have been informed of this change. Home change alerts are simple, easy, and to the point.

  • Improved communications among family members
  • Children away feel more involved with the family
  • Changes can be sent at one time to a group instead of being repeated over and over

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 3

Wheels: Take the burrs off the tire surface from the stamping process...we used a 1500 grit sandpaper to smooth the wheels as much as possible. Be very careful or you can create damage to the wheels. We tested the smoothness with the 'close eye-touch finger-spin wheel' test to feel any bumps or leftover irregularities on the surface as we sanded it to measure our progress. Also, we had an additional regulation pinewood derby kit and we picked out the best looking and straightest wheels. Not all pinewood parts are created equal.

Next, we waxed the wheel surfaces with car wax several times for a smooth uniform surfaces. I guess my son did it at least 10 times to build up a nice coat of smooth wax. It was smooth and good looking to boot. We used Johnson Car wax that I had for my car. We even tried waxing the inside the wheel where the axle goes...apparently, it didn't hurt. Lastly, test your wheels and axle out and true them up as best you can. I used a small level and checked to see if everything was trued up and straight with the wheels on. Also, leave a space the width of the pinewood cardboard stock thickness between the wheel and the car body. Friction against the body is bad and will slow performance.

Axles: There is a ton of information about the axle prep on the net-read it and follow it. It's better explained with pictures so do your homework. Here's my two cents-have your son polish, polish, and polish some more til he is sick of it. Then it will be ready. Here's my order of abrasives (that I had around my workshop) for axle polishing :

40 grit sandpaper
60 grit sandpaper
100 grit sandpaper
140 grit sandpaper
500 grit sandpaper
1500 grit sandpaper
00 steel wool
000 steel wool
0000 steel wool

By the time you are done, those axles should be shiny and bright. Be sure to do the same on the underside of the nail head too-it has burrs there that will slow down your car. We used a high speed Dremel like tool for the polishing which improved the process over the 3/8" variable speed drill I used in previous years.

For the axle lubricant, it's graphite all the way. I tried the white teflon stuff for several years and graphite made his car go fast. Another tip: Buy your graphite a month in advance-the day of the derby, the store I went to get it at was sold out...fortunately, a kind soul at the derby let me have some. I believe that the greatest improvement for me was to apply the graphite just before the car was weight certified and impounded until race time. We waited until the last possible moment before "graphiting up" the wheels and attaching the axles in a just in time fashion to improve lubricant retention. Several of the other cars had been finished a few days before and it was very difficult to add more lubricant because the axles were glued on or the car was impounded and moved and jostled around in the competition setup. In our "flow", we planned to have the car completely assembled and ready just minutes before the tournament started and it seems that helped as well. One piece flow is a lean concept...so google it.

Paint - Our cars was painted and sat in front of a fan for 3.5 days before the race. The local derby master had told past participants that vehicle paint should be dry at least 24-48 hours before the race to reduce friction. Fresh paint reduces speed-remember that one! There are some really fancy paint jobs and cool looking cars...but if not planned for, it can hurt the speed at racing time.

The results? My son entered his call in a field of 32 competitors and he finished first! Even racing against the adults, there was only one adult car that beat his by a whisker. My older son's best showing was 7th and he was on hand to watch his younger sibling win it all. As for me, we tried several kaizens that seems to work but the greatest joy was watching my boy beam with pride knowing that he had contributed a large part to the win. Victory is sweet.

What have you improved today?


Friday, February 6, 2009

A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 2

Ok, here is the brain dump of what my son and I did to get a winning pinewood derby car:

First steps:

  1. Get the car kit a month of two before the derby. Start working on the car early to give your son and yourself time to learn and overcome production obstacles. Beginning the work on the car a few days before the race will cause stress and frustration and lead to a poor outcome.
  2. Create a work area for the car kit with all the tools so you and your son can work on the car and have everything in one place.
  3. Have your son organize the tools and layout of the work area-he will take more ownership in the car and the process.
  4. If you can, buy a second kit and pick the best wheels and nail axles out of the two kits.
  5. Some choose to buy the books about how to make a winning car. My advice is to check out the library and see what it has on the pinewood derby. Also, networking with other dads will give you 90% of the knowledge you need for a great car.

