Thursday, April 5, 2012

Kaizen Klips #3 "Keep Trying"

Don't quit, keep improving, you will get there.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, March 26, 2012

Building a Kaizen Nation

As I have continued my personal use of kaizen, I am convinced it can be used for anything (I wonder if any of the NCAA Final Four basketball teams considered it).  In addition, kaizen can be scaled to small projects and to individuals all the way up to large multi-national companies and projects. Today, I find that Kaizen is being implemented in nation states by making it a national priority.  Why?  Japan realized the value of kaizen and has been exporting it to other nations whom have seen the benefits as well.  I wonder when the United States Government will get on board?

Zambia - In their 3rd year of adopting kaizen as a nation.

Remarks by the Japanese Ambassador:

Singapore - working on improving quality since the 1980s. The 2011 Legatum prosperity index rated Singapore #1 economy with a per capita GDP of $59K, 95% literacy, and life expectancy of 73 years. 

Could there be a connection with kaizen?

2011 Legatum ranking

More countries, such as Malaysia are considering a National Kaizen Movement for their country.  Why?  Because it works anywhere in any size, family, organization, or team.  It's not just for Japan anymore.

What country have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kaizen Klips #2 "Let's help him see it."

I keep a playlist of videos that illustrate continuous improvement in interesting ways. Here is #2 from the miniseries From Earth to Moon.  This clip features engineers coming up with a different way of thinking about landing on the moon.

What have you helped people to see today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Kaizen or hillbilly batching?

One trampoline flow or leaf batching?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Make it easier, make it visible

Over the years, I have learned how to take care of my cars better and better. I wanted to see what kaizens I could do so that family members can help me better monitor key auto fluid levels. So, here was my first attempt to make the process of checking more visible and easier:

So, I now build on the first idea:

What ideas have you improved upon today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, March 9, 2012

Why every family in American needs a continuous improvement program

Today, I am going to take a little more serious tone in this post than usual.  Most Americans hear news stories everyday about inflation but the implications get lost between celebrity sound bites and junk news.  People don't realize that accumulating effects of inflation each year that eats away savings and family finances.  In addition, monetary policy of the central bank is punishing savers by paying little or no interest.  So, your costs go up and your net income goes down-it's a double whammy.  However, there is a counter punch that any family can use to fight this threat-Kaizen.

First, a graph from that shows the rate of inflation from the 1980 formula that is more accurate than today's formula (that conveniently excludes energy and food):

At 10% annual inflation, what a dollar would buy today will require $1.61 to purchase in 2017.  Even if you use the official 2% inflation figure, your dollar will lose over 10% of its purchasing power in just five years.  What can citizens do?  While we can't control inflation, we can control our response to this threat and mobilize our family, our focus, and our creativity and start your own continuous improvement program at home.

So, here's what you can do:

1) Educate your family on the effects of inflation.

2) Start a kaizen program and get everyone involved.  Have every family member contribute ideas in the following areas:
  • What are we paying for that we are not using?
  • How can we eliminate debt faster?
  • What resources are we wasting?
  • What areas do we have resources that we should be using but aren't?
  • How can we do things better?
  • What skills can we develop that could help the family?
  • What can we optimize that is not optimal today?
  • What improvements can we make today to make life better?
3) Track your ideas and savings and share the results so everyone home can see it.  Make it fun and recognize the good work and good ideas that come out of this effort.

This blog was founded on the idea that Kaizen, change for the better, is a martial art form that can fight the inflation monster.  I urge all families to start's never too late to start improving.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Kaizen Klips #1

I keep a playlist of videos that illustrate continuous improvement in interesting ways and shows the concept.  I will share these with you over the course of time.  Here is #1 that defines kaizen.

What klips have you shared today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Friday, March 2, 2012

Heijunka and the art of lawn work

Heijunka is defined as production smoothing where orders are "leveled out" over time to create a more stable and predictable process. From wikipedia:
"As in any process, fluctuations in performance increase waste. This is because equipment, workers, inventory and all other elements required for production must always be prepared for peak production. This is a cost of flexibility. If a later process varies its withdrawal of parts in terms of timing and quality, the range of these fluctuations will increase as they move up the line towards the earlier processes. This is known as demand amplification.  Where demand is constant, production leveling is easy, but where customer demand fluctuates, two approaches have been adopted: 1) demand leveling and 2) production leveling through flexible production.

