More Everyday Lean Examples

There is not much time left in our contest for the best examples of everyday lean. The contest will continue running until the end of May. We are looking for the best examples of lean in our everyday lives – from home, from traffic, from the store…anywhere. The best submission will win a copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean. If you have an idea on everyday lean, please submit it using this form. Here are more submissions.

1. The 8th Waste: The Waste of Overpackaging

This one is from me. OK, so it’s actually the waste of overprocessing, but using more materials than needed to fulfill a customer’s needs is real. Here’s an example – I ordered a stylus from Verizon for my PDA/phone – 3 of them. They are very, very small and could be shipped with a strip of tape around them and sticking them in a regular envelope for 39 cents. But instead, it came in a pre-packaged box that was 10x the size of the stylus and that came inside a cardboard box that was 10x the size of the pre-packaged box. The shipping materials were probably worth more than the contents.

2. The Waste of Waiting

Here’s a submittal from a reader. Of course this requires new elevator controls, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten on an elevator and others were piling in the car next to it. Then both elevators stop at the same floor and let people out. I’ve never seen this, but love it.

I recently worked in a building with an elevator bank that used lean principles to convey passengers. Rather than push an “up” button and pile onto the first available elevator with everyone else (stopping at every floor), you input your desired floor # and the panel told you which elevator to board. All passengers from all floors are doing the same thing, and the computer is using the 4 elevators to globally optimize transportation across the system. From an individual perspective, I found it to be a great setup and there are sure to be advantages from the maintenance/owner perspective as well.

3. Multiple Wastes

Here is a group of submissions from a reader, although the first one may be a blatant attempt to suck up to the judges. We’re not above that.

* A lean solution for me is keeping the Lean Blog in my Bookmarks on Firefox so that I can get to the site quickly to check for updates and not forget the correct URL.
* A nice safety fix on lawn mowers is the kill function tied to the lever on the handle of the mower. If the handle is let go, the mower engine is killed reducing injury possibilities when one is no longer in control of the mower.
* I recently noticed at events like concerts and sporting events when “ticket takers” scan barcodes on tickets for entry. This reduces the actual transaction time for passing through the gate as well as providing a poke-yoke to ensure that people aren’t getting in to the wrong event. This also seems to be in place at airline gates as well.


4. The Waste of Shopping?

From a reader:

My mother-in-law lives with us. In order to keep track of all of her pills, we use a pill organizer. There is a separate container for each day divided into compartments for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and night. All of the containers for the week fit into a holder. It is very visual, therefore easy to see if the pills have been taken.

Also, another thing that we have done is made up a shopping list with the items that we buy in the order of the aisles of the grocery store. That way, you can start at one end and make your way to the other end and not have to loop back for the things that you forgot/missed. It also cuts down on the impulse buying since you don’t have to go up and down every aisle.

My wife provides me with this list laid out in this format but not t save me time. It’s because I have shopping dyslexia, and if she didn’t, I’d miss half the items and come back with 15 things we didn’t need. I guess that’s lean too.


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Jamie Flinchbaugh is a lean advisor, speaker, and author. In addition to co-founding the Lean Learning Center, he has helped build nearly 20 companies as either a co-founder, board member, advisor, or angel investor. These companies range from high-performance motorcycles to SaaS tools for continuous improvement. He has advised over 300 companies around the world in lean transformation, including Intel, Harley-Davidson, Crayola, BMW, and Amazon. Jamie co-authored the popular book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean, and continues to share his experiences as a Contributing Editor forIndustryWeek and as a blogger at JamieFlinchbaugh.com. He holds degrees from Lehigh University, University of Michigan, and MIT, and continues to teach and mentor on campus. Jamie is best known for helping to transform how we think about lean from a tools-centric model to one based on principles and behaviors. His passion for lean transformation comes from seeking to unlock the great potential that people possess to build inspiring organizations.

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1 Comment on "More Everyday Lean Examples"

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  1. Mark Graban says:

    For the elevators, the Marriott Marquis hotel in Times Square has a similar setup, with maybe 12 or 15 elevators in the bank (this is a huge hotel).

    The system worked in a similar way, where you request your floor from a central panel and it tells you what elevator to go to. It seemed like waste, in a way, in that the hotel had to invest in software and an elevator upgrade. I get leery when I hear that software is the answer to everything, the same could apply to elevators or factories.

    But, I heard a fellow guest say “this elevator is so much better, I used to have to wait 20 minutes for an elevator, it was horrible.” Well then it didn’t seem like waste. There was a real elevator capacity (and customer satisfaction) issue that they were fixing.

    Still, their visual controls could have been better. The elevator system was so different than the norm that it confused many guests. It was hard to find the central control panel if you didn’t know what to look for. Where they used to have normal elevator buttons, they should have had better signs pointing you to the central console. It was funny to see people board the elevator and then, out of habit, look for buttons to press inside the elevator. With the programmed elevator, you didn’t have to do that.

    It was a lesson in the power of habit and how hard it can be to change engrained behaviors!

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