June, 2006

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Article Index

Lean Office Success
Author Unknown
Think about how much time it takes you to meet your customers needs, your own needs, and how much money is involved in what you are doing on a daily basis. Wouldn't you like to gain some time back in your work day? Wouldn't it be nice if costs, rework or wait time was reduced or eliminated? If so, keep reading.
BOOK REVIEW - The Wal-Mart Effect
Article by: John Hehre
Fishman, Charles: The Wal-Mart Effect. New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2006
DOL Publishes Regulations for Employees and Employers Under USERRA
Article by: Gregory Peters
With over 500,000 National Guard and Armed Forces Reserves mobilized since September 11, 2001, employers are more likely than ever to encounter legal challenges under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Enacted in 1994, USERRA prohibits discrimination and establishes reemployment and benefit protection rights for returning military personnel. Since March 2005, the Department of Labor (DOL) has required employers to provide employees notice of their USERRA rights. The DOL publishes a poster satisfying this notice requirement.
COMPLIANCE NEWS NOTES
Article by: Vija Kelly
Questions and Answers from OSHA on Forklift Training
Minnesota Economic Condition
Article by: Manufacturers Alliance
For the first time since November of 2005, Minnesota's Business Conditions Index dropped.
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Lean Office Success
Think about how much time it takes you to meet your customers needs, your own needs, and how much money is involved in what you are doing on a daily basis. Wouldn't you like to gain some time back in your work day? Wouldn't it be nice if costs, rework or wait time was reduced or eliminated? If so, keep reading.

Ponder these questions:
  • Do you have a primary responsibility at work that if you went on vacation or you suddenly ended up in the hospital there is someone in your office setting that could easily complete that task while you were not present? Or would the customer have to wait until you came back to work?

  • Can you find everything you need in your office or cubicle in 30 seconds or less? If someone had to cover for you while you were out could they go to your office or cubicle and finds things in 30 seconds or less? Are your file folders labeled and in alphabetical order in your file cabinets?

  • Remember your first day on the job? Was someone waiting for you with a great big binder that tells you how to perform your basic job duties or where information can be obtained?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions it is time to invest in and implement Lean in the office. There are lots of things that can be improved in the office setting. We tend to take for granted that new employees or those filling in for us will know what to do in order to get the job done.

What is Lean? Lean principles are based on meeting the customers' expectations. Giving them exactly what they want and when they want it.

Lean concepts that greatly enhance our productivity and meeting customer demands are the use of the basic principles of 5S and Standard Work.
  • 5S teaches the discipline of having your tools and equipment in good working order and everything is its place. The steps of the process are Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

  • Standard Work focuses on putting tasks or activities that are usually done on a routine basis in a documented logical order that can be repeated easily and cuts down on rework or time involved.
Sounds good, but how do you get started? Just get moving! Start with a small individual or team project. That is what we did at Toro. In order to get people excited about what Lean could do for our office, we decided to hold an all day office Lean event. This way employees would be given the time to stop, focus and work on their project while seeing it through completion in one day. We identified lean facilitators who were trained in lean principles of 5S, Standard Work and Kaizen. The facilitators meet with departments to scope out their projects before the actual event took place. This ensured that teams had all of the supplies and items they needed on hand.

The day before the event we held an all-employee office meeting. We put together a Power Point presentation of current pictures of waste that we found in the office. We also had our management team participate in a skit that was humorous and highlighted why Lean was necessary. We unveiled who the teams would be and what each team agreed to work on. We encouraged all employees to wear jeans on the day of the event.

The day proved to be very successful. When it was all said and done we were able to throw out over 2 tons of trash! Many offices and cubicles, closets, and file cabinets were 5S'd. Clutter was removed. Standard Work procedures were created. Some of them included how to use the engineering blue print machine and how to reorder marketing literature when low. There were a total of 17 lean events that took place which encompassed 145 office employees working together. All these lean events had an hour of cost savings tag attached to them.

You may be thinking that you can't afford to have everyone involved in an event on the same day and maybe the thought of the cost of allowing employees to spend an entire day on this it too much to consider. However, cluttered offices and file cabinets did not happen overnight. It took months and maybe years to develop. What will happen if you don't stop and take the time to become Lean in the office?