I decided to try this thinking when it comes to yard work-which is a chore I hate.  Typically, my lawn work schedule in a given week would look like this based on how much I did in the yard each day:
Monday-0 min, Tuesday-0 min, Wednesday-0 min, Thursday-0 min, Friday-0 min, Saturday-75 min, Sunday-30 minutes
So, I decided to level my work across all seven days using heijunka principles so it now the schedule looks like this:
Monday-15 min
Tuesday-15 min
Wednesday-15 min
Thursday-15 min
Friday-15 min
Saturday-15 min
Sunday-15 minutes

Now I find that I actually enjoy puting in a quarter of an hour each day on lawn work since the burden is lighter.  In addition, it has become a habit that I find myself compelled to do.  Little by little, the tedious yard work is getting done and I find myself looking forward to it since it only lasts 15 minutes.  I will be applying this leveling concept in other areas as well to see what I can level and make better and become a good habit.
What work have you leveled out today?
Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, February 27, 2012

Little by little improving singing talent...

I have featured my children's improvement ideas in previous posts and here's one where my son organized his choir practice schedule to reduce search waste and make his schedule visible:

Make schedule visible

Jacob in now a freshman in college was a finalist in Residence Hall Got Talent over the weekend. Here's how years of continually improving his voice has paid off (His part starts at 1:10 into the video). His selection was "Home" from The Wiz musical and we are very proud of him!

What has your family improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Fun videos that illustrate continuous improvement

Guinness (this blog post is not an endorsement of their product) has a few commercials that beautifully illustrate kaizen thinking in a humorous way. Here's a few to enjoy...

What games have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Imagineering fruit

Small Japanese grocery stores had a problem. Watermelons are large and bulky and take up too much room. Many producers gave up this market while other farmers responded differently. Rethinking the problem, farmers found growing watermelons in a square box created a stackable fruit. Customers loved this innovation since it fit well in small refrigerators. Here's a Japanese video (you will get the idea without subtitles) that illustrates this innovation.

How many problems could we solve at work and at home if we used a little imagination and improvement thinking?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Little by little - Biblical kaizen

The practice of kaizen or continuous improvement has very ancient roots. In the Bible, there are several examples of this type of technique. Exodus 23:27-30 illustrates this very well:

“I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. 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."

God states why He will use small continual change over large revolutionary changes:

1) Too much change too fast has adverse effects
2) Change should be paced so that you can grow sustainably and not be overwhelmed
3) Time is a necessary component of successful transition

A friend of mine in Weight Watchers says that many diets fail because the change happens too fast and the dieter doesn't accomplish the needed character changes to keep off the pounds. Indeed, this passage sheds light on the reasons for small but steady change. Skip the "shock and awe" change and go with the small and steady approach instead.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, February 13, 2012

Wiining three contests, two IPads, one method

And the Winner of the PlusIs Twitter Contest is…
By DHurwitz on Fri January 20, 2012 8:00 AM

After an entertaining couple of months, we are pleased to announce the winners of Serena Software’s latest Twitter contest. The PlusIs contest generated hundreds of creative “Plusisms” from a variety of submitters. It was a difficult decision to narrow down to the category and Grand Prize winners.  However, it was an enjoyable exercise, especially because the Grand Prize winner receives an iPad 2 and a $500 donation towards the charity of his choice, while the category winners receive $50 gift cards and $250 donations to their favorite charities. 
Donating $1,000 to charity is always gratifying! 
The Twitter-based contest called for contestants to submit Plusisms for three categories: Technology, Holiday and General. Inspired by Serena’s very own Plusism of “People + Process = Business In Sync,” we saw a little bit of everything from the hilarious to the bizarre. 

