Lean Manufacturing in Practice – Bittercube

bittercube-productsIn this blog series, I’m showcasing products manufactured in my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to sharing some fun facts about the various companies and their products, I’ll be highlighting the Lean Manufacturing Principles that are best exhibited at each respective organization. These principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and center on making obvious what adds value while reducing waste muda. The six Lean Manufacturing Principles are: 1) Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness 2) Just in Time (JIT) production 3) Six Sigma quality 4) Empowered Teams 5) Visual Management 6) Pursuit of Perfection.

A cocktail renaissance has swept across the country, inspiring a new fascination with the ingredients, techniques, and traditions that make the American cocktail so special. The use of bitters, liquor that is flavored with the pungent taste of plant extracts, has been gaining popularity over the past decade. Originally developed for medicinal and digestive purposes, bitters now serve mainly as cocktail flavorings. The alcohol functions as a solvent for botanical extracts as well as a preservative.

Milwaukee has contributed to this cocktail renaissance with the help of Bittercube. Founded by Nicholas Kosevich and Ira Koplowitz in 2009, Bittercube handcrafts eight varieties of artisanal bitters, using only naturally sourced ingredients. By happenstance, the operations are run from the location that Foamation once occupied. Milwaukee was perceived as an untapped market with room to grow. Also, the low cost of operating expenses allow for maximum revenue generation.

Henry Ford created the first all-inclusive manufacturing strategy. However, it was Eiji Toyoda, a Japanese engineer, who after analyzing Ford’s methods, improved upon them by keeping an eye out for waste. Waste (or muda in Japanese) refers to any kind of wasted motion, effort or materials in the manufacturing process. Toyoda popularized the concept of Reducing Waste, which has become a basic tenet of Lean Manufacturing and falls under the principle of Pursuit of Perfection.

The objective of Lean is that every step must add value and be waste-free. A non-value added, or wasteful activity is one that neither adds value to the customer nor provides a competitive advantage to the organization.  Some non-value added activities include waiting and inappropriate processing. Waste can also take a tangible form, such as idle raw material or defects. Although transportation is an important aspect of the manufacturing process, it is a non-value added activity, as it adds to cost but not to value. It should be noted that some non-value adding activities like accounting and regulations are important and cannot be avoided.

Lean-manufacturing-bwThe continuous Pursuit of Perfection encompasses the idea that one must always strive to eliminate waste in the organization, while constantly making improvements, even if those improvements are small and incremental.  Improving processes results in reducing or eliminating variation, and improving the process flow or speed. Learning and consistent measures for improvement should be part of all processes if an organization intends on growing.

Bittercube has reduced waste by improving on their processes. In the past, they used a generic, high-density plastic container to process the bitters. There was no way to remove the botanical material after the batch was processed, other than to climb into the container and physically remove it by hand. Although this left the person who cleaned the container smelling of cinnamon, cloves, and vanilla, it wasted time and did not add value to the process. They have since updated to a custom-built processing/cooking tank with a bottom compartment where botanical material can easily be removed and cleaned.

Bittercube previously used generic boxes that weren’t cost efficient to ship. They have since opted for custom-made boxes with dimensions that maximize the number of bottles in each box, thus reducing wasted space and shipping costs.

Lean supports the notion that nothing should be wasted and a use must be found for everything. Bittercube has also reduced tangible/physical waste by reusing and recycling the processed materials. Instead of discarding the used botanicals, Bittercute has begun composting these materials. The finer botanical sediment will be reused in other products, such as an ingredient for Purple Door Ice Cream.

Autumn is upon us! Try this seasonal Maple Old Fashioned recipe!

2 oz. Johnny Drum Private Stock Bourbon, Fat .25oz. Maple Syrup, a dash of Jamaican #2 Bitters, a dash of Bittercube Bolivar Bitters, Garnish: Fat orange peel

To view other recipes and product offerings, visit Bittercube.

To read more about bitters, visit The History of Bitters

For more information on Lean Manufacturing see: Lean Waste Stream by Marc Jensen, Lean Enterprise: A Synergistic Approach to Minimizing Waste by William A. Levinson and Raymond A. Rerick, and Learning to See: Value Stream Mapping to Create Value and Eliminate MUDA by Mike Rother and John Shook

RHA blog cover

Ranzal Healthcare Analytics (RHA) Productivity Management Overview

In this brief demo, you’ll see how to leverage your interactive dashboard to drill down by department, by pay period, by job code, by employee, by any productivity metric you gather, to support and enhance your day-to-day labor management activities.

