The other day I had a friend of mine ask how someone began “getting Lean”.  My answer was 5S.  5S is the starting point of any Lean deployment I’ve ever been a part of.  5S not only focuses on cleaning and organizing the area but, also begins to establishthe mindset in a Lean deployment.  It is the first step in transforming any operation into a Lean operation.  

5S is an acronym for the following sustained elimination of waste, organization of an area, and way of managing its sustained existence.  5S is comprised of the 5 Japanese words/phrases that describe the practice of 5S: 

·         Seiri  整理 (Sort)
·         Seiton 整頓 (Systematic Arrangement)
·         Seiso 清掃 (Shine)
·         Seiketsu 清潔 (Standardize)
·         Shitsuki 躾 (Sustain)

I explained to him that Lean is just a term that actually refers to the Toyota Production System (TPS) created by Toyota in Japan and thus many of the terms in Lean are Japanese.  Anyway, I received a quizzical look of non-comprehension.  Chuckling a bit, I went on to explain the intricacies of each of the 5 stages and to do so we decided to use his tool box to demonstrate.


In this first stage we were looking to get rid of anything that didn’t belong, was unnecessary or just “fluff”.  We put a couple of card tables up and cleared off his work bench, we were going to need some room.  Then, we emptied his entire tool box.  Mind you, he’s a mechanic so this was a pretty sizable tool box.  The purpose was to see what tools he had and what tools he needed.  What tools were unnecessary or just taking up space?  As we went through we set aside the four extra 10mm sockets and the three extra pairs of pliers, the rusted pair of channel-locks and the un-countable number of regular screwdrivers lying in every drawer.  All the remaining tools were left on the table and I then had him pull out the tools he never used.  After our purging of unnecessary tools was completed we were left with still a great number of tools but, had eliminated nearly a drawers’ worth of tools from the box.


Now that we only had the tools he used and would need and nothing extra we went through and sorted the tools by function and use.  We spent time discussing where in the toolbox they would best be housed.  Obviously his larger tools like impact guns and larger pneumatics’ would be placed in the bottom drawer as it was the only drawer capable of holding the larger tools.  The remainder were strategically placed in the box based on how the tools were used.  This took into account frequency of use, type of tool and space the tool type would consume within a drawer.  We mapped out on a large sheet of paper where best he tools could be placed within the box and made several changes along the way based on his workflow.  Once satisfied we moved on to the third stage.


We cleaned the toolbox and every tool going back into it.  We went and got new rubber matting to place in the bottom of each drawer, removing the old and worn out mating that had been in there.  We cleaned the area he worked in and made the entire area shine.  We then put each of the tools back into the toolbox just as we had mapped out.  Everything looked perfect when we were done and he stood back and admired the work.  I commented about not being done.  He gave me a scowl and hinted that he felt things were pretty good and that perhaps it was enough for one day.  I told him we hadn’t even gotten to the most important stage of 5S and then asked him to turn his back to his tool box.

When he turned back around I laid a $5 bill on the bench and told him it was his if he could find which tool I removed from his tool box.  He spent several minutes looking and once satisfied gave me his answer.  He was wrong.  I had made some minor changes to his box and gave the appearance that several different tools could have been removed but, .  I told him we were moving on the fourth stage.


We needed to standardize the drawer.  I went and got a label maker and labeled the drawers.  We went a step further and created a shadow board within each drawer contrasting the light rubber matting with a black “shadow’ of each tool that went into the drawer.  It was a bit time consuming but, afterwards he knew immediately what was out of place and/or missing from his box.  I showed him the organizational wonder called kaizen foam that could turn his drawers into a custom setting for his tools, snuggly placed into a bed of perfectly cut out foam.  One basically takes a piece of thick foam, typically a little less than the height of the drawer and cuts out the shape of each tool as it sits within the drawer.  The foam is placed into the drawer and the tools within their respective cutouts.  The foam is normally black and so contrasting the bottom of the drawer in a light color is ideal to really make a missing tool’s open space “pop”.