Car Design

  1. Have your son draw designs for the car on paper first 1 to 2 months before the competition. This will engage his mind and create excitement about the process of creating the car.
  2. Look at pictures on the Internet to get ideas of designs. Really cool stuff out there.
  3. Make it as close as possible to your son's design-this will create more ownership from the boy.

Tools I recommend for this project to speed the production process:

  1. Hammer
  2. Screwdrivers
  3. Variable speed drill
  4. High speed drill tool(Dremel)
  5. Wood chisels
  6. Pliers
  7. Jigsaw or ban saw
  8. Belt sander

Car body

  1. I believe the more aerodynamic the better. He chose a smooth curved shape this year and got good results. However, I do not believe that the greatest speed return will be in this area so don't go crazy with it.
  2. Cut the car body with a ban saw or jigsaw.
  3. Teach your son workshop safety tips as you go.
  4. Sand the body down with a power sander or belt sander.
  5. Make it an inter generation project and include grandpa if possible!
  6. Sand the body nice and smooth to prepare for painting.
  7. Start with a coarse grit and then use finer and finer grit sandpaper for final preparation.
  8. Pencil on the bottom of the car "F" for front and "R" for rear - this applies to some designs that are hard to tell front from rear.
  9. Do a "axle" test and see if the axles are level by placing the nails in the body axle slots and checking them with a level.

We would travel to my dad's workshop and do all this work. I imagine that we spent about 1-2 hours out in the shop teaching, cutting, sanding, truing, and cleaning up the shop. My goal was that both my sons remember working with Grandpa and Dad on their cars.

Next post will cover things to do for the wheels and axles.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 1

On Friday night, my youngest son had his last ever pinewood derby race for cub scouts. Both of my boys raced in the local pack race and enjoyed this activity. My oldest sons highest placing was 7th out of 28 cars and my youngest best finish ever was 5th in 2008. This year, we determined to use the kaizen approach and pull out all the stops since this was the final race that we would participate in. I will tell you that this was the best race we ever had in our family! Before I reveal our secrets and how we finished, here is what we decided to do in the final derby of our family:

1) My son had to do over 50% of the work on his car- In my opinion, Dad doing all the work defeats the purpose and spirit of the pinewood derby. Some of the cars that race are obviously built by an adult...my goal was that by doing over half the work he would take interest and ownership in the car.

2) Inter generational project - My dad, myself, and my son all took time to work on the car. My father is a fabulous woodworker with a primo workshop and he helped his grandson cut and sand the body of the car. Our goal is that he remember working with his grandpa and his dad and how much fun it is to do projects with his family.

3) Check listing all the things I learned previously - in all the past races, I learned a few tips here and there. This year, I went back to all the techniques I had heard over the years and followed them in the building of the car.

4) Add my own improvement - this year I added some of my own kaizens of which most I believe helped the cars performance in the race. One didn't work at all...not all kaizens work!

5) Focusing on the process instead of the outcome - the time that I any son spent was building and working on the car to do all the things we knew to make it go fast. We focused on the fundamentals and process of reducing friction in every place possible instead of thinking about winning the competition. If you work on the fundamentals, the results will take care of themselves.

In my next post, I tell all the secrets we learned over the years and how we used them. Unlike so many others charging for pinewood derby car information, we share what we learned for free to benefit everyone that wants to read it.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, January 30, 2009

Moments in the snow.

We got buried on Wednesday the 28th. 12.5 inches of snow dropped on Indianapolis a couple days ago resulting in two days of closed schools. There was plenty of opportunities to use continuous improvement to make the big job of snow removal a little easier. Before we even started, I suggested that we take a moment to find ways to improve the process of clearing the snow...

My oldest son had a dilemma. He had to get out to the BMV to get his learner's permit for the driving part of his drivers ed class. Our street is never plowed since we live on a dead end so we didn't want to get stuck. His kaizen was to measure the height of the snow in the street and then measure each vehicles ground clearance to pick the car with the best clearance to improve the chance of getting out. As simple as this is, I praised him for his data based decision making process!

My oldest daughter had a kaizen moment as well. As all five of us were clearing the driveway, it occurred to her that our process of snow removal could have been improved. We had cleared most of the snow off our pavement when we started to clean off the two cars. She observed that since we didn't start by brushing off our vehicles, we had wasted time moving the snow twice. As I thought about what she said, I realized that she was right-we had wasted time by moving the snow needlessly. This lead to her"Top down" snow removal approach: Start at the highest point where there is snow and clear it from top to bottom. I was impressed at her observation!