Cheesehead Logo_TRANS_200wide

Lean Manufacturing in Practice – Foamation


In this blog series I will be showcasing products manufactured in my home state of Wisconsin. In addition to sharing some fun facts about the various companies and their products, I’ll be highlighting the Lean Manufacturing Principles that are best exhibited at each respective organization. These principles are derived from the Japanese manufacturing industry and center on making obvious what adds value while reducing waste muda. The six Lean Manufacturing Principles are: 1) Workplace safety, order, and cleanliness 2) Just in Time (JIT) production 3) Six Sigma quality 4) Empowered Teams 5) Visual Management 6) Pursuit of Perfection.

When you tell someone that you’re from Wisconsin, it’s almost certain that you’ll be associated will be the iconic Cheesehead® hat, worn by devoted Green Bay Packer fans. In the mid-1980’s the term “cheesehead” started being used to describe Wisconsinites at baseball games. Rather than be insulted by this term, Ralph Bruno, founder and owner of Foamation, decided to embrace and reappropriate the concept. He cut up his mother’s couch, and the first foam Cheesehead hat was born. For nearly thirty years, Foamation has been producing Cheesehead hats (along with a wide array of foam merchandise). If you placed Cheesehead hats back to back, they would stretch across America and into the sea!

Although the Cheesehead hat still leads in sales (especially during football season), this company continues to add new items to their product offerings, along with fulfilling high quantities of custom orders. “Even though we’re associated (not officially, but in some consumer’s minds) with the Green Bay Packers, you don’t have to like the Packers to like our brand. What other fun, goofy, silly thing can we do?” stated Production Manager, Mario Busalacchi. Should you already own a Cheesehead hat, you could purchase other headgear or accoutrement, such as: a baseball hat, cowboy hat, hanging dice, tie, bad-call brick, fireman hat, or ice cream hat in chocolate, strawberry, or mint chip.

Lean ManufacturingThe factory floor is the core of any manufacturing company, but a lean factory alone does not make a lean enterprise. There are also other functions that support manufacturing and contribute to the Lean Pursuit of Perfection. Design Engineering falls under this general category and includes the following attributes: Designing for Manufacturability (DFM), Being Reasonable about Critical Parameters, Having Knowledge of Logistics and the Need for Standardization, Driving New Product Design from Marketplace Needs, and Shortening the Design Process all while considering the Voice of the Customer (VOC).  (For more on VOC, see: Critical to Quality Trees, Kano Analysis, and Customer Segmentation.)

Lean companies include the customer in new product decisions so as to avoid wasting design efforts on an undesired product that will flop. In order to embody the Pursuit of Perfection principle, companies must constantly strive for improvement with an anti-waste mindset and understand that the organization exists primarily to provide value to its customers.

Foamation pursues perfection by constantly evolving and enhancing their products based on customer feedback. Through online analytics, social media, and general observations, this company identifies opportunities and sets the development process in motion. Foamation discovered that there were opportunities to better serve women and children by producing products geared toward their preferences.  Women who would rather not wear a foam hat, now have the option of showing off their brand loyalty through other products such as Cheesehead earrings, and children now have the option of wearing a smaller version of the Cheesehead hat.

Foamation is also aware of the importance of technology in their customers’ lives. They are Driving New Product Design from Marketplace Needs by offering NFCheese key chains and necklaces that have Near Field Communication tags embedded within the foam. With this Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology, fans can converge their digitally enhanced Cheesehead product with their mobile device.

Here’s to a great season…Go Packers!

To view all of the Cheesehead products, visit

For more information on Lean Manufacturing see: Learning to See by Mike Rother and John Shook, published by The Lean Enterprise Institute (, The Lean Turnaround by Art Byrne, and Creating a Kaizen Culture by Jon Miller, Mike Wroblewski, and Jaime Villafuerte.

Project Management Methodology

Projects are like a box of chocolates

How many of us remember the famous quote from Forrest Gump, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”? Being assigned a project is a little like that box of chocolates – you never know what you are getting until you take that first bite. A project is like taking that first bite of chocolate – unique, but having enough similarities to fit inside the chocolate box.

  • How do you determine the best methodology when you start a project?
  • Do you have a PMO that dictates the methodology?
  • Are you in a company that has adopted Agile as its methodology?
  • Are you using Waterfall?
  • Or, as the project manager, do you have the authority to determine the best methodology for the project based on its assigned team, scope, timeline and cost?

Like that box of chocolates, each project might be unique, but it still needs to work within an agreed upon methodology that is flexible enough to support small to large, complex projects. If the methodology cannot handle the flexibility, it needs to be re-evaluated to support all project types within the organization.