After all the shadows were created and all the tools placed back into the toolbox I explained the final stage, sustaining the work we had done.  He had already been thinking of this as we were working to clean the tools up and get them in order.  He came up with a weekly routine that allowed him to go through his box and note anything that may be out of place as well as any changes he may want to put into place going forward.  I explained to him in a Lean environment standard work would be written and in place on the box describing how the tools should be and how to keep them in order.  As this was his personal box we opted to forgo standard work.  The term made him lift his eyebrow and inquire, “What is Standard Work?”  I asked him if he was hungry…we could discuss it over lunch.

That is just a brief example of what 5S is and the impact it can have on something as minor as a personal toolbox.  5S can be applied to nearly everything.  I have implemented 5S in the kitchen, offices, obviously manufacturing plant floors, distribution centers, hospitals, weld shops and garages.  5S helps establish a nice “flow” to the area and helps to increase productivity in that area.  It aids in eliminating the need to think about where something is or if there is enough for the work day.  Standards are in place to keep things where they should be and maintain necessary levels on replenished materials (kanban).  5S is one of the best ways to begin a Lean deployment / journey.  It helps brighten and clean the area, organize,  create flow and prepare for the rest of the various tools that make up a Lean deployment.



Spring Happiness

This is the reason I love the spring.  I love that April showers clean away the harsh winter we’ve endured and allow nature to begin anew.  A fresh start to a new season.  I enjoy watching life spring forth from everything around me from the trees to the flowers to the animals that are coming forth from their winter lairs.


My wife has a small garden that we have very little planted, unfortunately.  Strawberries are one of the fruits we all enjoy eating and this little one is the first strawberry of the year.  We will see about a bushel of strawberries before the season ends but, this is the first and most important one…in my opinion.  It represents the beginning of harvest and the beginning of life. There is something about eating fresh off the vine that causes it to taste better.

Spring not only brings the wildlife out into the sun but, my family and I as well.  Though we do plenty outside all year long during the fall and winter we are covered in layers of clothing protecting ourselves from the cold.  Spring brings with it warmth and sunshine and feeling the sun warm the skin is a pleasure I like to take the time to enjoy.  I will even go so far as to set up a make-shift office out on the porch to work instead of being cooped up in my home office.  The sounds of nature and the fresh air make me feel better and thus affects my productivity.  It has also been shown that sunlight helps in your overall sleeping at night. (Sleep Study)

I honestly haven’t seen any change to my sleeping since setting up outside compared to working in my cubicle in the office but, I do know when I was trapped in a cubicle within the belly of an office I had a foreboding feeling of depression and anxiety.  I can’t speak to there being a correlation, just to my feelings at the time.  I dreaded walking into the office knowing that all I’d see all day long was a puke colored fabric wall, listening to the buzz of fluorescent lighting that just killed my eyes.  You can read a good article on fluorescent lighting here at Fast Company.

Overall I just enjoy the spring.  I am an early riser, typically pre-5 a.m., and enjoy sittiFlowerng on the porch with a cup of coffee and watching the sun rise.  The birds singing in the background and the rooster (we have a dozen or so chickens for the eggs) welcome the morning.  There have been several mornings where I’ve been able to catch a deer or two grazing in the pasture beside the house.  The serenity of the experience is a great way to begin my day.



OneNote Transition

The company I work for’s CEO made the statement a month ago regarding the company transition to a paperless environment. I took the statement to heart and have since began to transition my workflow away from my favored analog tools. There hasn’t been much of a change but, the changes that have taken place are huge for me personally.