Lastly, we helped four other neighbors to dig out of the snow. We had fun helping other people and our last exercise was for all of us to make snow angels before heading in for a warm beverage. Some of our improvements included shoveling between the tire tracks only, pushing instead of picking it up, and if shoveling, only moving snow the minimum height and distance needed. After returning to work, several of my co-workers complained of how sore and tired they were moving snow in their own drive. I had to chuckle...using kaizen, we helped our community, cleared our driveway, and turned this chore into a fun family memory!

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Applying Lean in the kitchen:World record time unloading the dishwasher

New World record time unloading our dishwasher and placing all dishes, silverware, and cups away: 1 minute and 30 seconds on 1/28/09.

It's fun to set world records. Guinness may not care but it's cool to turn work into a game which helps draw the kids into it. My youngest son and I have a two person unloading record of two minutes and forty six seconds but we should be able to smash based on what we have learned about standardized work. Here's a few lesson we learned:

  • We load our plates and bowls on the bottom rack.
  • When the dishes are clean, we can take the entire bottom rack out and set it on the counter for faster unloading.
  • Turning the silverware caddy around 180 degrees makes the unloading easier and faster.
  • Cups and large spoons are loaded in the top of the rack.
  • Placing similar cups in the same rack row makes for faster collection and stacking.

The kitchen work is getting simpler and easier because we eliminating the variability of how the dishes are loaded. The process is not perfect but it is getting better little by little. In fact, I am seeing more improvements everyday as we are moving slowly and building "kitchen consensus".

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Applying Lean in the kitchen: Kids loading dishes...

In my previous post, we have been working to use continuous flow to help make it easier to process the dishes. Here is my innovation to help the kids to use flow rather than "batch and queue" dirty dishes:

Yeah, it's not going to win any art prizes but it is effective in getting the kids to put their plates and silverware in the dishwasher. The sign was designed to cover the drain hole in the sink and I placed it under a plastic lid to keep it from getting wet. So, when the kidlets come to the kitchen sink, they see the instructions. This signage only comes out when the washer is empty and has room for the next load of dirty dishes. My process is the run the wash cycle just before bedtime and put away the clean dishes when the coffee is brewing first thing in the morning. Because of this, the dishwasher and sign are out all day capturing used dishes. I haven't measured the success rate but I believe it's about 80% of the dirty dinnerware gets put in. The kids follow the sign to the letter...which leads me to my next improvement and change the sign soon to read, "Rinse your dish and place it in the washer". ;)
My oldest daughter came home from college and told me that she was going to put her utensils in the sink but she saw the sign and put them in the washer. Even college students can be trained...
My next post is about shaving down the time to put away clean dishes and our "world record" unloading time. See you then!
What have you improved today?
Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Applying Lean to the kitchen; Fewer dishes, less work!

I have been using flow to reduce the work for dishes and reduce the number of utensils used in a day. Collecting some data, I determined that we were using around 21 cups a day as a family of six. In other words, we were using reusable cups like they were disposable. Also, the dishes piled up in the sink in a batch and queue system all the time making more work for my wife and I after a hard days work. So, kaizen to the rescue.
  • The device below is a small cup holder I made out of a shoebox to "meter" the cup use to reduce one and done usage.
  • In the morning everyone gets a cup-upside down means it clean so they get a fresh one everyday.
  • The cup is flipped over when it’s first used and remains upright and used all day.

  • Each hole has the initial of the persons name next to it for each person’s home position.

  • The rubber band has their name on it and they can put it on so if they take the cup away it won’t get mixed up with the others.

This improvement alone has reduced the number of dishes used by a significant amount and we're down to about one washer load a day. So, we're using fewer dishes, less water to wash, less dishwasher detergent, and less energy because we are doing fewer loads. The other nice benefit is that we are seeing a cleaner kitchen and with the next kaizen I will show you, the kids are doing more of the work.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Final tally: We saved $8,285.39 dollars in 2008 using Kaizen.

The results of my tabulation are in: $8,285.39 saved because our family looked for a way to continually improve and reduce waste. I am stunned but happy and our saving account is better for it, Here's some of the details...