Create a project methodology that supports all project types by defining the critical project artifacts for each project type (e.g., small, medium, large). At the end of the project, perform an analysis of the project and determine what worked \ did not work, and adjust the project artifacts to suit the project.


  1. Determine the methodology framework – Agile, Waterfall, WaterScrumFall (blend of Agile & Waterfall).
  2. Define what artifacts are needed for each project type – then map the processes using a tool such as Visio and share the process with others.
  3. Projects are more than producing documentation because that is what the PMO dictates – involve and evolve your PMO to a strategic partner.
  4. Provide feedback to continuously improve the process.

Projects are like those chocolates. We can savor each project’s unique flavor and make each a success if we follow a standardized approach that can also flex to support the uniqueness of each project. The approach should be like the chocolate box, able to accommodate each unique shape within a larger, coherent framework. Our job is to understand the uniqueness of the chocolate while appreciate the box in which it sits.

customer segmentation

Voice of the Customer – Customer Segmentation

When it comes to predicting customer behavior, historical sales data may contain critical clues. Who are repeat customers for a product or service? Have all segments of the target customers been identified? Segmentation is used to divide customers into groups based on their demographics, attitudes, or buying behaviors and target the specific groups with a message that will best resonate with them. The more you know about a customer, the easier it is to predict their behavior.

During this season of prediction making, you may want to consider playing the popular German game of Bleigießen “lead pouring,” in which your future is foretold through lead shapes. A spoon with a small amount of lead is held over a flame until the lead melts. The melted lead is then quickly poured into a bowl of water. Upon contact with water, the lead solidifies and forms a unique shape. The shape of the cooled lead is then compared to a list of meanings.

You might not have any control over shape formation (i.e. fish “Fisch” = luck “Glück” vs. cross “Kreuz” = death “Tod”), or what personal changes will manifest in 2015, but one area in which you may have some control is in increasing your company’s profitability. By implementing Customer Segmentation, a Voice of the Customer tool within Six Sigma methodology, you’re able to zero in on target customers who create the highest value and ultimately increase your profitability and bottom line.

What Does it Do?

Customer Segmentation identifies and focuses on subgroups of customers who create the highest value and prioritizes efforts to allocate appropriate marketing resources. Companies oftentimes neglect or miss opportunities because they treat all customers as bringing equal value or fail to understand the economic, descriptive, and attitudinal criteria of their core business.

Segmentation criteria can include:

  • Economic (revenue, frequency of purchase, loyalty, company size, etc.)
  • Descriptive (geographic location, demographics, industry)
  • Attitudinal (price, service, value)

The following Bleigießen examples exhibit segmentation criteria:

Customer segmentationShape 1. Ring “Ringe” = Marriage “Hochzeit”

Customers can be segmented demographically by marriage status (single, married, divorced). Married couples often have distinctly different purchasing behaviors compared to single consumers. This can relate to purchases such as cars, financial products, or holiday entertainment. For example, travel agencies would not offer similar holiday packages for bachelors and married couples.

customer segmentationShape 2. Mouse “Maus” = to be thrifty / economical “sparsam sein”

Customers can be segmented by purchasing power or behavior. These customers could be segmented demographically through social class (lower, middle, upper). Social class is a term linked to education, tradition, income (low, medium, high) and parenting. Alternatively, customers could be segmented attitudinally through values or lifestyle (conservative, economical, trendy). If your target customer is upper class, marketing via coupons will be a waste of time for a group indifferent to saving a few dollars.

customer segmentationShape 3. Bell “Glocke” / Egg “Ei” = Birth announcement “Ankündigung einer Geburt”

Customers can be segmented demographically through family size (couple only, small family, large family) and family lifecycle (young married no kids, married young kids). Customers can also be segmented attitudinally through needs or motivations (convenience, value, safety). If you’re considering entering new markets/regions and your target customers are children, you may want to avoid certain European countries, such as Spain, where there are 1.4 children per female.

How to Do It:

  • Identify the product or service being analyzed
  • Brainstorm to identify customers
  • Identify segmentation characteristics
  • Develop profiles of the segments
  • When gathering information, include members from each segment
  • Document results
Product/Services (Output) Customers Potential Segments
BleigließenGame  US Customers West Coast
East Coast
European Customers Western Europe
Eastern Europe

 Benefits of Tool:

  • Understanding customer segments and segment behavior can help tailor marketing and sales strategies
  • Reach profitability goals by demoting customers who don’t generate value
  • Formalizing segment profiles provides a common language

For related blogs that cover additional VOC tools:

Google search

Google to penalize non mobile sites

Google has just announced that starting April 21st, websites that are not mobile friendly will be penalized in mobile search results. Seems like a no-brainer, if you are using your phone to do a search, it is easier to view information and take action if the site you go to is mobile friendly.

