Category: Customer Success

Higher Ed Tech Tools: Better Assignments, Better Learning NEED: Not too long ago, I conducted a workshop entitled Cool Tools: Better Assignments, Better Learning for the Association for Talent Development . When I worked as an instructional designer in higher education, I found that professors developing online courses would often get stuck in a rut with their assignments, which predictably looked like, “Read Chapter 7 and answer the questions at the end.” Perhaps you remember completing those in your undergraduate days. Some profs would go the extra mile, and suggest the student select a topic covered in that material and write a two-page research paper about it, and if they were being REALLY creative, have them do a PowerPoint presentation around some of the content. I don’t know about you, when I taught, I’ve graded some really dreadful papers where students regurgitated content, or took a stab at developing a PowerPoint with no design skills, embodying the concept of Death by PowerPoint. It always made me wonder how much they were actually learning as they did so. As an instructional designer, it’s my job to work with content to make it sticky. Philosophically, I believe that learning should be interactive, and where possible, fun. These mundane assignments were certainly not accomplishing that. Learning online had some restrictions, but it certainly did not limit assignments to text driven pieces. My workshop was birthed to help teachers create better assignments for better student learning, and I wanted to teach them to use some of the fabulous tools readily available to them to do so.

THE TOOL: Enter SmartDraw. As one of this blog’s readers, I don’t need to sell you on how fabulous the tool is. You’re already a fan. You cannot imagine the excitement of the professors in my workshop when they were exposed to SmartDraw for the first time and they began to see possibilities. Here’s a sampling of the suggestions I gave them.

blueberry map1MIND MAPS I started with planning. I always use the mindmapping feature of SmartDraw to lay out any course that I teach. Beginning with the goal, I add the outcomes and enabling objectives, then assessments, followed by content and activities linked to each. This allows me ensure everything is aligned with the goal I’m trying to achieve. For students, this is a great way to plan out a report or a project, because ideas move around easily at this level, and function globally, rather than in a linear fashion. It helps students understand organization in ways that an outline never seems to accomplish.





Project PlanBPROJECT PLANNING Next, I moved to SmartDraw’s project management capabilities, which are especially helpful for students doing group work. Identifying tasks, deadlines and resources is an important skill for them, but key in the process is recognizing the interdependencies of the tasks and the impact of one missed deadline on the entire project. Using a project plan keeps students accountable to one another, and equips them with a critical tool for the business world. With SmartDraw in the cloud, everyone has access to the same diagram, and updates occur in real time, as individuals update their individual tasks. Students can even hop on a tablet or smartphone to make updates.





Player Journey1FLOWCHARTS After mindmapping and project planning, we talked about flow charts. I’ve used flowcharts in business to diagram processes, but in the classroom they can be effective tools to document the player journey in planning of a game, the hero’s journey in literature, adding in all of the influences impacting his or her decisions. Students can illustrate the step by step process of a lab, or create a how-to job aid for performing a task they just learned about.




Journey Map1TIMELINES Students can use the timeline features of SmartDraw to create a journey map of user interactions as part of design thinking, but could also build timelines from history, or the plot of a story when reading a novel.





The diagramming tools are some of my favorites in SmartDraw. This one comes from the Infographics section, but there are similar ones in the Marketing and Science & Education sections, and can be used to illustrate any kind of cycle. In the science classroom, this could illustrate biological lifecycles or ecological concepts.







Cluster Word Web templateCLUSTER WORD WEB In the Science and Education section there are pre-built templates like this word web which would work well for ESL learners as well as foreign language learners discovering relationships between words and concepts. Mapping them out allows the student to visualize connections. Adding the student’s simple sketches in each bubble can aid in recall.






Story Map TemplateSTORY MAP SmartDraw has many built in templates specifically for education. This one can be used to summarize a book, play or movie, but could also be used to plan out a story overview, similar to the beat sheets used in screenplay writing. Having a big picture overview keeps the students focused on where things are going and reduces writers block.









THE DISCOVERY: A key point in all this is recognizing that we are teaching students to manipulate information. As teachers, we can give them these kinds of pre-filled diagrams to study, which aids in analysis, but when the student generates the diagram, they must think through the information at a different level. This is a critical differentiator.

bloomstaxonomyWhen we have students create their own diagram, it brings them to a deeper understanding of the content we are trying to teach. If we look at Bloom’s Taxonomy, these activities force them into higher order thinking, which brings about deeper learning. Creating a Venn Diagram about a concept requires the students to understand the it, apply, analyze and evaluate words and ideas related to it to determine where they belong on the chart, and ultimately create a representation of it all to be shared with others, which brings us to the pinnacle of Bloom’s pyramid.  It sure beats fill in the blank worksheets or answering questions at the end of a chapter…. which may or may not even aid in recall.