This is the third tweeting contest I have won in the last 4 months using kaizen thinking. The little by little method of continually improving can be used in any endeavour...I still talk to people that tell me kaizen won't work for them because (enter reason here). I' still trying to figure out what to do with the 2nd IPad. That's a good problem to have...

Grand Prize (iPad 2) and $500 to Charity of Choice
Technology Category:
Poor Release Management + Frazzled Service Desk = Pain Management @Serena_Software #PlusIs
Runner-ups and Winners of the Cash Prizes and $250 Donations to Charity of Choice
Holiday Category:
NBA + Lockout = 7 Christmas Day Knockouts YEA! @Serena_Software #plusis
General Category:
Creative Tweets + @Serena_Software = A Win Win Situation for my Favorite Charity & me! #PlusIs
Winners were selected based on creativity, humor and relevance and announced via Twitter on January 20th, 2012. Judges also verified that all submissions adhered to the published contest rules and guidelines. 
Thanks to the multitude of entrants and our judging panel for another great contest!
David Hurwitz is SVP of Worldwide Marketing at Serena Software.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bible studies, Genuis birds, and all things kaizen

A preacher told me once that it's a sin to make the Bible boring. I took this admonition to heart so I try to make my lessons fun, inspiring, and meaningful using the Scriptures. When I was studying the Bible with my son, I would find YT videos that helped illustrate verses and stories to help the Word come alive. My son and I studied the story of Elijah and the daily feeding by the ravens. It seems far fetched until we did research into these animals and were amazed at what we learned. As a interesting side note, we found this great video on how smart this aviaries are and watched it together. It helped build his faith and amplify the prophet's story.

What Bible story have you made exciting today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Prevent meeting waiting waste!

Here's a video from my workplace using continuous improvement at the job. This clever solution helps prevent wasted time in meetings from a screen and white board melee!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Krazy Koffee Kaizen

A few years ago, there was a great video demonstrating the seven wastes while making coffee. It was in another language that was maybe Danish or Icelandic and was taken down at some point. Here's my quick and easy kaizen on how to use the excess steam waste to get a really warm mug while the java is brewing. My tribute to the "Koffee Kaizen" vids of old.

What brew have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Worship service improvements

As lead usher at my church, we are alway looking for improvements for the worship to be better, more spiritual, and safe for all. Here's a few things that we did last week in our spiritual kaizen program that we call "little by little improvements":

1. Left side sanctuary Exit sign bulb replaced.
2. Two back row sanctuary lights replaced.
3. Slide clicker replacement reducing congregation wait time.
4. Ushers trained to hold communion trays with two hands to improve safety.
5. Remove items from aisle walkways to improve safety when passing trays.

Improvements we tried this service:

1. Texted teachers when sermon started and ended to give them an idea of service pacing and when to wrap us class before parents arrive. Positive feedback and will expand next Sunday.

2. Created “Lost and Found” detective bureau with younger teens and returned five misplaced items to their owners. I would like to work with a few kids every Sunday to re-position “Lost and Found” as a game and give young teens a chance to serve members by returning their stuff and play a game-this will reduce unclaimed inventory as well over time.

What worship service have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crazy Crow Kaizen

This is amazing that animals can be creative and improve this case, fun! Any activity can be improved with Kaizen.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Personal Kaizen from the Book, "The Kaizen Way" - Part 2 & 3

Great interview with Dr. Robert Maurer (Part 2 & 3) on his book "The Kaizen Way." So many insights into personal growth and understanding physiological limits to change. Enjoy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Personal Kaizen from the Book, "The Kaizen Way"

Great interview with Dr. Robert Maurer (Part 1) on his book the Kaizen Way. So many insights here on why Kaizen works and how it can be applied in your family, your life, and relationships. Great stuff.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Lightening strikes twice...

Using the same kaizen (continuous improvement) techniques as applied in the Serena Software Haiku contest, I wanted to see if I could achieve success a second time in a different competition. I did...

