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An Introduction to Process Control Charts

Posted by Greg Jacobson

May 3, 2017 7:02:00 AM

Donald J. Wheeler, PhD is a world-renown expert in continuous improvement, having worked with W. Edwards Deming and later writing the classic book Understanding Variation. 

Wheeler once wrote and said, "Statistical Process Control is, at its heart, about getting the most from your processes. It is about the continual improvement of processes and outcomes. And it is, first and foremost, a way of thinking... with some tools attached." 

I’d like to thank him for providing the perfect quote for a blog about process control charts because measurement, control, and improvement are exactly what they are designed to enable.

What is a Process Control Chart?

Process control charts (or what Wheeler calls "process behavior charts") are graphs or charts that plot out process data or management data (outputs) in a time-ordered sequence. It's a specialized run chart. They typically include a center line, a 3-sigma upper control limit, and a 3-sigma lower control limit. There might be 1- or 2-sigma limits drawn in, as well. The center line represents the process mean or average (and sometimes the median).

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Topics: Lean, Six Sigma, Improvement Process

"Lean Thinking" and the 5 Principles of Lean Manufacturing

Posted by Kade Jansson

May 2, 2017 7:02:00 AM

James Womack and Dan Jones are the founders of the Lean Enterprise Institute and the Lean Enterprise Academy (UK), respectively. Their book, Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, is considered by some to be the bible of Lean manufacturing.  It was originally published in 1996 based on their in-depth study of Toyota’s fabled Toyota Production System (TPS). Philip Caldwell Chairman and CEO of Ford from 1980-1985, said of the book, “Truly remarkable...The most comprehensive, instructive, mind-stretching and provocative analysis of any major industry I have ever known.” 

Lean Thinking lays out the five Lean manufacturing principles; value, value streams, flow, pull, and perfection.  Here’s some insight into what Womack and Jones meant by each.

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Topics: Lean, Daily Lean Management

9 Ways a Lean Management System Propels Positive Change

Posted by Maggie Millard

Apr 28, 2017 8:16:00 AM


I was at a neighborhood gathering the other day when I ran into an old friend who I hadn’t seen in years.  She asked me what I had been up to, so I told her a bit about my role at KaiNexus and mentioned that we have software that helps companies achieve success with business methodologies like Lean and Six Sigma.

“Oh,” she said. “I figured they just used spreadsheets and email.”

I didn’t want to hog the conversation or turn a social event into a business lecture, so I just responded that there are a lot of reasons that organizations are more successful if they use software to support improvement efforts.

I was trying to be chill then, I’m not now. You’ve come to this blog for a reason, so hopefully (unlike my friend) you are interested in the gritty details about how a Lean management system can act as a booster rocket for positive organizational change. Here are nine ways that spring to mind.

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Topics: Lean, Software, Continuous Improvement Software

Get Your Lean Management System Off to the Right Start

Posted by Jake Sussman

Apr 7, 2017 10:20:48 AM

The first few months of the implementation of any technology or management system are crucial to success. This is doubly true for many Lean management system deployments because often organizations are introducing the Lean approach and the technology to support it at the same time. Over the years, our customers have shared with us some of their best advice for rolling out a solution that will be adopted by employees and effective at speeding the pace of positive change. Here’s what they recommend.

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Topics: Lean, Software, Continuous Improvement Software

Lean Construction – Frequently Asked Questions

Posted by Matt Banna

Mar 28, 2017 12:10:58 PM

As you can probably tell from reading this blog or others about the Lean approach to business management, most of what is written about the subject is applied to manufacturing and healthcare organizations. We know, however, that its application is not that limited. We have clients in technology, education, agriculture, professional services, and more.

One sector that is starting to embrace the Lean approach with increasing enthusiasm is construction. We’ve been delighted to see a new level of interest from leaders in the field. We thought it might be useful to share some of the questions we get asked most often about Lean construction.

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Why is the Construction Industry Turning to Lean?

In terms of the adoption of performance improvement and quality optimization techniques, the construction industry lags somewhat behind the manufacturing and services sectors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in the last 40 years, the productivity of the construction industry has stayed flat, while the productivity of other non-farm industries increased over 100%. Why? Several studies have found that at least 30% of wasted resources are caused by “entrenched attitudes in the management of projects.” Clearly, there is a compelling reason to try a new approach.