We want our students to be invested in their learning, and I’ve found using activities like the ones that leverage SmartDraw makes students proud of what they have accomplished when they are finished. That pride loops in all the positive emotions that enables even stronger ties to the learning.

Cool tools like SmartDraw enable better assignments, and better learning, which, after all, is the point of higher education, right? What can you use for your students? I’d love to hear your ideas for assignments using the tool.

About the Author Jean Marrapodi, PhD, CPLP is a learning architect based in Providence, RI, and a SmartDraw user since 2007. Read more about her at, or on Twitter at @jmarrapodi.

The Kaizen Institute: Workplace Organization from a Lean Perspective

ThakurAbout the Author  As a Senior Continuous Improvement Facilitator at the Kaizen Institute, Gautam Thakur has more than 14 years of experience with achievement of significant results for the deployment of Lean/Six Sigma initiatives for Fortune 500 organizations.  In addition to his extensive work in facilitating and coaching teams on continuous improvement principals and methodologies.


Our client, one of the biggest potash miners, was interested in implementing 5S workplace organization for their Under Ground (UG) Warehouse to satisfy internal stakeholders and operate in the most efficient manner. This created an opportunity to form a team for 5S improvement project which is composed of Kaizen Institute Consultant, Mine Maintenance Superintendent, UG Warehouse Supervisor, UG Planner, Purchasing Manager and other crew employees.  We were engaged to develop a roadmap for the project and to guide the team successfully towards the end objective of workplace organization from a Lean perspective.

There were a number of issues contributing to the business case which makes our client believe that why this kind of project was necessary:

  • All the warehouse stocking parts were mixed up and it was almost impossible to locate them.
  • There was a high degree of customer dissatisfaction when it comes to inventory stocking levels for warehouse items.
  • The visual management was completely out of picture and there was no accountability at any of the levels to answer questions.

The investment to set up a new warehouse was approved for $2.2 million. In order to get the real value of this level of expenditure, Kaizen Institute was engaged to lead a local cross-functional team through the process of organizing the workplace and eliminating waste in the entire value chain.

Our Project Plan

UG Warehouse Revitalization Project Schedule

We started by using SmartDraw to create a Kitting parts storage process flow in the warehouse area. The program allowed us to layout a process map and identify opportunities for improvement by clearly outlining out the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders.

Employing a Lean approach, we started with 5S to optimize the existing space which helped us in freeing up additional space to stock relevant parts. The 5S process is a systematic approach to workplace organization and is widely considered the first step in implementing a Kaizen/Lean culture to reduce waste and improve productivity.


Benefits of 5S

The 5S’s should occur in this order, and there must be a plan in place for performing the tasks on a regular basis. Utilizing the 5S process to achieve an organized workplace also has several supplemental benefits. In addition to the immediate visual improvement, organizations will realize:

  • Creates proper environment for standard work
  • Higher Product quality: By having an organized workplace, the quality of the work will go up.
  • Reduce costs: There will be less waste which will ultimately lead to lesser costs
  • Reduces downtime and equipment failures: Having all the tools in an organized manner will significantly reduce the time needed to look for tools while performing a job.
  • Improves Customer delivery times: Reduction in Lead time for critical items will expedite the process to complete jobs on time.
  • Reduces hassles in the workplace
  • Creates a safer work environment for all employees.
  • Improved Image: An organized workplace is a professional workplace; this is visually apparent when observing an organized workplace.

Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle

A PDCA diagram was implemented through SmartDraw which helped the team to understand the importance of Sustainment phase in 5S process.


Root Cause Analysis

SmartDraw was utilized to conduct a root cause analysis exercise with project team to list out the factors related to high lead time for the warehouse items.

Root Cause Analysis

This helped the team to first identify and then take required actions to reduce the lead times for some of the warehouse stock items.

Final Outcome

As a result, the project team generated a cost savings of $3.8 Million through identification of right parts needed on time to run the warehouse, opportunity savings, Optimum inventory levels and Acceptable Lead times for critical parts. This was a significant improvement when compared to the original situation of the warehouse. The client was really pleased with the effort being put into this and it has now become the benchmark for other sites to follow.

Celebrating Our Customers’ Continued Success with SmartDraw Diagrams

Purchased ImageAs the Director of Learning and Organizational Development, I have always been intrigued by our end users and how they as well as their organizations continue to thrive using our product.  I find myself fortunate to have had the unique opportunity to meet members of our SmartDraw end user community.

