A Washington DC Lean Tour, Part 1

Over Memorial Day weekend, my wife and I visited Baltimore and Washington DC. As much as I try to “turn off” that lean part of my brain, it’s tough when historical items jump out that remind me of lean. Here are some pictures of and thoughts on things I saw.

Smithsonian National Museum of American History:

Julia Child’s “Lean” Kitchen

The museum had the home kitchen of the late Julia Child, the famed chef, author, and television personality (we learned, separately, at the International Spy Museum, that she once worked, in Asia, for the OSS, the pre-cursor of the CIA, but that’s another story).

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This sign explains how Julia and her husband set up their kitchen for time savings and ease of use (click on it for a larger view):

Frequently used items, such as knifes and skillets were stored out in the open, close to the point of use. “The arrangement of the items was not left to chance.” This is a perfect illustration of true 5S principles. It’s not just that the kitchen was clean and “not a mess”, they used the principles of “sort” and “store” to make sure items were in locations that made sense.

It might be sort of hard to see in this picture (click on it for a larger view), but can you see the black outlines on the peg board, indicating what pots and pans were supposed to go where? Some households might find this open storage to be “messy,” but I’m sure it saved them a lot of time looking for things and motion saved by not having to open drawers (or bend down to get things from low shelves, as I often must do at home).

A History of Bar Coding:

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Same museum, they have a display about the history of Universal Product Code (UPC) codes, more commonly known as “bar codes.” The display showed a more recent innovation, the use of bar codes for patient safety in hospitals, as shown in this picture (again, click for a larger version).

More to come later this week, lots of good industrial history and lean stuff, including the following, and more:

  • Interchangeable parts
  • 1850’s machine shop
  • Female “computers” in early aerospace production
  • Lean at Oriole Park at Camden Yards
  • FDR’s lean quote

Click here for Stop #2 on the DC Lean Tour.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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