Apica Twitter Contest Winners
Published: 2012-01-04
Apica Announces Winners of Holiday e-Retail Twitter Contest

Grand prize of US $1,000 Amazon Gift Card Awarded to Kaizeneer

PALO ALTO, Calif. – January 4, 2012 – Apica, a leading load testing and performance-monitoring provider for cloud and mobile applications, today announced the winners of the Apica e-Retail Twitter Contest. Launched in late November 2011, Apica kicked off the holidays with a fun competition for consumers to share their best or worst e-Retail shopping experiences in the form of a rap or rhyme, via a 140-character tweet.

Reuters estimated this holiday season brought in over US $35B in online shopping sales worldwide, the highest amount ever recorded. Significant spikes in website traffic can bring serious consequences to unprepared e-Retailers. Slow page load times, performance issues and even downed sites, can effectively put e-Retailers out of business.

“Research shows 40 percent of online shoppers will abandon a site after waiting three seconds for a page to load. Frustration with online shopping due to performance issues was recounted first hand in many of the creative entries that were submitted for our Twitter contest. From the comical to the unusual, submissions spanned the spectrum, making selecting our winners a tough decision. A huge thank you to all who participated,” said Sven Hammar, CEO of Apica.

Winners were selected based on creativity, humor and also relevance. And the winners are…drum roll please…
Grand Prize ($1,000 Amazon Gift Card)

Kaizeneer Kaizeneer: 
Buying bling like Lil John/Check’n status-BAD log on/Order went 2 Kuala Lumpur/Mad like gunshots at Blk Friday store @apicasystems #apicarap

First Prize ($100 Amazon Gift Card)

jadenruby jadenruby: @apicasystems #apicarap Online Ease-I'll take it Please/No Bump and Grind-of the annoying kind/Next year all shopping thru computer queue!

Second Prize ($50 Amazon Gift Card)

JCris_08 Julius Cristobal:
Hate da long line so I jus hop online/ Nothin can beat shoppin from my computer seat #apicarap @apicasystems

What contest process have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Missing keys + Kaizen = Problem solved

Kaizen thinking proves to be so useful especially when plans go awry.  One Sunday morning, we encountered several problems right before church.  We had a guest staying with us with all his luggage, my daughter had all her items to take back home, her small car was trapped between my van and the garage door and no van key was to be found.  We were under time pressure to be there early to help out in the worship service that morning.  It would be easy to blow up and get mad at all the things that went wrong.  But using Kaizen thinking....well, here's our video of what we did using "spiritual" kaizen:

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The slideshow of how I used Kaizen to win a Haiku contest

Here is a slideshow demonstrating the iterative process of kaizen.  Continuous improvement will work in any field of endeavor.  Enjoy.

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever, Kaizeneer

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Complete list of Help Desk Haikus

Here is the complete list of Help Desk Haikus I submitted for the Serena Software contest. Here's the original site for the contest:

These are not in alphabetical or chronlogical order of when I tweeted them but I wanted to share because most are based on true experiences I have had over the years. The format of these haikus is the first line is 5 syllables, the middle line is 7, and the last line is 5. Obviously, some are better than others, some work and some fall flat, and some even violate the syllable rule...but that is the point of making things better all the time. I made plenty of bad haikus but learned from them. Again, the whole point for me was to win the haiku contest through kaizen thinking and improving the poem generation process which I accomplished and in turn won an Ipad 2. I hope you enjoy them.

The grand prize winner:

Help Desk Horror Flick:
Rogue tech kills main router in:
"Silence of the LANS"

Other entries:

It’s Help Desk Hustle
callers “bump and grind” us We’re
Dancing with the Scars!

Help Desk Queue is full
tickets backing up…We need
support laxative

Call:”How do you type
a capital one?” Mission:
It’s impossible.

Little Help Desk Annie
”Tomorrow, tomorrow, We’ll
help ya, tomorrow!

"I’m typing my pass-
word but can’t see it." "What
do you see?" "Five stars"

Help Desk reality
Unapproved sys change again?
Annie, get your gun!

“Yes, the PC off
button. No, not Cisco box.
Not that one. Sir? SIR!”