Over the past few years, I have learned how much of an impact SmartDraw has made at the individual and global levels –  from a team of students in Texas who won over $160,000 in college scholarships to assisting a team of educators as they strive to improve STEM education in the U.S. to enabling food technology scientists to design a manufacturing plant in Tanzania with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

Rather than sharing the success stories of our SmartDraw Community, I thought it would be best to have them share their SmartDraw experience with you.

Engineering Diagrams


SmartDraw was actually the last drawing tool I tested and it turned out to be the best . . . nothing was intuitive as SmartDraw.  I won’t use any other program. Drawing was a piece of cake.  It had all the elements I was used to using from my desktop publishing software.  That’s what made me fall in love with using SmartDraw.” – Gregory Robinson, Founder.  To learn more, read Take a Look at the Innovative Mind of a Modern Day Inventor




“I was previously using AutoCAD, then ArcInfo/ArcView products in conjunction with mapping requirements we had.  AutoCAD allowed me to expand beyond mapping, but was not quick and easy to use as SmartDraw.  AutoCAD updates required retraining on the program at least once a year – time I did not have.” – Kevin Jones, Executive Director of Emergency Communications.  To learn more, read Electrical Designs to Visualize the Safety of City Buildings



Manual Drawing Diagrams


“I wanted something that would be both a professional and scientific in appearance. SmartDraw is very versatile and provides me with the freedom to easily create things in my own way, rather than using the limited options or more difficult designing you might get with other programs.  It also allows me to show my creativity.” – Gregory Solis, Graduate Assistant and PhD Candidate.  To learn more, read A Business Card Design That Leaves a Lasting Impression

Landscape Design Diagrams“When I shared my SmartDraw diagram of the revolver design with the owners of the vineyard, they flipped out. They absolutely loved it.  I won’t draw another vineyard design without it. To be honest, I am not really good with technology.  So far, I love SmartDraw. The software is easy to use and you get some great results.  There’s lots of cool stuff.  It’s worth every nickel.” – Greg Maness, Winemaker & Owner.  To learn more, read Turning Vines Into Wines, One Vineyard at a Time

Flowcharts, Mind Maps, and Project Planning


“Within an hour I literally had, in my hand, the Flowchart that I wanted.  I was just blown away because it looked great. . .My first experience with SmartDraw was just so much fun.  It was so fast, so good. It’s one of those tools that make you look like a pro very quickly. . . SmartDraw is fantastic.  The ability to create a Mind Map and then with one-click put that into a Gantt Chart saves me hours and hours.” – Kristy Heglie, Project Manager.  To learn more, read Customer Realizes the Power of SmartDraw




“It actually helped me organize my requirements and flow them down to other sub-contracts.  I’d use flowcharting in doing policy writing. And I was quite amazed to find that SmartDraw did both and they did them well. I’ve been using it for over 5 years now. I’m still learning new ways to use it.  I have become really obsessed with what I do with it.  It’s a great tool for a small company who wants to achieve big things.” – Lesley Cowan, Director.  To learn more, read SmartDraw: An Entrepreneur’s Secret to Success

Organizational Charts

“I downloaded the free trial with an idea about how I wanted our diagram to look, and within minutes, it was done. I don’t ever, ever . . . write testimonials but SmartDraw played such a significant role in our project that I just had to write in. I came into the project completely blind.  In the end, I couldn’t have done it without SmartDraw.” – Jan Moore, Graduate Student and Administrative Assistant.  To learn more, read SmartDraw Saves the Day

Emergency & Disaster Planning Diagrams


“I started using SmartDraw over 10 years ago.  Even with the cuts in government funding, I have continued purchasing the program from my own pocket.  It is too much of an added benefit to not include it as part of my planning.  Visio is a very complicated program from what I saw.  I looked at the price and oh, my Lord . . . there was no way I was going to use that.” – Cynthia Struve, Emergency Management Coordinator.  To learn more, read HAZMAT Response Team Harnesses the Power of SmartDraw

Science & Education Diagrams

“I’ve been a huge fan of SmartDraw since it first came out.  More importantly I generate all sorts of diagrams for our curricular materials.  Considering, I have ZERO artistic ability, your software has been a godsend for me! . . . Thanks for making such a good product that is very affordable and has served us well for many, many years! – Rene McCormick, Executive Director of Science Programs.  To learn more, read Customer Feedback: We Messed Up, Fixed It, and Discovered a SmartDraw Friend & Advocate

Floor Plans & Manual Diagrams


I needed to give my students a tool that would allow them to design well-detailed diagrams.  Combined, these four students received over $160,000 in college scholarship money from various schools and corporations.  That’s where SmartDraw played a key role.” –  Cherie Busch, Family and Consumer Science Instructor.  To learn more, read ProStart Winners’ Special Ingredient in Their Recipe for Success




In 2009, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization hired Booth Smith Food Technology to assess, develop, and design a Halawah factory for a UN project in Tanzania. Using the Tahini and Halawah Manufacturing Plant diagram as well as a live demonstration, Brian successfully taught a group of sesame seed farmers the Halawah manufacturing process.

