Detroit Nonprofit Furnished 10 More Homes with Lean Partnership – Lean Enterprise Institute

Humble Design Detroit (HDD) furnishes homes for individuals and families transitioning out of homelessness. They furnished ten more homes in 2021 than they did in 2020, an increase that the community service organization previously couldn’t imagine. They don’t plan to stop there: HDD is aiming to provide an additional 12 homes in 2022.

The improvement was a result of a partnership between Humble Design Detroit, the Lean Enterprise Institute’s (LEI) James P. Womack Scholarship and Philanthropy Fund (JPW Fund), and Oakland University’s (OU) Pawley Lean Institute (PLI).

The program funds interns at schools teaching lean thinking and community service organizations willing to provide gemba-based learning and improvement opportunities. LEI supports the internships by supplying books and other learning materials and, when possible, recruiting an LEI coach from its extensive list of faculty to work with the interns and the nonprofit’s team in partnership with the interns’ academic coach/advisor.

The students narrowed their focus to a few areas through close observation, discussions with the staff, and coaching. They decided to target their efforts on improving overall warehouse safety and space utilization by organizing three areas, creating aisleways between rows of items to improve safety, and sorting the goods within each section by type. In addition to improving safety, they thought these changes would increase the visibility of donations, helping the designers to more easily find what they need as they fit out a home.

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Learn more about the partnership that started in 2019 in the video below, or go to

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