Imagine you’re in an office. You can’t see the ground, the table is full of papers, and you have no idea where the wall starts and the ground begins. Your boss asks you to find a paper that he handed you last week, how easy would it be for you to do it?

What if I told you that making a few paper airplanes could help you find a solution to your problem? That’s exactly how a few of us learned the basics of LEAN manufacturing during a training course last week.

The LEAN philosophy is based on continuous improvement where you become a customer to each other. You become the customer to your boss, and your co-worker becomes the customer to you when they ask for something.

Creating a way of getting rid of unnecessary wastes is apart of the LEAN philosophy. By eliminating wastes such as overproduction, motion, or creating defects, you can create time.

The LEAN philosophy challenges you to be organized, clean, and disciplined within the company. This philosophy is such a no-brainer that in doing so you can create culture and creativity within the company.

Steve Capuano, the LEAN Enterprise Champion here at Cadet, used a hypothetical paper airplane factory to show us how LEAN can make a big difference in the workplace.

The first round was meant to simulate a factory with no LEAN practices in place. Each employee takes a product from start to finish by himself or herself. Steve put a pile of paper in front of us, showed us a sample airplane and asked us to make as many copies as we could in 5 minutes. How hard could that possibly be?

The unaccepted pile of paper airplanes after quality control.

The first round of airplane making, regrettably, turned out terrible. Out of the eight people and 23 airplanes later, only three were acceptable. To pass Steve’s quality control, the folds on each airplane needed to match the sample, both sides needed to be symmetrical and the airplanes needed to look good. The quality control was nitpicky, but you would hope it would be in this hypothetical paper plane factory scenario.

unspecified 3
The first fold being made in the assembly line from round two.

In the second round, which represented a more efficient workplace, he created an assembly line and gave each person training and guidance. Steve had four people, each in charge of a specific fold or folds on the paper plane, he also had a manager and a supplier. Well, you would initially think this would’ve turned out great. However, the first person in the assembly line had to make a batch of 10 in their section, before moving the paper airplanes on to the next person. The number of airplanes in 5 minutes that the team came out with was a GRAND total of zero. Horrible.

After two horrific fails, the team produced something. So what was different about the third time? Same guidance, same training, same assembly line, but different amount of airplanes. This time each person started with a plane that was partially completed, when they finished their folds, they passed the plane to the next person. With this single piece system, at the end of 5 minutes, the team made 15 airplanes.

unspecified 2
The paper airplane assembly line from round three.

How did that happen? Well, through the elimination of wastes– and correcting some of the inefficiencies we had in earlier rounds. By narrowing the time spent waiting for someone to finish 10 airplanes, the team could produce more airplanes in a smaller amount of time. Because of this continuous flow, the team noted that there stress levels decreased because of the lack of time spent waiting for airplanes. During the first two rounds the team was silent, anxious, and questioning. Whereas compared to the third round where the team was laughing, smiling, and relaxed.

unspecified 4
Steve Capuano teaching the importance of LEAN.

Steve noted during the seminar that everything here at Cadet is “penciled in stone,” which means that if you see something that can improve or be more productive, you should speak up and try to improve it. This attitude is great to have in a workplace environment because there is always room for improvement.

For example, in a particular case study from a few years ago, Steve visually tracked the path that an employee took to change a part on one of our presses in the fabrication department.

Spaghetti Diagram
Spaghetti Diagram showing the (green) route that employee took to change a part on a press. The complete change took 38 minutes to complete.

By drawing out a “spaghetti diagram” the team member was able see how inefficient the process was and rearrange his workspace to make it more efficient.

The team member was able to cut down his time by 17 minutes, almost half the total time it took to complete the task.

Spaghetti Diagram 2
Spaghetti Diagram showing the modified route (green) that employee took. The new process took 21 minutes to complete.

So after the LEAN seminar, and four hours of smiling, laughing, questioning, and lastly challenging, what was the end result? Because of the LEAN philosophy and Steve’s everlasting support, the team knows how to become more productive.

In each department here at Cadet we have encompassed this philosophy and because of it, benefitted in the long run. The LEAN philosophy has enabled cross-training, organization, continuous improvement, and ultimately created a way of eliminating wastes.

Imagine again you’re in that office. You’re at that same desk but this time papers are color-coordinated, your desk clear, and everything in it’s place. Your boss asks you to find a paper that he gave you last week, how easy would it be for you to find it?

By using the LEAN philosophy this could be your reality. When you eliminated that waste from your office surroundings, and established organization in the workplace, you can become more productive.

Why waste valuable time looking for that paper when you could be working on your next big assignment?