What Was My First Process Improvement (or “Kaizen”)?
“What was your very first process improvement?”
When I was a kid, my first job was actually being an independent contractor to deliver papers for The Detroit News. I had the route in my neighborhood from about ages 12 to 15. I delivered papers on the street I grew up on and also on the street back behind.
The density of newspaper customers was high enough that I had about 40 customers on a few streets. Maybe 50% of the houses took the paper each weekday afternoon and weekend mornings. I imagine the numbers are much lower today.
I had a newspaper bag that was designed to go over the back of a bicycle. I forget if I was given the bag or had to buy it.
It looked like this but had the Detroit News logo on it.
I had a ten-speed bike, but it wasn't really sturdy enough to put on the back of a bike.
The route was small enough that it was practical to walk. So, I cut a hole in the middle part of the bag so it would go over my head (or my mom did it). I'd put papers in both sides of the bag so it would hang with some papers on my chest and some on my back.
Or this (not me pictured):
I'd deliver papers out of the front pocket and, when the front was empty, I'd swing the bag around so the papers on my back were now on my chest.
Sometimes I'd ride the bike. More often, I'd walk and wear the bag that way.
I think that improvement to the bag counts as Kaizen. It didn't cost any money. It was putting creativity over capital. Although sometimes on weekends, when it was early, the papers were heavier, and the weather was sometimes bad, my dad would drive me in the car to deliver the papers. It was their capital, but I appreciated the help.
It was also Kaizen because it made my job easier compared to using my bike or pulling stacks of papers in a red wagon, which I also did too. I'll have to ask my parents, maybe I used the wagon until I was strong enough to carry the papers. I do remember pulling the papers in a wagon the day of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 when I was 12 years old, actually.
Did you have a first job where you practiced Kaizen? Were you naturally a process improvement thinker (and doer)?
What was your first Kaizen, at any age? What was your most recent Kaizen?