Every day at Willmar Electric we start our day off with a huddle. Immediately after the huddle, we break out into a time of what we call “Lean and Clean.” The huddles typically last about 10 minutes, and the Lean and Clean is about 20 minutes. During Lean and Clean, everyone is expected to either clean up an area within our projects or offices or work on “leaning” a process within our work area. You might be asking, what is “leaning a process.”

In simple terms lean is a process of eliminating waste. At Willmar Electric we look for what we call 2 Second Leans. The concept of a 2 Second Lean is to look for waste no matter how small and fix it. Even if you only save 2 seconds, the improvement will multiply and compound over time, saving potentially hours and days. Also saving headaches and stress. The end result is a more fun workplace.

At first glance, our workspaces look pretty lean. Things are neat and orderly. People have even walked through and said: “wow this place is organized.”
Most of the time I work in our Lincoln, NE office. But this Tuesday morning my day started in our Willmar, MN office. I would say the two offices are very similar on the lean scale.
But when I’m in the Lincoln office sometime, I struggle to see waste and find things to improve every day. But in Willmar it was easy. Almost comical how easily I found things. I found and fixed 3 things within 10 minutes. Let me give you some examples.

I found 2 checklists in need of lamination. I pulled out the laminator which was easy for me to spot because I bought it about 20 years ago. While I waited for the machine to warm up, 3 different people walked by at 3 different times and said: “Why aren’t you using the other laminator?”
Willmar Electric doesn’t do so much lamination we need two machines. In fact, we hardly need 1. Both machines took different materials to make them work. We had two brand new supplies for each!!!

What is my point? Am I saying I’m a master at leaning things and the Willmar office is full of fools?    Nope.

In May the people in each office teamed up with a partner and analyzed what waste we each could help the other person find in their office. All the groups came up with about 12-20 ideas and stopped finding ideas not because they ran out of ideas but because they ran out of time.

My point is I think I have discovered people are often too comfortable with their current surroundings and are unable to see the waste sitting next to them.
I’m not suggesting outsiders have a better handle our own waste. I’m suggesting each of us shouldn’t be afraid to get an outsiders opinion or advice. Using our coworkers as another set of eyes potentially could help make improvements that could be missed.

Who knows in the end in your mom might get a “new” laminator complete with a fresh stock of supplies.

-David Chapin


(Interested in learning more about 2 Second Lean visit Author and Speaker Paul Akers website at www.paulakers.net)