The Users smiling
satisfaction is rising

User calling
Agent bawling;queue sprawling
Service appalling

Holy war: Firewall at
St. Ann’s drops St. John's machines
Help Desk under fire.

The wireless printer
is down" Agent: "What is wrong?" Need
wireless toner."

Sci-Fi show: Alien
ware virus attack!Battle

Reboot it again!
Nothing but Windows because
of Linux cynics.

Physician: “Help Desk
can’t help?” Doctor Jekyll
turns to Mister Hyde!

Help Desk predictors
they fix broke stuff before called
tech just got a kiss!

“PC is making
funny noise and flashing” Sounds
like midlife cri-sys.

When do you get all
nice doctor and lawyer calls?
On April Fools Day!

User:”My smart phone fell
in the toilet” Agent: “And
you expect me to…?

“I am sorry, we
are sorry” all day! Help Desk

Monty Python desk,
The nurses fight us in the
“Argument clinic”

Help desk book of work
rhymes: You scream, I scream, we all
scream when it blue screens!

Want stability?
Help Desk Agility? Go
Serena-ty now!

Endless ringing line
Fax machine with wrong number
Praying it will stop

Dumb Email user
“Nora Ply” is no reply
“Auto” not a car!

Nervous new agent
Trips up words-"do you have sex?"
“Every chance I get!”

On remote control
I move mouse and user freaks
Calls a priest for help

A bad mouse problem
Dead rodent inside PC
My job-pest control

All my haikus true
Based on my experience
Can’t make this stuff up

Lawyer on the phone
Can’t change password every time
Last in law school class

Finance person calls
Can’t find capital ‘1’ key
Bottom line we’re hosed

Machine zapping us
Send someone to fix it now
User cattle prod

What OS is it?
Seven, Vista ,or XP?
Dang! It’s 95?

Call Help Desk agent
Kids crying in the background
Think I heard a flush

Feels like Star Wars Desk
“not the ‘droid you’re looking for”
Get an iphone Luke!

Doc screams “saving lives!”
“Need my password changed right now!”
Calls from funeral home

Programming mistake
Cuts ticket closing down to
“Thank you for your ass.”

Agent amnesia
Asks for number several times
“What is it again?”

Gollum on the line
Old Tolkien ring network hung
“Lost my precious” file

Convent Help Desk call
Nun spills drink onto PC
Water into whine.

Conflicker Help Desk
Worm Flicks, Worm conns, Worm conflict
Bad conflicted worm!

User frustration!
Conversation, detection :)
Resolution! Done.

Kid at Help Desk bash
Powers off the server room
Party now a wake

Starbucks strikes again/
Laptop takes coffee bath needs/

Press1 for Help Desk,
Press 1, press 2, press 1 now,
Depressed pressing

Calling Doctor Jones
Agent saves pix file from purge
Raiders of lost art

Annoyed lawyer
Blames Help Desk for late file
Now it is my fault

Legal database
Makes mad laywer ride my case
Purge that darn FLAW base!

Jaws on help desk line
Talks so much my rear is sore
Need a bigger butt

“Help me recall note!”
Exec pay info to all
Whoops! There is it! Doh!

Elmer Fudd on phone
Weally need more PC Wam
Trying not to laugh!

Lisper on the line
O Thufferin Thuccotash!
Tweety next in queue

Psych unit calling
“Printer ‘dummy’ error here”
Need a smart phone now!

The lab is calling
Specimen test down-O poop!

System engineer
“Help Desk has no clue!” then he
Reboots wrong server.

Lawyer plays Help Desk
to peer. “YOU’RE DUMB!” Peer: “They knew
That when I started.” ;)

Drug dispenser call,
“Problems with my purple drawers…”
Oh no -TMI!

One ring to find them,
Auto answer binds them, your calls
no one minds them.

Users ballistic
Agents antagonistic
Bad day statistic!

It is Hell desk day
Abandon all hope ye who
enter call queue here

Dual Docs yelling! Team:
“We took two ‘pills’ but don’t call
us in the morning!”