Just get moving!
Author Unknown

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BOOK REVIEW - The Wal-Mart Effect
Fishman, Charles: The Wal-Mart Effect. New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2006
Love it or hate it, blame it or hail it, Wal-Mart has had a profound effect on the economy of the United States and many foreign countries. For example, a four pack of GE light bulbs cost $2.19 five years ago. Thanks to Wal-Mart, even stores outside the chain now sell four-packs for 88 cents. The bulbs are at least as good as they were five years ago, so what caused a 60% decrease in the price, and who all is affected by this change?

A few years ago, deodorant came packaged in a little cardboard box. Today it is shrink-wrapped, if that. No more box, thanks to Wal-Mart. Good or bad? Good, if you buy deodorant; you save about 5 cents without the cardboard packaging. Good, if you're an environmentalist; there are fewer boxes going into landfills and fewer trees being cut down. However, if you make little cardboard boxes, you are less well off. In the final analysis, it is hard to say absolutely whether Wal-Mart is good or bad. Charles Fishman offers some insights on this in his book The Wal-Mart Effect.

The amount of money that the US consumer has saved as a result of Wal-Mart's relentless drive to reduce prices is staggering. The products range from salmon to shirts to lawnmowers. Unfortunately, a good bit of that savings has also resulted in lost jobs for American workers as, increasingly, goods are being purchased from overseas. There is also a dark side to a company that pursues internal cost reduction as much as it does price concessions from its suppliers. Although Fishman touches on some of the issues, he could have provided more depth in this area.

Fishman does a good job of presenting a balanced view of a company that is legendary for its secrecy. The book is full of anecdotes and enough facts to prove that it is difficult to make an absolute judgment on the company. Some of the anecdotes provide interesting insights into just how cheap a company can be. For example, Wal-Mart business travelers are required to bring back the pens from their hotel rooms to cut back on office expenses.

The book is an easy read and entertaining in parts. Fishman outlines the ways in which Wal-Mart has managed to keep internal costs down and offers some useful insights for cost reduction in other companies. If you are even remotely thinking about doing business with Wal-Mart, or one of the other "big box" retail giants, this book is a must-read.
John Hehre is a senior operations executive and provides interim management and project based consulting to mid-sized private companies in need of transformative change. He can be reached at jhehre@cprocess.com.

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DOL Publishes Regulations for Employees and Employers Under USERRA
With over 500,000 National Guard and Armed Forces Reserves mobilized since September 11, 2001, employers are more likely than ever to encounter legal challenges under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). Enacted in 1994, USERRA prohibits discrimination and establishes reemployment and benefit protection rights for returning military personnel. Since March 2005, the Department of Labor (DOL) has required employers to provide employees notice of their USERRA rights. The DOL publishes a poster satisfying this notice requirement.

Under USERRA, employers are required to return veterans to the same or equivalent position they held prior to military leave. It also mandates employers to reasonably accommodate a disabled veteran. Employees in temporary, part-time, probationary, and seasonal employment positions are covered under USERRA, along with employees on strike, layoff, or leave of absence. USERRA governs nearly all employers, including private employers of any size.

Recently, the DOL issued the first regulations under USERRA. The regulations provide interpretation and specific guidance on a number of issues surrounding the statute. While the regulations do not impose any new obligations on employers, the DOL's goal in issuing the regulations is to help clarify the "responsibilities of employers and the rights of returning service members."

Unlike the statute itself, the USERRA regulations provide a definition of "employer." Unlike most other federal employment laws, USERRA broadly defines "employer" to include supervisors and managers. Thus, individual supervisors and managers who have control of employment opportunities may be personally liable for USERRA violations.

In addition, the regulations also expand on the "escalator" principle under USERRA. The escalator principle provides that a service member who properly returns from a qualified leave be permitted to step back into the position the employee would have occupied had he or she remained continuously employed during the period of the employee's military leave. The regulations address the escalator principle under the following six specific circumstances:

  • an employer who uses a seniority or bidding system for job assignments;

  • promotions based on an employer's discretion rather than pure seniority;

  • reductions in force, layoffs, and disciplinary procedures;

  • bargaining units on strike at the time of reemployment;

  • apprenticeships;

  • probationary periods.