With more than 25% of searches now being done on mobile devices (BIA/Kelsey (April 2014)), companies that have not yet created a mobile or responsive site can expect a traffic hit in the next few months.

In addition to better search placement, mobile, responsive and adaptive sites also lead to higher call percentage and from several implementations we’ve seen, a huge improvement in abandonment rates. It seems users on mobile devices that get to a site that is not mobile friendly would just rather go somewhere else.

In the blog post, Google also provides some guidelines and testing tools to check your site compliance.

Tip: not highly publicized, but Chrome browser includes a great mobile testing tool. In the Menu under “More Tools” there is an option for Developer Tools. These allow for selection of device for output and changing the HTTP header data to test using different devices.

Patient Panel Analytics

In a recent interview with a provider about how to gain some efficiencies in her practice, I asked how many patients she was caring for with a diagnosis of cancer in the past few years. After a “from the hip” answer, I showed her a report from one of her payers, and she became frustrated that the payer had a better summary of her patients than she could obtain from her own EHR.

Healthcare providers and management need to be empowered with tools to analyze information about their practice in which much effort is spent creating the data.

This podcast will demonstrate our Accountable Care Analytics Application’s ability to define patient panels and provide integrated summaries of patient information from clinical and claims data sources.

Accountable Care Analytics: A data-driven approach to achieving value-based healthcare

Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics application is comprehensive set of data integration and business intelligence capabilities for use by clinical, financial, and care management professionals that empower organizations to improve quality and reduce costs across a spectrum of care delivery settings.  The application streamlines many of the labor-intensive aspects of capturing and reporting quality and financial performance of accountable care, alternative quality contract, and similar risk-based arrangements operating in healthcare today.  It achieves this by enabling healthcare providers to take a data-driven approach to understanding the impact of quality, cost and outcomes on performance across the extended ACO enterprise.

In this podcast, Edgewater provides a high level overview of the Accountable Care Analytics application.

time flying

Avoid these Top Ten Mistakes when Transitioning to the Cloud

Time and again, organizations erode potential benefits of a cloud transition. More thought on the front end can help you achieve a shorter time to value.

  1. Not thinking through your SLA requirements.  Your SLA needs should be part of your RFP or RFI, based on your internal business priorities. Many companies, when taking their first steps into the cloud, accept the SLA’s offered by the vendor in the first contract draft.
  2. Failing to model total cost of cloud and on-premise options:  Apples to apples comparisons are hard to find in the cloud world.
  3. Failing to ask potential vendors (and the references you will be checking) how long it takes to:
    • Get contract redlines turned around
    • Get from a handshake to implementation-boots-on-the-ground
  4. Not thinking through support processes, roles and responsibilities. As more assets are moved into the hands of multiple cloud vendors, it’s important to document crystal clarity of responsibilities, accountabilities, and notification/approval policies. The best way to do this is to construct a RACI matrix.
  5. Under preparation for testing:  Do you have a formal QA methodology? Do you have a body of test scripts prepared for the deployment?  What about performance testing and integration testing?  Don’t let test planning and preparation impose a drag on the implementation timeline. Look before you leap, or you may be disappointed by poor performance or failing interfaces down the road.
  6. Under thinking security: What are the liabilities? Did you stipulate access for annual security testing in the contract?
  7. Rushing forward without an enterprise cloud strategy: Proliferation of departmental cloud applications has taken much of the decision-making out of IT’s hands. A cloud approach that grows up organically can result in compromised information security and lack of critical integration between applications.
  8. Failing to manage end user expectations: Have you documented and communicated the changes adequately?
  9. Overestimating your in-house IT skills:
    • Does your team really have the systems integration knowledge and experience with the cloud to take your critical business apps through the transition?
    • Overestimating your in-house skillset
  10. Underestimating bandwidth requirements: Your “big pipe” locations are one issue, but do you understand how much work really gets done by remote workers? Will they see adequate performance from the cloud? How will additional bandwidth affect your cost model?

ACO Disease Specific Analytics

“What can Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics do for me that we cannot already do with our EHR and patient financials reporting?”

To be successful, ACOs and other integrated health systems must bring together both clinical and claims data – and they must make the data available for use by clinical, operational and financial leadership across the entire organization.  The biggest challenge our clients face is an ability to provide management this data now, to drive early operational decisions. This is what Edgewater’s Accountable Care Analytics can do – provide organization-wide dashboards for decision support in advance of the complex and time consuming integration projects these health systems face.

This podcast shows a quick demonstration of the capabilities our ACA application.