The power of it is to be able to create and then export. I incorporate it into other documents. Think of it as a tool to enhance your reports or the work that you do. So that you get the most benefit. Others will appreciate what you’re doing.” – Brian Smith, Food Technologist and Founding Partner.  To learn more, read Helping Food Technology Experts with Global Efforts

Do you have a SmartDraw experience that you’d like to share?

How do you use SmartDraw?  I’d love to hear your story. I’m always intrigued to find out how other members of the SmartDraw community are using it.  Send me an email at

ProStart Winners’ Special Ingredient in Their Recipe for Success

A role model is an individual who not only encourages but inspires us to strive for greatness and live to our fullest potential.  Teachers are role models in our communities who students admire and aspires to be like.  Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet such a role model, Cherie Busch.  During our meeting, she shared with us how SmartDraw helped her team of National ProStart Invitational winners earn over $160,000 in college scholarships.


Can you share with us a little about your background and expertise?

I graduated from Sam Houston State University where I studied Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Education.  I’m currently in a graduate program studying to be an administrator.  Currently, I am a Family and Consumer Science Instructor at New Caney High School in New Caney, TX.  My restaurant management course curriculum comes directly from the ProStart program offered by the National Restaurant Association.

What is ProStart?

ProStart is a 2-year high school program that unites industry and classroom experience to develop the best and brightest talent of tomorrow’s restaurant and food service leaders.

  • Participant: Over 118,000 students
  • Availability: 1,700 high schools
  • Locations: Across all 50 states, the Territory of Guam, and the Department of Defense (DOD) schools located throughout Europe and Asia

From management skills to culinary techniques, ProStart’s curriculum provides real-life experience and practical skills that will become the foundation that will last a lifetime.

Learn more about the ProStart Program (video)

Former New Caney Culinary Student and recent graduate, alumni Esteban Torrez represented his team in an interview at the National ProStart Invitational in 2015.


What does ProStart mean to you?

I’ve been part of the program for over 3 years. I love what it has done for my kids. Not every kid is destined to go to a university.  It gives them purpose, as well as other avenues in life.  We’re not a high income school district.  A lot of the students say that “college wasn’t even an option,” that is until they started participating in the ProStart program.

Can you share with us one of your most proud moments as an Educator?

In spring 2015, four of our New Caney High School seniors placed 4th out of 42 teams at the National ProStart Invitational held in Disneyland in Anaheim, CA.  In order to get to this level, these students placed 2nd at regional competition which advanced them to the state level where they were named State Champions.

Winning team representing New Caney High School: Esteban Torrez, Captain Alyssa Muckelroy, Brandon Mata, and Christopher Barrios.

How was your winning ProStart team recognized for their efforts?

Combined, these four students received over $160,000 in college scholarship money from various schools and corporations in the restaurant and hospitality industry.  In addition to the scholarship money, they made connections and obtained invaluable insight into the restaurant and food service industry.”

Can you give us some insight of what competing at the National ProStart Invitational entails? 

My students entered the Restaurant Management competition where they were tasked to create a 60-page restaurant proposal.  They created a Restaurant Concept geared around a set demographic.   Within their competition perimeters they developed a written restaurant proposal including but not limited to concept design, menu layout and menu items, marketing, 2 marketing tactics, presentation board, a table display, as well as a 10 minute sales pitch to a panel of judges – Shark Tank style.  All in all the team put in well over 1,500 hours of work.


Why did you select SmartDraw over Chromebook Apps?

To be honest, did not feel the Chromebook Apps were sufficient for the needs of my students. I needed to give my students a tool that would allow them to design well-detailed diagrams.  I discovered SmartDraw during an intense online search.”

At the time I paid for it out of my own pocket.  I reached out to our district’s technical team year after year to express how important SmartDraw is to my students.  It wasn’t until we competed at Nationals in 2015 that our school district finally realized SmartDraw’s potential.”

How did SmartDraw help your winning team?

