Spring Break 2013: Schoolhouse Supplies Goes LEAN!

March 28, 2013

Lean-lnstitute-logo-homeSpring Break week might have many of you sleeping in and off on relaxing vacations, but here at Schoolhouse Supplies, we have been hard at work on a behind-the-scenes “LEAN Event” project to help streamline and improve our volunteer sorting and tallying systems, and do some much-needed “spring cleaning” in some other sections of our Free Store.

Through the generosity of The Kids in Need Foundation, we were fortunate enough to have the talents of LEAN expert Darren Haper, Resource Center Specialist, who has conducted similar workshops in other Free Teacher Stores across the country.

What is LEAN?

The LEAN concept traces its US roots to Henry Ford’s first assembly line in 1913, and it is a principle broadly used today by major global automotive, manufacturing, and supply chain organizations. The goal is a simple one: maximize value, and minimize wasted resources.  Over the past year, Schoolhouse Supplies began exploring the concept of LEAN under the leadership of Board member and LEAN Champion Valerie Jenkins, and her colleagues and at Grainger Industrial Supply. In recent months, another Board member, Kerry Waterman of The Standard, and her colleague Chad Marcus, who is a certified LEAN Six Sigma Master Black Belt, stepped up to help us further assess and map out the “current state” of our Free Store operations, and help begin to identify ways we can streamline volunteer and staff processes.  We’ll share more on this in an upcoming blog post!

How We Did It

On Day 1, Darren led us through a training session on the history of the LEAN concept. From here, Chad Marcus led the team through an analysis of our “current state” and the team immediately began brainstorming and prioritizing opportunities to focus on in the coming days.

From there, we dove into re-architecting a few key volunteer stations to improve and streamline our volunteer processes. We made a lot of progress. From de-cluttering to painting to reordering a few key processes, we are well on our way to leaner – and more impactful – Free Store  operations.

Our LEAN event would not have been possible without the help of our very dedicated volunteer crew, who helped us clean, dust, re-build, paint, glue, laminate, and much more.  A very special thanks, as well, to our amazing team of volunteers. We’ll be sharing more updates and photos in a future post.

While the changes we made this week primarily impact our “internal” operations, they will have a direct and immediate impact on our ability for volunteer and staff teams to more easily tally and prepare supplies to be stocked in our Free Store…. which means we can get more supplies onto our shelves , and into local classrooms, more efficiently and effectively!

But That’s Not All… Help Us Continue to Improve!

Beyond the immediate progress we made this week, we have some great plans and ideas for continuous improvement in the coming months. If you are interested in helping us continue this process with one of our future projects, please contact Caitlin Collings to learn more! And if you have any ideas or suggestions for us to consider, we invite you to share them in the Comments section below!

Learn More About LEAN

If you are interested in learning more about the LEAN movement, here are some suggested resources:

Lean Thinking by James Womack
The Machine That Changed the World by James Womack
The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge
5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace by Hiroyuki Hirano