Help Desk was so swell
till the data circuit fell
call queue went to…pot. ;)

Darth Vader call here
Breathes so loud-hurts my ear
halitosis fear

Help Desk: Star Trek Fan
hogs bandwidth on clinic lan
”No Hulu Sulu!”

“Why change my password?
Why reboot? Why now? Why me?”
Users are WHY-red!

Backhoe on Road One
Gave Help Desk Queue lots of fun
fiber cut-dig it?

Mary just got a
little spam-replied to all
What was she thinking?

Report Writer call
”My job dropped the server?”
One shot, all killed!

Doctor Folgers call
”Laptop had a fall.” Wasn’t
good to the last drop

“Bad printer! Every
page is blank!” “Change the toner?”
Silence on the line.

“PC is dog slow!”
snaps user. Help Desk wearing
Milkbone underwear.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Best of Post: A winning pinewood derby car through continuous improvement: Part 3

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A winning pinewood derby car through continuous 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 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, January 13, 2012

Best of Post: A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 2

More on the pinewood derby stuff.  We didn't buy any books or spend any extra money on a "champion package" to get a winning entry-we simply kept relentlessly improving the car and reducing all possible friction.  Isn't the whole point to learn by doing with your son?

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:

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.

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.  Have your son organize the tools and layout of the work area-he will take more ownership in the car and the process.

If you can, buy a second kit and pick the best wheels and nail axles out of the two kits.

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

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.

Look at pictures on the Internet to get ideas of designs. Really cool stuff out there.

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:



Variable speed drill

High speed drill tool(Dremel)

Wood chisels


Jigsaw or ban saw

Belt sander

Car body

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.

Cut the car body with a ban saw or jigsaw.

Teach your son workshop safety tips as you go.

Sand the body down with a power sander or belt sander.

Make it an inter generation project and include grandpa if possible!

Sand the body nice and smooth to prepare for painting.

Start with a coarse grit and then use finer and finer grit sandpaper for final preparation.

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.

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

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Best of Post - A winning pinewood derby car through continuous improvement: Part 1

Every year around this time, I get lot of hits on my past posts on pinewood derby cars and kaizen.  So I'll make this a little easier for folks to find...first posted in 2009.

A winning pinewood derby car through continous improvement: Part 1

On Friday night, my youngest son had his last every 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 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 but don't get discouraged.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

How to win an Ipad using kaizen...

Kaizen and Lean can be used in anything even improving haiku writing!  Check out the video about winning this "Help Desk Haiku" contest sponsored by Serena Software...

Here is the explanantion of the contest...

I challenged myself to use the same kaizen thinking I use at work and home to convince myself that these principles will work in any endeavor. They do!

What have you improved today?

Dan Lafever

Thursday, January 5, 2012

One crazy idea can make a difference

My kaizen for Waterman's Farm extra pumpkin inventory has now become a charity event in its second year.  Great to see how a crazy idea can help sick children and orphaned pets. Originally, I noticed the farm has a lot of pumpkin inventory waste and they just plowed them under after Halloween. I approached them about an event to smash pumpkins and gave my 17 year old son a party where we obliterated the orange orbs, played baseball with green tomatoes, and had a very fun time. Instead of plowing the excess pumpkins under as a total waste, we used them for a smashing good time. Waterman's took the idea and has now made it an annual charity event to raise money. Cool.

What farm have you improved today?

Dan Lafever

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Church kaizen

I have become known at church for kaizen activity so I wanted to share a couple of things I have done. The little by little principle is in the Bible found in Proverbs 13:11 in regards to saving money. Oddly enough, my first church kaizen has to do with giving. As a past volunteer contribution counter, people fold their checks to keep their gift confidential which is fine but unfolding these adds no value and just wastes time. My kaizen has been to not fold my check but to place it in the offering basket face down. This keeps my gift secret as well as reducing motion waste especially when unfolding double folded checks!  I am starting to see a few checks now unfolded and face down since I have evangelized this idea so I am spreading the word.

What have you improved in church today?

Dan Lafever

Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 Resolutions

1)To post more in 2012
2)More pictures to see
3)More kaizen work to help others

Happy New Year