Initially, you don’t get a real feel for how much we utilized SmartDraw. At least not until you take a look at the weight that the Visual Display and Written Proposal categories combined contribute to the team’s final score.  That’s where SmartDraw played a key role.”

ProStart Scoring Breakdown

Would you be able to share some of your SmartDraw diagrams with us?

Here are two of the floor plans that went to Nationals.  With SmartDraw, the students were able to portray what their two-story boat shaped restaurant.

Lower Deck Floor Plan Upper Deck Floor Plans


I was so intrigued by the program that I took a closer look at the National ProStart Invitational Procedures and Rules.  Here is a matrix detailing the possible points earned in the Written Proposal competition against the features and functionality available in SmartDraw.


We would like to wish the New Caney High School ProStart Teams continued success at the state and national levels. Go NCHS Eagles!


Customer Feedback: We Messed Up, Fixed It, and Discovered a SmartDraw Friend & Advocate


The only way to guarantee that your company creates a product or service that your customers will actually want to purchase, is to not only listen to your customers but act upon their feedback.  In today’s competitive business world we must be innovative.  The most innovative companies are the best at creating a products and services that not only meet customer’s needs, they exceed them.

Companies that are able to blend product development with customer feedback will have a strong competitive advantage leading to customer loyalty.  When René McCormick contacted us with her feedback, we not only improve our product we discovered a SmartDraw friend and advocate!

René’s letter began with . . .

Greetings, I am the Executive Director of Science Programs at The National Math and Science Initiative in the US, and I’ve been a huge fan of SmartDraw since it first came out.  More importantly I generate all sorts of diagrams for our curricular materials and am not complaining about your product in any way. In fact, I was recommending your software to a colleague and stumbled upon this diagram on your website as an example of a “chemistry chart.”

Oh, my!  The only correct thing about the “ice” pictured on your site is that red is indeed the color assigned to oxygen in most chemistry art (and molecular model kits) and that oxygen “atoms” would be much larger than hydrogen “atoms”.  The rest of the drawing is fraught with misconceptions…

[Rene continues with detailed instructions as to how to improve the diagram found in the SmartDraw Template Library].

By the end of her letter . . .

I’d be happy to preview any future science art for you.  I’m a biology, chemistry and physics nerd + have a staff of 3 other science nerds.  Believe me, we’ve made our fair share of goofs over the years ourselves.  I’d just rather hear about my goof from a friend/colleague!

Collaborating with René

In an effort to rectify the situation, we had a member of our SmartDraw team take the information René provided and developed a new and improved Chemistry Diagram.   To ensure that the appropriate changes were made, we reached out to René for her final sign-off on the diagram.  Here are the “before” and “after” diagrams.

before_after chem diagram

In addition, to sharing her expertise, René was gracious enough to meet with us to share her SmartDraw experience since she started drawing with SmartDraw in 2003.

Can you tell us about your background and expertise?

I was recruited to join the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI), as the Director of Standards and Quality in 2007, its inaugural year. Since that time, I established their academic standards, developed curriculum for Advanced Placement (AP) courses in each area of science and developed teacher training for teachers of AP courses. Today, I am the Executive Director of Science Programs. As a whole we have more than doubled the number of students taking rigorous, college-level classes in math, science and English at participating schools.

René has taught AP Biology, AP Chemistry, and AP Physics. She was a member of the AP Chemistry Test Development Committee from 1999-2001-the committee which writes the AP Chemistry Exam.  Her syllabus is currently published in the AP Teacher’s Guide and she authored the chapter on using technology in the AP Chemistry classroom.  Additionally, René serves on the Science Academic Advisory Council for the University of Texas at Arlington and teaches a Physics Science Education course there.

What exactly is it that you do?

I oversee the entire AP & Pre-AP science curriculum for the NMSI.  We give grants to schools all over the United States with the simple goal of having more students enrolled in AP math, AP science and AP English courses AND having more Qualifying Scores (3’s, 4’s and 5’s on a 1-5 grading scale) on AP exams.  We call it our College Readiness Program.  In addition, we also train teachers in Pre-AP as well and that’s is our Laying the Foundation Program.”

Why take the time to provide us with your feedback?

I just want your product to be the best it can be since I recommend it regularly!

Can you give us an idea of the types of diagrams that you typically create with SmartDraw?

Here (below) are a handful of drawings from our work with the AP Chemistry Redesign.  These images appear in either our lecture notes or as answers to test questions since the redesign emphasizes “conceptual” drawings and such drawings are now going to appear on AP Science Exams.  Considering, I have ZERO artistic ability, your software has been a godsend for me!

Sample of original SmartDraw diagrams, used in the AP Chemistry curriculum that were designed and created by René

Rene_McCormick_Sample_DiagramsAbout NMSI “National Math + Science Initiative was formed to address one of this nation’s greatest economic and intellectual threats – the declining number of students who are prepared to take rigorous college courses in math and science and are equipped for careers in those fields. To flourish in the 21st Century, the United States must continue to generate intellectual capital that can drive the economic engine of our future prosperity. This crucial project was initiated as a public-private partnership, led by private donors such as Exxon Mobil Corporation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation,” as noted on the NMSI website.


How do you incorporate your diagrams when designing and developing curriculum?

I’ve been using SmartDraw to draw scientific “art” in test questions as well as laboratory exercises and science “lessons” since 2003. 

What types of projects are you currently using SmartDraw for?

More recently the AP Science exams have been redesigned, thus we had to write all new assessment materials for our teachers with an emphasis on “particulate matter” drawings, such as your “frozen water” melting drawing.”

Why use SmartDraw for your diagramming needs?

It was when I was heading up the writing team for the Laying the Foundation program that I discovered your product.  I needed to draw circuit diagrams, flasks, beakers, etc. and had a very small budget, so I had to learn to do it myself.  SmartDraw was a lifesaver!

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Thanks for making such a good product that is very affordable and has served us well for many, many years!”

Capital Cost Avoidance: Think Creatively Before You Spend

ScottMasich_ photoAbout the Author  As a Senior Continuous Improvement Facilitator at the Kaizen Institute, Scott Masich has more than 15 years of experience with achievement of significant results for the deployment of Lean/Six Sigma initiatives, strategic planning, balanced scorecard, and alignment implementations.  In addition to his extensive work in facilitating and coaching teams on Lean Manufacturing principals, he has well over 20 years of budget, capital planning, and project management expertise.


Our client, a potash mine owner, was planning to expand existing maintenance shops to meet increased demand for support to the mill operation. The expansion also created an opportunity to build a new office infrastructure such that all surface support staff could be housed at a common location.  The Kaizen Institute was engaged to review the expansion for verification of fit-for-purpose layout from a Lean perspective.  There were a number of on-going issues leading our client to the belief that an expansion was necessary:

  • Existing departments within maintenance were each asking for additional shop floor space to meet demand accordingly.
  • Separating welding and fabrication from equipment disassembly, machining, rebuild and reassembly was considered important for improvement to overall equipment reliability.
  • Locating engineering and maintenance closer together would enable better technical support for both projects and maintenance functions.

A capital expansion to the existing Maintenance Facility was approved for $35 million. This capital expenditure did not provide a suitable return on investment and the Kaizen Institute was engaged to lead a local cross-functional team through the process of reducing costs and eliminating waste in the existing facility.


Shop Layout Current StateWe started by using SmartDraw to create a current layout of the facility (shown above). The SmartDraw program allowed us to create everything to scale making it very easy to analyze and find opportunities for improvement.

Employing a Lean approach, we evaluated the usage of existing shop floor space.  We started with 5S to optimize usage of existing space as well as free up additional space. The 5S process is a systematic approach to workplace organization and is widely considered the first step in implementing a Kaizen/Lean culture to reduce waste and improve productivity. Generally speaking, the steps of 5S involve going through items in a workspace, removing what’s unnecessary, organizing items, cleaning, performing maintenance, and making sure these things become habits.

5S SMG post_Nov19v2

SmartDraw Tip: To access the Lean Diagrams and Template Category simply navigate to the Left Panel.  Select Lean.  In the 5S sub-category select 5S Glossary template. The category enables you to create a number of diagrams such as as value stream maps, spaghetti diagrams, kanban boards, process maps, root cause diagrams and much more!

The 5S’s should occur in this order, and there must be a plan in place for performing the tasks associated with these steps on a regular basis. Utilizing the 5S process to achieve an organized work space also has several supplemental benefits.  In addition to the immediate visual improvement, organizations will realize:

  • Improved Quality: Having an organized work space with everything in its place will result in fewer mistakes made.
  • Improved Productivity & Efficiency: Reduced clutter and designated storage locations improves inventory management and reduces the time to locate and obtain material. It is often found that an increase in usable space is also achieved.
  • Transparency & Visibility: Abnormalities, additional wastes and problems surface much more quickly with increased visibility within the work space.
  • Boosted Morale: Employees often feel an increased sense of workplace ownership and motivation with an organized workplace; no one likes to work in an environment of disarray. Participating in the 5S Process and witnessing the dramatic before and after results also provides a sense of empowerment.
  • Improved Image: An organized workplace is a professional workplace; this is visually apparent when observing an organized workplace.
  • Improved Safety: Properly stored and organized items reduce housekeeping and ergonomic related hazards, and also make hazardous conditions more visible. The discovery of reduced accidents and injuries are typically identified after utilizing the 5S Process in the workplace.

