One system that was suggested however maintained its effectiveness long after all others had faded into oblivion, that system was the concept of Lean Manufacturing.
Lean Manufacturing enlists five base principals.
2. Identify and map the value stream: You'll end up with a picture of your current processes from start to finish and all parts in-between. You can then use this map to identify bottlenecks and other inefficiencies.
3. Reduce or eliminate waste, (what a great idea), and improve flow: A Lean enterprise eliminates all activities that utilize resources but that do not create value for the customer.
4. Pull from the customer: Information and material is pulled based on customer demand.
5. Pursue Perfection: Continue to perfect your Lean plan by returning to Step 1 and repeating this process for a cycle of continuous improvement.
Now if you've been a cog in a manufacturing machine such as I have, and even if you haven't, it's easy to see how implementing these ideas could improve upon the bottom line. But how do you keep this system from fading away with time as all others have before it? The difference between this program and others is step #5, Pursue Perfection. Step #5 is achieved through what is refereed to as a Kaisen Event which in its simplest definition means to continuously improve. A kaisen event empowers employees to improve their own working environment making them a part of the solution encouraging a drive to continue the process.
Now, how can this manufacturing principal be applied to every day life? Well I think we all strive for continuous improvement one way or another but let's take a look at applying the five Lean principals.
1. Define value from the customer's perspective: In this case you and your family are the customers so take some time to identify the things you do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that add value to your lives, at the same time identify activities that don't add value or detract from the value of your lives.
2. Identify and map the value stream: You'll end up with a picture of your current routines from start to finish and all parts in-between. You can then use this map to identify activities that "eat time" and produce waste as well as highlight other inefficiencies in your daily life.
3. Reduce or eliminate waste and improve flow: Take your findings from steps one and two and eliminate the activities that don't improve upon your life. Improve upon inefficient routines eliminating wasted time and wasted resources.
4. Pull from the customer: Learn to trust your own feelings and senses about what you truly need. Don't be distracted by advertisements telling you you need what they have to sell.
5. Pursue Perfection: Continue to perfect your value of life by returning to Step 1 and repeating this process for a cycle of continuous improvement.
Now I'm going to use these principles to assess one of my weekly activities, the act of purchasing groceries. This is a value added activity as my family and I need to eat and rather enjoy it too. Using a scrap of paper I'll identify the process in which I obtain my groceries from writing the list to eventually consuming the food purchased. One thing I could do is purchase items differently reducing packaging that I would eventually have to spend time trowing out and hauling to the curb. Menu planning could reduce the types and quantities of food purchased saving dollars from my bill. I also had an epiphany on how to reuse my grocery list. I think that I will post the list upon the fridge once I have returned from the store to use as an inventory of the fridges contents preventing me from having to stand with the door open trying to determine what to eat. I will purchase more whole foods rather than prepared foods using my menu plan to its fullest and in exchange I will allow myself a treat such as some chocolate or some salted nuts to keep myself sane.
I've learned a number of valuable lessons from this Kaisen event and next time I go shopping I plan to revisit this scenario and see what other steps can be taken to improve upon the process. I feel in charge of my own destiny and look forward to applying this practice to other aspects of my life.