Largest savings: Installing my own furnace saving $2,675 over the quoted contractor price. Using a technique that Toyota calls "learn by doing", I learned by helping someone do it and then did it myself. Believe me, I'm not the most mechanically inclined but with some help from my brother, we did it and got compliments from people that looked at the final installation. Learn more at http://littlebylittlechange.blogspot.com/2008/12/kaizen-your-secret-weapon-in-down.html#comments

Second largest saving: $1791 in cash and gift cards recovered by selling items from the Great Household Purge. We've been thining out our household inventory and getting rid of the waste we have accumulated. Learn more from these posts:




Third largest savings: $1300 from mixing and matching employer benefits. See http://littlebylittlechange.blogspot.com/2008/12/mix-and-match-employer-benefits-to-save.html

Most caffinated savings: $5.56 from buying no new coffee filters in 2008. I developed a process to re-use paper coffee filters over and over and the coffee tastes just fine.

Dumbest savings: $32. Canceling the paper that no one read, no one used, and had to be taken to be recycled. Duh!

Most delicious saving: $30. Picked gobs and gobs of apple from wild trees and they were so good. These trees aren't sprayed so they were as good as organic although some looked a little gnarly.

Quickest savings: $20 in 3 seconds. When I had my Toyota's timing belt replaced at the recommended mileage, I asked, "Could I get a free oil change with that?"

Random savings: $30-$50. My neighbor would get surplus groceries and they would bring them over to us what they didn't need. I didn't keep real good track but it saved us a bunch on eggs, soda pop, hash browns and other food.

Wettest savings: $840. My wife save this much off our annual YMCA membership by teaching periodic swim lessons, something she loves to do.

Most fun cash recovery: $22.00. Going though items to donate in the basement and found cash in a old bag. Sweet.

Teenage cash kaizen: $100. Asking the bank manager for any coupons for free cash for my son opening his first account. She had one coupon left for a free $100 for a new checking acct of $100 or more. Cha-ching.

Try using continuous improvement or kaizen at your home in 2009. Ask yourself these questions to find ways of improving. Here's some easy questions to ask yourself and your family as you start your journey...

  • Can I do this easier?
  • Is there a better, faster, or cheaper way?
  • Is there an alternative?
  • What can we do to reduce wasted time, energy, and money?

Soon, you'll be traveling down the Kaizen Way!

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Chill out: Simple changes make your house warmer

Have you ever thought about how many times your outside door is opened and the Arctic air rushes in? Every time you or a family member does this, the temperature inside the home falls and the furnace has to run more to heat the air. It seemed that our home was a revolving door of people going inside and out and the indoor air was constantly getting chilled in certain areas. After studying this problem, I started to analyze the number of reasons we needed to go outside. So I broke the reasons down for needing to go in and out of the house. Here's what I found were the two biggest reasons:

1) To let the dog out in the backyard on his run line (we do not have a fenced in backyard):
First opening: Pull the line in from it's outside home position and hook up the dog.
Second opening: Let the dog out.
Third opening: Let the dog in.
Fourth opening: Unhook the dog and put the line back in it's outside home position.

So, the door had to be opened four times to put the dog out once!
Countermeasure: Place the line home position hook inside the screen door so that it doesn't have to be opened to hook him on the run line.
Countermeasure: Only open the door about one foot to let the dog in and out. Opening any wider than this is just waste.

Now, we only open the door twice to let dog in and out.

2) To walk the dog on his leash:
First opening: Pull the leash in from it's outside home position in the breezeway and hook up the dog.
Second opening: Leave to walk the dog.
Third opening: Return from walking the dog.
Fourth opening: Unhook the dog and put the line back in it's breezeway home position.

Again, the door had to be opened four times any time we need to walk the pupster!
Countermeasure: Place the leash home position hook inside coat closet so the dog can be hooked up in the house.

These two simple changes have reduced the number of times we need to open outside doors by about 10 times a day. I have realized that you have to step back and examine what you are doing to see the inefficiency and how things could be done better. A simple improvement, or kaizen, like this can really make a difference. By better insulating the doors leaks and reducing the number of times the doors are opened, everyone in the household has noticed how much more comfortable the kitchen air is.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Welcome to 2009

Another year has gone...

Another year has come...

I hope you have the best New Year ever. I'll post my resolutions as I reflect on the past year in a day or two. I wish all my family, friends and readers a blessed and happy new Year!

What will you improve in 2009?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer