From my earliest lean lessons, I was directed to be creative in applying continuous improvement in manufacturing. Dr. Shigeo Shingo preached to me and my fellow engineers not to become a "Catalog Engineer". Catalog Engineers spent all of their time looking for solutions in a catalog and buying a quick fix. He would tell us to throw out the catalog and go to gemba. Our motto on the shop floor was Creativity Before Capital.
Since those days, lean has definitely grown in popularity (more interest than implementation)and received plenty of press time over the last decade. Most of the time, the lean articles deal with tools and case studies. Despite this increase in lean information, not much has been written about the principle of Creativity Before Capital.
Creativity before capital is the lost principle of lean in America. Simply put, this principle demands that we think more about making our improvements by utilizing what is nearby without spending capital dollars. This sounds great to the company accountants and upper management however the thinking part scares most people. Most give up at the first road block and before you know it, the checks start pouring out.
A great way to support the Creativity Before Capital principle is with 5S. Break out the red tags and collect up all the unneeded items around your plant. Move your red tag items to a segregated storage area (hint-make sure you have a listing of these items). But before getting rid of them, these red tag items are now the "nearby resource" for your creative solutions.
Consider it the MacGyver challenge. (Note: MacGyver was a TV character in the 1980s noted for using simple, handy items to get him out of tight jam.) By getting in touch with the MacGyver deep inside all of us, we can think of a creative solution to any problem without spending money.