Pictured above, Laker Secondary School staffers work as teams to create paper airplanes. There were three sessions, and efficiency practices were added to each session to increase productivity. This was part of the staff’s Lean Manufacturing professional development training in January.
On the surface, it may seem as if manufacturing and education have little in common. However, representatives from a local manufacturing company recently spent an afternoon with Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port Laker Secondary School teachers, sharing tips that can be used in either industry to increase efficiency.
Ed Burack, Jeromie Foote and Tyler Geiger, from the Gemini Group, led a professional development session about Lean Manufacturing. During the training, teachers completed some group activities to show how planning for efficiency can lead to a positive outcome.
The core idea of Lean Manufacturing is to continually work on eliminating waste from the manufacturing process. Waste is defined as any activity that does not add value from the customer’s perspective. Lean manufacturing techniques enable companies to deliver higher quality goods at lower costs.
For education, these lean techniques can increase productivity for teachers, administrators and other staffers, which in turn will benefit student performance.
One of the lean manufacturing techniques discussed was Kaizen, a strategy where employees work together proactively to achieve regular, incremental improvements. Kaizen combines the collective talents of a company to create a strategy for continually eliminating waste.
According to Laker Secondary School Principal Jon Good, the idea to have Gemini representatives lead a professional development session about Lean Manufacturing started with a business and industry luncheon in the summer of 2017 at Lakers. This led to a group of Laker representatives touring various Gemini Group facilities in the fall.
“On that tour, we were offered this (professional development) opportunity by Ed Burack, a Laker parent,” Good said. “We took him up on that offer.”
During the training, the Gemini Group presenters talked about what lean manufacturing is, how it applies to what is done at Gemini Group, and how it could apply to school classrooms and administration. The gentlemen toured the secondary building before the presentation and found some positive examples of efficiency, and they pointed out some areas that could use some work.
To exemplify some of the Lean Manufacturing techniques, the Gemini representatives had the Laker teachers participate in three sessions of paper airplane building. The teachers worked in teams, and in each session, some general guidelines were given. With each session, the team members were given more decision making options to increase efficiency. The goal was to have each team make 50 paper airplanes in 10 minutes.
“It was a very good example of project-based, or problem-based, learning,” Good said. “Team members were given some autonomy to figure things out – how can you make this work better?”
In the first airplane-building session, each team member had one specific job, and each time an airplane exchanged hands from one person to the next, time was lost. In the third session, efficiency was increased when each person did multiple jobs, decreasing the amount of time wasted. Each team came up with a different plan to maximize efficiency during the last session.
By the last session, each team produced close to 50 airplanes in 10 minutes, which was much better than the first session, when less than half of the goal was met.
“My biggest takeaway from the training is that time is precious, and we have to use every minute of every class for the purpose of student engagement and achievement,” Good said. “We can’t afford to have any downtime.”
Good said another important lesson he learned was the importance of keeping things simple when giving instructions and teaching lessons in the classroom. Having a flow and keeping everything organized will help students to better grasp what is expected of them.
Laker Secondary School teachers said they liked the fact that this professional development was different than what they have had in the past. They enjoyed the problem-solving activities they did as teams.
“I liked that we were able to work together in an engaging manner to understand the Lean concept,” said teacher Brenda Smith. “I think it made the information more relatable and concepts ‘real world.’”
Teacher Josh Fritch said he appreciated how non-educators took the time to take concepts that have worked for them and relate them to the educational field.
“It was awesome having community stakeholders here working hand in hand with educators,” he said. “It’s all about building connections. Every day we try and build connections with students, and it is sometimes very easy to forget about all of the other entities outside of school that really care about these students and what they are doing on a daily basis. This (training) gave us a unique opportunity to connect with members outside of the school building.”
Teachers said the training helped inspire them to find ways to be more efficient in their everyday duties. They know this will help create more time that they can spend with students.
“I’m sure there are ways we could be more efficient if we step back and consider ways we could streamline what we do,” said teacher Chad Craig. “We should be asking questions like, ‘What wastes our time?’ and ‘What steps in the process could we eliminate?’”
Teacher Rhonda Phelps said the general idea is to determine the “lean” essentials needed to complete the task at hand, and to do away with anything else.
“It is easy to lose sight of those tasks through the extra stuff that accumulates around a task,” she said.
Teacher Diana Schulz said the lean manufacturing practices can be applied to Laker staff on a daily basis.
“It can help us determine who our staff leaders are and to let them help influence (others),” she said. “I also believe that it will help us streamline our teaching materials and work spaces – classrooms or storage areas – in a more efficient and aesthetic manner.”
The teachers said the training also reminded them of how important it is to always work on continuous improvement and to never accept the status quo. To accomplish this, staff members need to use one another’s skills and talents and work together.
“Everyone has a purpose,” said teacher Susan Dubs. “We need to figure out how to use everyone effectively so students – our customers – are successful.”