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