We also employed Total Flow Management to optimize the positioning of shop equipment and flow of material through the shop. Total Flow Management (TFM) focuses on streamlining material and information flows. Diagnosis is performed through the identification the 7 wastes in the operation which result in improved Production Flow, Internal Logistics, and External Logistics.

Shop Layout Future State1Using SmartDraw, the team created a Future Layout to scale (shown above). With the ability to move items in the “virtual world” we eliminated the need to expand the existing facility.


As a result, the team eliminated the need to expand the existing facility and avoided a capital spend of $24 million. This was a significant reduction to the original spend and the client was able to apply the funds to projects that provided more value to the company.

So before you decide to spend millions of dollars on your next capital project, assemble a small team and ask them to think creatively to eliminate the need for the project altogether.

Electrical Designs to Visualize the Safety of City Buildings

The ability to visualize and articulate ideas in a succinct manner is a challenge that many of us face.  In this week’s post, we will take a closer look at a recent interview with Kevin Jones, the Executive Director of Emergency Communications.  As a long time SmartDraw User, Jones shares with us a few of the accomplishments he has been able to achieve using diagrams.

Can you tell me about your role as the Executive Director of the Emergency Communications District of Ector County?

The Emergency Communication District of Ector County is charged with providing call delivery of communication services between the public and public safety response agencies.  In short, we provide access to 911 within our jurisdiction.  We provide the network mechanism that is utilized by various telephone, internet, and cellular companies in allowing their customers to reach emergency service personnel by dialing or activating the numbers 911 on their communication devices.

As Executive Director it is my responsibility to see that this gets done, while providing not only for the interests of the public, but the public safety agencies and employees.  This expands beyond mere network design to product procurement, training, as well as financial obligations and human resource requirements.

Please share with us your background.

kevin jones
Kevin Jones, Executive Director

I am a retired police officer having served over 35 years with both our local police department and sheriff office.  While I did obtain my emergency medical technician certification, my service has been on the law enforcement side of public-safety.  I currently hold a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, Bachelor in Business Administration, and an Associate in Applied Science, along with being a registered Emergency Number Professional through the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).



Why were you looking for a new design tool? Why did you choose SmartDraw?

As a visual person, I was initially looking for a drafting or drawing program that would allow me to construct floor plans of the buildings we utilize.  It would allow for the layout of various network components such as electrical wiring, IP network layouts, telephone lines, etc.  Additionally, I was hoping for something that allowed for furniture layout designs to be able to ‘see’ where wiring needed to be laid, installed, and set in order to create the most functional work environment.

SmartDraw appeared to offer all of the basic drawing elements that I was looking for.  It allowed me to switch line types and library items relatively easy.  Initially, I would work on the floor plans, then adding electrical wiring layouts, then IP lines.

I was previously using AutoCAD, then ArcInfo/ArcView products in conjunction with mapping requirements we had.  AutoCAD allowed me to expand beyond mapping, but was not quick and easy to use as SmartDraw.  AutoCAD updates required retraining on the program at least once a year – time I did not have.

Which features and functionality do you find that you use the most?

I use it for building layouts, mostly.  I generally do not use templates as I draw everything from scratch.  I do use the library.  The library symbols are basically used to add details to the floor plans.

When new equipment is ordered, installed, or moved, new wiring requirements need to be accounted for.  With SmartDraw, I am able to keep up with basic layouts of cables throughout the buildings.  I update the layout drawings every time there is work done and a line or furniture item is changed.

How are SmartDraw Diagrams used in your organization?

I normally use it for buildings throughout the county.  I did use it in the recent renovation of our new office building.

As initial remodeling took place we were able to identify and correspond every electrical outlet, light, air conditioning ducts, wiring, digital lines, cable lines, and water lines.  Even the sprinkler system is on its own layer.  As we prepare for any remodels and equipment moves, the SmartDraw drawings allowed us to make modifications and determine which option(s) we ultimately go with.


I created an initial Electrical Design showing a major system flaw that was corrected.  The electrical flow diagram helped to explain to city personnel the potential fire hazard that existed and clearly showed current power usage in such a clear and easy fashion, that the decision to spend significant sums of monies to make the updates was made rather quickly.