 I prefer the simplicity of analog tools, a good pen, quality paper and a well written book are my choice, however, I am a geek at heart which causes a bit of conflict at times. Lately I have been interweaving these two worlds and blending them to create a productive workflow at home & at work. Evernote is a my go to app and I’ve been using Evernote for a couple of years, unfortunately the company I work for does not condone,nor support the use of Evernote. Being a mainly Windows-based company we have Office 365 and therefore have been given the opportunity to use/try Microsoft OneNote. I had given the app a once over months ago and turned it away like a stale potato chip, now I have the perfect opportunity and no excuse not to fully experience of it.

FullSizeRenderOneNote, like Evernote is a digital filing system where the user may add typed or even hand written notes to the app along with many other file types. I have saved everything from PDF’s to MP4’s in Evernote. I haven’t tried saving mp4’s to OneNote but, it accepts everything else I’ve thrown at it.One of the first things I like about OneNote are the pages within a folder.  I have created a folder hierarchy that correlates to my job and then created pages within each folder based on different subjects. So being a continuous improvement analyst, I have a folder dedicated to Lean literature and within that folder are a separate pages for various Lean topics. I have also begun to add work literature from training sessions I attend to this folder as it’s own page. I am really enjoying the structure of OneNote with its pages and folders with in folders…something Evernote does not have.

I’m also beginning to use OneNote as a “To Do” list and have incorporated it with my standard work which sits in its own folder. I won’t get into what standard work is for those unfamiliar with Lean but, simply said it’s a guide to how I do my job, day-to-day, week-to-week, quarter-to-quarter…you get the picture. Doing so has enabled me to eliminate printing blank paper copies of my standard work every week and hand writhing everything onto them.

Now, I simply copy a new page within the folder from my template page, label it with the week ending date and proceed to update it throughout the week. When I have a meeting that I take notes, which I can do in OneNote, I can simply add a link to them in my standard work document.

A great thing about OneNote is that like Evernote it is always with me. Even though I’m not as quick at thumb typing as I am on a standard keyboard, I don’t have to be sitting at my desk to type a note into OneNote. The mobile app is great, though I am in the process of purchasing a stylus so I don’t give the appearance of texting or tweeting while sitting in a meeting. I am also anxious to see if this may become my new journal.

For years I have kept a paper journal and have tried going digital but have never enjoyed the feel of typing a journal…it just didn’t seem natural. I am hoping that with a good stylus I can replicate the feel of a paper journal.

The mobility of OneNote has allowed me the opportunity to follow the lead of a very interesting concept…using the iPad as my main device for work and home.  I want to give thanks to Federico Viticci of MacStories for inspiring me to go iPad. You can read his fantastic article here about why he went to the iPad as his main computer. Though I cannot give up my laptop at work and solely use my iPad, I have begun using it for about 80% of my daily work…with great success.

I was able to register my iPad with my company and so I get work email and can use our standard IMing platform, Microsoft Lync. I particularly enjoy the fact that I am not shown as available the entire time I am not scheduled in a meeting or such in Lync. I had a bit of anxiety when I would see my status change to Inactive, I felt as if anyone who saw me would think I wasn’t working. The iPad prevents me from seeing my status unless I am in the app and because of this , I don’t worry about it.

That said, I still prefer Evernote to OneNote, however, in the corporate, Microsoft saturated environment in which I work, OneNote is a great tool. Not only does it allow me to work digitally nearly 100% of the time, collaborate with co-workers seamlessly but, also allows me to carry it all in my pocket.

My soon to receive purchase of a stylus, I feel will have a huge impact on my journaling and note taking in general and completely overhaul my workflow altogether. I am thus far satisfied with OneNote but, will continue to dual-wield it and Evernote. Personally I just prefer the look and feel of Evernote and integration to many of the apps that I use daily.

 One last thing, I wanted to take the opportunity to, at the very least, thank Myke Hurley, the smooth sounding podcaster of Relay FM, who in living his dream had introduced me to Federico through their podcast Connected. Myke is not just a wonderful host who produces some of my favorite podcasts but, is someone I hold in the highest regards for his courage to venture away from the corporate world and live his dream. Thank you Myke for being a wonderful person, role model and giving the world some of the best content on the net.