The regulations further outline three statutory defenses available to an employer under USERRA:

  • An employer does not have to reemploy an employee if the employer's circumstances have changed so as to make reemployment impossible or unreasonable. As an example, the regulations provide that an employer would not need to rehire a veteran if a reduction in the workforce was implemented while the employee was on military leave, which would have included the employee.

  • Employers are allowed to justify not reemploying an employee by showing that reemployment would impose an undue hardship on the employer. For instance, an employer would not need to rehire an employee who is no longer qualified for a position due to disability, even after the employer made reasonable efforts to help the employee become qualified.

  • A final statutory defense may be available to the employer if the employment was for a brief, non-recurrent period without reasonable expectation that employment would continue indefinitely. However, this defense must be narrowly construed. For example, an employee may have a reasonable expectation that a seasonal job would be available next season. Employee expectations of reemployment can be addressed in employment policies.


With the ongoing return of thousands of mobilized reserves, employers will continue to face the challenge of complying with their legal obligations to employees under USERRA while balancing the needs and demands of a business. The USERRA regulations will provide assistance in guiding employers in making key decisions concerning employees returning from military duty.
Gregory L. Peters, is an attorney with Seaton, Peters & Revnew, P.A. whose practice is limited to representing employers in labor and employment matters. Mr. Peters has worked with companies in all areas of employment counseling, employment litigation, labor arbitration, union organizing and labor negotiations. Mr. Peters can be reached at (952) 921-4607.

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COMPLIANCE NEWS NOTES
Questions and Answers from OSHA on Forklift Training
Q: When can a powered-industrial-truck operator trainee operate a powered industrial truck in the workplace?

A: A trained operator can operate a truck only under the direct supervision of a person who has the knowledge, training, and experience to train operators and evaluate their competence, and where such operation does not endanger the trainee or other employees.

Q: Can powered-industrial-truck operator training consist only of formal instruction, such as watching a videotape?

A: No, OSHA requires a combination of formal instruction and practical training. Although formal training is invaluable for teaching the principles of vehicle operation, it is the hands-on training and evaluation of vehicle operation that proves the adequacy of the training.

Q: Can tool box meetings or informal discussions be considered formal instruction?

A: Yes.

Q: Can the person providing the training come from an outside company?

A: Yes, the employer may authorize a trainer from outside the company to conduct the training, but this is not required. The employer may use an employee who has knowledge, training, and experience to provide training and evaluation.

Q: Can the evaluation be based entirely on observation of the operator in a training facility outside the workplace?

A: No. The evaluation must take place in the workplace so that the evaluator can observe the operator under actual workplace conditions.

Q: Must an employee receive separate training in each make and model of powered industrial truck that the employee operates?

A: No. An operator who has been trained on a particular type of powered industrial truck may, without additional training, operate other makes and models of the same type of truck, unless there is a significant difference in the applicable truck-related and workplace related topics.
<img src="http://www.mfrall.com/newsletter/authorpics/vijakelly.jpg"align="left">Hazard Management is a consulting and training firm specializing in occupational safety and hazardous waste management. Call Vija Kelly at 651-697-0422 for more information.

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Minnesota Economic Condition
For the first time since November of 2005, Minnesota's Business Conditions Index dropped.


The index declined to 69.4 from May's record 74.8. Components of the overall index for June were: new orders at 72.9, production at 77.1, delivery lead time at 54.2, inventories at 62.5 and employment at 69.2. "Minnesota non-durable-goods-supply managers reported that the second quarter ended on a very strong note. Despite higher energy prices, truck transportation firms continue to report rising shipments, even with added surcharges. Minnesota manufacturers are driving much of this growth," said Goss. Jobs added 2006: First half, 31,000 (2.3 percent annualized); projected second half, 20,000 (1.5 percent annualized).
The mission of the Manufacturers Alliance is to provide peer-to-peer training, education, and resources which inspire manufacturing companies to continuously grow, improve, and stay competitive.

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