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Topics: Lean

The Right Way to Talk About Standard Work with Your Staff

Posted by Greg Jacobson

Mar 23, 2017 11:13:58 AM

We've written about standard work in the past, but it is often a topic that is overlooked or misunderstood in the continuous improvement process of many organizations, so it's definitely worth revisiting. If you’re in the process of implementing LeanKaizen, Six Sigma, or another method of continuous improvement, we strongly recommend making standard work a part of your process.

What is Standard Work?

Standard work is the practice of setting, communicating, following, and improving standards.

Establishing standard work begins with creating, clarifying, and sharing information about the most efficient method to perform a task that is currently known with everyone performing that process. Once this information has been shared, everyone practices this standard consistently so that the work is done the best way every time. This is where continuous improvement comes into play; standard work isn't a "set it and forget it" process, announced once and then permanently unchanging. Instead, everyone should work to improve the standard, and share new best practices as they're discovered.

Standard work creates stability and consistency within a continuous improvement system by providing the baseline upon which a process sits. This way, your team isn't constantly reinventing the wheel.

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What is NOT Standard Work?

It’s important in any discussion of standard work to talk about what it is not, as a poor interpretation could mean results that inhibit improvement rather than supporting it. Leaders have an obligation to promote standard work in the correct way, so that staff will both respect the need for it and invest themselves in improving it.

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Topics: Lean

The Advantages of Applying Lean in Education

Posted by Maggie Millard

Mar 9, 2017 8:36:00 AM

America’s education system faces an enormously complex set of challenges. Educators find themselves faced with community and government pressure to improve student performance, but often without corresponding funding or influence over policies and expectations. In short, our school administrations and teachers are being asked to do more with less.

That’s why it isn’t surprising to find that education professionals are turning to a business management approach that has proven very effective in other sectors such as manufacturing and healthcare.

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Topics: Lean, Continuous Improvement in Education

The Need for Lean in the Construction Industry

Posted by Matt Banna

Mar 7, 2017 8:24:00 AM

One of the most amazing things about Lean manufacturing principles is how universal they are. Lean - a management philosophy derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (a method for the elimination of waste within a manufacturing system) is equally effective when applied to manufacturing, healthcare, government, or even construction, among others.

Of course, the application of Lean is at various stages in different fields. While Lean, having been created in the automotive industry, has long been applied in manufacturing, it is a relatively new concept in the construction industry.

Those who have been working in and around construction for quite some time will know the construction industry has suffered deeply from a lack of innovation and systems improvement for as long as most can remember.  

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A 2013 research article from the
Alexandra Engineering Journal, Applying lean thinking in construction and performance improvement, found the construction industry is troubled with delay and often suffers cost and time overrun. The report states that the productivity of the construction industry worldwide has been declining over the past 40 years.

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Topics: Lean

Rhythm, Motion, Basketball and…Lean?

Posted by Clint Corley

Mar 3, 2017 11:52:39 AM

All my life, I’ve been an avid basketball fan. In my younger days, some would say I was a decent player, though many moons have passed since then. Every time we stepped on the court, one of my team’s goals was to get into a “rhythm.”

The dictionary definition of rhythm is “a regular, repeated pattern of beats, sounds, activity, or movements.” For any non-sports aficionado reading this, imagine a group of individuals working together to achieve a common goal. Each person in this group is moving fluidly through their individual responsibilities, and the entire group’s activities are synced together in unison; much like a choir singing beautiful four-part harmony.

On the basketball court, our goal was to create that same harmony, except using movement instead of sound. If we could accomplish that, we could predict what events were about to transpire and act accordingly.

When a basketball team creates a rhythm they commit fewer turnovers, increase the percentage of shots made, make more efficient use of their time on the court, and execute as close to flawless as human nature will allow. Now, you can’t ever be perfect, but being in a rhythm allows you to improve the small factors of the game, and those factors add up to victories.

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How does this apply to Lean? Great question. To answer it, let’s examine the eight wastes of lean as defined by the Toyota Production System (TPS):

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Topics: Lean

A Quick Guide to Lean Construction

Posted by Matt Banna

Feb 16, 2017 8:24:00 AM


Readers of this blog know that the Lean approach to business management has taken root far outside of the manufacturing sector. It is used by healthcare organizations, software development firms, financial institutions, and even institutes of higher education. The construction industry likewise has benefited from applying and adapting the fundamental principles of Lean. Construction is a unique industry with each project being unlike the last. That’s why agile thinking, effective communications, and extensive collaboration are necessary to maximize value.

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Topics: Lean