Low Unemployment Means it’s Time to Get LEAN!



A low unemployment rate is favorable for the economy and the general public. But, what if you’re an employer struggling to find additional staff and resources to produce and deliver a large influx of new orders? How do you fulfill your obligations with a dwindling candidate pool?

You get lean!
With a lean transformation, you could easily increase your output by as much as 20%. Do you know that 5S is often considered the foundation of implementing a lean program? That’s right. Creating a clean, safe, organized work environment is essential when crafting a lean strategy. It’s often said, “If you can’t do 5S, you can’t do lean.” 5S is a proven method used to systematically organize, clean and standardize the workplace that maximizes efficiency in all phases of the business.

What’s the true benefit of 5S for your business?
Ben Franklin said: “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

Time wasted looking for tools, parts, utensils, notepads, brooms, pans or cleaners should be eliminated. Let’s look at the following scenario: The average worker may spend about 10 minutes per day looking for things. He or she may look for a tool or a part or even just walk to a storage location that’s not nearby. The worker may even be walking around clutter or piles of inventory just to get to something—which adds up to 50 minutes per week! If that employee works 50 weeks per year, the total amount of time he or she might spend walking, looking and retrieving items they need would equal more than 41 hours. That’s an entire week by the end of the year—for just one employee!

5S is only the first step in a lean transformation. There are many more tools available to improve efficiencies and drive waste from the system, none of which ask workers to work harder, faster or longer. Other successful lean tools include:

  • Standard Work: One of the most powerful but least used lean tools, Standard Work allows the task to get done using best practices and performed the same way to yield consistent results. 
  • Poka Yoke: Often done in conjunction with Standard Work so the ability to make errors is not allowed, Poka Yoke is a Japanese term that means “mistake-proofing” or “inadvertent error prevention.” The key word is “inadvertent,” as Poka Yoke is any mechanism in a lean manufacturing process that helps an equipment operator avoid (yokeru) mistakes (poka).
  • Visual Management System: The implementation of a visual management system is also important when streamlining operations since visual cues are used to communicate messages, check inventory levels and re-order points—often taking the guesswork out of operational decisions.  

Do More... with Less!
By implementing lean strategies, you can eliminate waste, maximize efficiency, and work smarter. Isn’t it time for a lean transformation?

The Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (The Center) has helped Michigan’s manufacturers for more than 25 years with lean implementation strategies. The food and agriculture industry in Michigan is exploding and many food processors are realizing that food processing IS manufacturing. For additional information, contact me at jspillson@the-center.org.


John Spillson, Food Business Development Manager
John Spillson is a member of The Center’s Food Team. For more than 20 years, John owned and operated his own food processing company, taking a family recipe of rice pudding into five states. This experience has given him extensive knowledge in production, sales, food safety, marketing, warehousing and logistics. To read John’s full bio, visit the-center.org.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at www.the-center.org.

Categories: Lean Principles