Whiteboards: Your Secret Weapon for Kaizen Processes and LEAN Initiatives

Regardless of industry, efforts to reduce waste, enhance safety, and improve processes are vital to staying competitive in today’s marketplace. For this reason, forward-thinking corporations across the US have implemented continuous improvement processes, sometimes known as LEAN Management Systems.

If you’re not familiar, a LEAN Management System (also often referred to as an LMS) is an initiative to improve quality, cost, speed, people, and safety by engaging everyone in systematic problem-solving. The system helps an organization to identify issues so everyone in the organization can understand the “why” and in turn help improve the way business is done. LEAN creates transparency, supports communication throughout all levels of the organization, and involves team members by focusing on organization goals, aligning actions with business results, and establishing accountability.

You may have also heard of the term Kaizen. This refers to continuous improvement activities within your LEAN initiatives. In other words, an integral part of your LEAN initiatives is to host “Kaizen events” which are intended to focus on specific areas to eliminate waste, improve safety, plus increase efficiency and productivity.

If your company is considering executing LMS initiatives and Kaizen events of its own, you’ve likely found that resources like LEAN and Kaizen software packages and consultants can be quite cost-prohibitive. Thankfully, one of the most effective tools in a LEAN and Kaizen process arsenal is decidedly low tech, easy-to-use, and very affordable: the classic whiteboard.

As a manufacturer of office furniture solutions, you’d assume the team here at Luxor would be biased toward recommending whiteboards because we want to sell more of them. But the fact of the matter is that we’re big fans of whiteboards because we know they are effective tools for LEAN and Kaizen methods. How do we know? We use them for our very own continuous improvement efforts! 

To put it another way (borrowing from a popular hair replacement commercial from the 1980s), “We’re not just an industry-leading maker of whiteboards, we’re also a client!” To illustrate this point, we caught up with Davis Ozier, Luxor’s Director of Operations.

From the moment Ozier came on board in late 2015, he has utilized Luxor whiteboards to implement what he refers to as “visual management” of Luxor’s continual improvement processes. “Everything that matters, make it visual,” Ozier said. “If a plan or process is relegated to a spreadsheet on a manager’s desk, it will never be carried out to its fullest potential. A whiteboard unites everybody around the things that matter and ensures everyone on the team is informed and invested.”

Ozier is such a strong believer in the effectiveness of whiteboards for continuous improvement, his team starts every morning gathered around one.

“When I started at Luxor, the first thing I did was take one of our mobile divider boards, set it up to track our improvement processes, and announce that we’re going to have our daily meeting around this board,” Ozier said. “Safety, shipping, receiving, and inventory. That whiteboard helped us foster communication, create accountability, and establish that achieving goals was going to be a team effort.”

Currently, Luxor utilizes our own whiteboard products for a variety of continuous improvement purposes. Many of the whiteboards are located in our warehouses and final assembly facilities, while others are placed at our corporate headquarters:

  • A3 Project Board: Tracks current projects, future projects, and next steps.
  • LEAN Kanban: Serves as a visualization tool of work and workflow, typically comprised of sticky notes affixed to a whiteboard to communicate status, progress, and issues.
  • Visual Measures Board: Tracks Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).
  • Accountability Board: Works in tandem with the Visual Measures Board. Specifically, KPI’s are monitored on the Visual Measures Board (what happened), and then action items are added to the Accountability Board (what are we going to do about it).
  • Luxor Innovation Team (LIT): LIT is an internal initiative within the Luxor organization to take ideas for improvement (gleaned from team members at all levels of the Luxor organization) and turn them into tangible improvements.
  • Monthly Calendar Board: Using Luxor’s Magnetic Dry Erase Monthly Calendar wall-mount whiteboard, provide department members an “at-a-glance” view of upcoming milestones, meetings, and other activities.

“Any organization worth their salt already knows that they have to measure what matters, and what gets measured gets managed,” Ozier said. “Once the leadership team has identified what those KPIs are, the next step is to get visual with it. People like having a scoreboard because at a glance you can see where you stand on things and how things are going.”

Ozier added, however, that for maximum effectiveness, whiteboards need the right features. This is why Luxor whiteboards are magnetic, stain resistant, available in both mobile and wall-mounted configurations, and come standard with generously-sized marker and eraser trays. Luxor also offers “ghost grid” versions that include two complimentary rolls of black whiteboard tape.

“We’ve recently started using our new ghost grids because we realized how much easier it is to set up goals, as well as quickly change the layout based on the evolving needs of our business,” Ozier said. “You want it to look good, and you want the information spaced out evenly. A Luxor ghost grid whiteboard makes a board effortless to tape up.”

In conclusion, if you want your LEAN or continuous improvement initiative to succeed, a whiteboard can be your secret weapon. And for a whiteboard that’s truly up to the task, look to Luxor!