A Washington DC Lean Tour, Part 1: Julia Child’s Lean Kitchen


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).

This sign explains how Julia and her husband set up their kitchen for time savings and ease of use:

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, but there are 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:

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:

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
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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