Related Sites of Interest:


Apple Springs Forward Keynote

Apple remains one of the most intriguing and amazing companies on the planet.  I was truly impressed with the keynote today.  Tim Cook announce the addition of the Macbook, the newest laptop, Research Kit, a whole new way to interact with your iPhone, Apple TV update and the Apple Watch being the highlight of the keynote.

Overall I was ironically most impressed with the Macbook, not the Apple Watch.  The prices are not a surprise, just considering the innovation and technology going into their creation.  Don’t get me wrong I think the Apple Watch is an amazing piece of technology and design but, not for me.  If I could find a use for it I would want one but, I am mainly turned off by the lack of integrating an Apple Watch into my life. 

Typically I do not wear a watch at all.  I don’t normally wear anything on my wrists.  It (a.) interferes with typing and (b.) prevents me from buttoning my shirts.  I use my iPhone enough to know what the time is often.  The other reason for the watch not being a fit for me is that I don’t need another device to carry around.  I strive for minimization and having to carry the iPhone around in addition to the watch is only adding to my daily carry.  Not something I want to do…it is a personal choice and not one many understand but, it works for me. 

I did however really enjoy the introduction of the Macbook.  By far the smallest laptop to date.  Weighing in at a whopping 2 lbs. and measuring only a little over half an inch thick when closed the Macbook is a minimalists dream.  12” Retina monitor displaying 3 million pixels, full-size reimagined keyboard, individual backlit keys, reengineered Touchpad, fanless architecture, and 3 color choices.

Developing a laptop with such a powerful display with such a minimalist design and size is amazing.  No larger than a notebook it could possibly get lost in a bag amongst papers, files and a notebook. 

The most impressive is the keyboard.  For anyone who’s replaced a key on a keyboard you know that there is a scissors mechanism used when depressing  key.  Bye-bye scissors, hello butterfly.  Allowing for a more uniform and stable keystroke and takes up less room assisting the Macbook’s thinness.  In addition to it’s butterfly mechanism, each key is 17% larger and 40% thinner.  Apple has done away with the row of LED that light the keys and opted to place an individual LED beneath each key adding to the minimal look of the Macbook.

This new technology come with a price, starting at $1299 and is a bit steep compared to a Macbook Air that starts at $899.  Comparing the Macbook to the Macbook Air out performs the Macbook but you will give up the Retina display and some size.

Macbook Macbook Air
12” (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina display 13.3” (diagonal) LED-backlit widescreen display
1.1 -1.3GHz dual-core Intel Core M processor 1.6 or 2.2GHz dual-core Intel Core i7 processor
0.14 to 0.52” thin 0.11 to 0.68” thin
2.03 pounds 2.96 pounds
8GB memory 4GB or 8GB memory
up to 512 GB flash storage up to 512 GB flash storage
Intel HD Graphics 5300 Intel HD Graphics 6000
Up to 9 hrs wireless web Up to 12 hrs wireless web
Integrated 39.7 watt-hour lithium-polymer Integrated 54 watt-hour lithium-polymer
3 Colors (space gray, silver, & gold) 1 color (silver)
Starting price $1299 Base price $1199

My opinion would be to stick with the Macbook Air.   I applaud Tim Cook and the entire Apple team but, cannot find a practical reason to purchase any of today’s hardware.  I hate writing that but, the facts are facts…Retina display is not enough to warrant the change…as beautiful as it may be.  So, I will applaud those who appeal to a higher sense and purchase out of love for Apple and their products or just because they can.  I will stick with my 2013 Macbook Pro until I need to upgrade.  Again, I think the Macbook is one of the slickest laptops and if I were a traveling writer with spare change would have no hesitation in purchasing.  The Apple Watch is the beginning of a product that is going to revolutionize the way we monitor our lives and connect to others.  We’ve officially surpassed Star Trek.