Lean Manufacturing for Any Workplace


There’s something about a clean workspace that makes me feel like I can be more productive. I can’t sit down to write an article if my desk is too cluttered. I can’t focus on preparing a meal if my kitchen counters and sinks aren’t clear. When I work at home, that extends to my whole house. It’s hard to concentrate if the living room and dining room aren’t clean and tidy.

Sadly, my desk does not always stay uncluttered, but I really work at it. At the end of every day, before I turn off the lights, I make sure everything is in its place so I can come into my office the next day and start with a clean slate.

It turns out that’s a thing. It’s called kaizen, which is the Japanese word for improvement. It was made popular by Toyota in its manufacturing processes and has become part of continuous improvement practices in all kinds of businesses, from banking to life coaching.

It’s especially important in manufacturing, where every action on a factory floor can affect every other action. I learned more about this when Elyssa Coultas and I were wrapping up our interview with Paulo Camasmie, who invented the Catrike recumbent cycle manufactured here in Central Florida and is featured in this issue of i4 Business.

Paulo’s company, Big Cat Human Powered Vehicles, had been recommended to us because of his passion for studying “lean manufacturing” and improving processes. He once loaded his wife and two kids into a car to head to Kentucky for a vacation so he could take a look inside the Toyota factory there.

We stepped onto an indoor wooden balcony from his upstairs office, and Paulo looked over the floor of the factory, which had closed for the evening. He seemed at peace and beamed his big trademark smile. He mentioned the 5S system.

The 5S system stands for:

Sort – Decide what’s needed and discard what’s not.
Set in order – Have a place for everything, and everything in its place.
Shine – Make sure everything is clean.
Standardize – Impose processes and rules, and enforce them.
Sustain – Make these practices part of daily work habits.

At Catrike, this 5S system involves stopping 15 minutes before the shift is over to clean every workspace. That way everyone starts with a clean shop the next day. “Customers are not going to pay for your inefficiencies,” Paulo told us. He must be doing something right, because the company’s revenues grew 23.7 percent in 2017 and are on track for at least 20 percent more growth this year.

As he spoke, I realized these are lessons for every entrepreneur and business professional. So the next time you’re trying to reach me and I’m running a vacuum under my desk, please do not judge.

Have a great month!

Editor-in-Chief

About the author

Diane Sears

Diane Sears

A career journalist, author and advocate for business growth, Diane Sears is the editor-in-chief of i4 Business. She is the founder and president of DiVerse Media LLC and co-founder of the Go for the Greens Foundation, which helps connect current and future women business owners with growth opportunities. She also serves in leadership roles with the Women Presidents’ Organization, Women’s Business Development Council of Florida/Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, and Athena PowerLink.

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