OCC Electrical Design - per Audit Mar 2012


Our most recent drawings concern our new office space.  Here is the series of SmartDraw diagrams that were used to aide in the transformation of an existing medical practice that converted into the government agency office building that stands today.

Floor Plan Based on Original Blueprints  The diagram shows information gleaned from original floor plans that had to be recreated.  It was quickly apparent that the original floor plan did not match what existed as some of the walls did not measure up.  Apparently, some modifications had been made during or after construction but were never noted.  The building was purchased in October of last year.

Initial Occupancy Layout SD submission
Floor Plan Based on Original Blueprints

STAGE 1: Initial Occupancy Layout 1  After taking ownership of the building, we were able to take measurements and incorporate them into the floor plans.  This floor plan is a more accurate drawing.  Although not all the measurements added up right, the basic design structure was evident.

Initial Occupancy Layout 1 SD submission
STAGE 1: Initial Occupancy Layout 1

STAGE 2: Initial Occupancy Layout 2  I was able to tighten up the measurements a little more.  Some initial remodeling occurred in February of this year, before we moved into the new office.

Initial Occupancy Layout 2 SD submission
STAGE 2: Initial Occupancy Layout 2

STAGE 3: Initial Occupancy Layout 3  In this diagram, I began identifying electrical layouts.  Other layers were added as the remodeling took place.

Initial Occupancy Layout 3 SD submission
STAGE 3: Initial Occupancy Layout 3

All of the floor plans were eventually merged into one master floor plan composed of several layers.  The default layer contains the accurate floor plan with walls, doors, and windows.  A separate layer was added to the floor plan diagram to document the electrical, furniture, built-ins, lighting, cameras, IP cabling, including a room identification label layer.

What advice would you give to a NEW SmartDraw user?

Play with it.  Open the program up and start using it.  As you play with it, think of how you might be able to do what you just did – only faster.  Then look it up in the Help feature and learn how to do it.  Add all your new tricks together and before you know it, you have the foundation for your drawing.

HAZMAT Response Team Harnesses the Power of SmartDraw

Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Emergency Response Teams protect life and the environment by responding to chemical emergencies and minimizing the dangers associated with them.  In this week’s post, we’ll take a look at an interview with Cynthia Struve.  For over 16 years Cynthia, a SmartDraw Power User, has been an active member of a HAZMAT Emergency Response Team working collaboratively with local agencies to ensure the public’s safety through the mitigation of hazardous materials incidents.


As a county Emergency Management Coordinator, I have oversight of the county Hazardous Materials Response Team.  In my role, I am responsible for authoring key documents for hazardous material responses such as FEMA approved all-hazards mitigation plans and Homeland Security equipment grants.


The Disaster Management Cycle 

SmartDraw Tip: To create this diagram an existing SWOT Analysis Diagram Example was used as a starting point.  Locate the template by select the Strategic Planning Category in the Left Panel.  Navigate to the SWOT Analysis sub-category and select Market Analysis SWOT example diagram.


It’s been so long since the first time I used SmartDraw.  I remember needing to create an organizational chart. After a failed attempt to use MS Office, I did an online search and found SmartDraw. I downloaded the trial and fell in love with it!


I started using SmartDraw over 10 years ago.  With all of the added changes and updates over the first few years that I was using it, I saw the potential of using SmartDraw as an added benefit for all of my emergency management related planning, exercise programs, and writing detailed disaster reports. Even with the cuts in government funding, I have continued purchasing the program from my own pocket.  It is too much of an added benefit to not include it as part of my planning.


The program assists me in quickly designing organizational and flow charts for hazmat related planning projects, creating layouts for hazardous material decontamination lines, incorporating timelines into hazardous substance response reports, designing emergency response agency training exercises, key communication plans, mass evacuation and mass casualty emergency response plans.

In addition to developing large scale planning and training programs, I do a lot of community outreach.  I have developed information flyers and brochures on emergency focused situations such as tornados, flash floods, hail, and snow storms.  Once I develop the brochures, I print them out and drop them off at local businesses throughout the community. I was able to create all this and so much more . . . thanks to SmartDraw.


Circle Spoke Diagram Depicting SmartDraw Templates Used by Cynthia on a Routine Basis

SmartDraw Tip: To create this diagram an existing Circle Spoke Diagram Template was used as a starting point.  Locate the template by select the Marketing Charts Category in the Left Panel.  Navigate to the Circle Spoke Diagram sub-category and select Spoke Diagram (6-piece).  


The SmartDraw website’s videos – they work.  I download the videos of the templates I use and keep them in a folder on my desktop. So, when I need something I just jump back to the videos I need.


Diagram 1. Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) Reporting Requirements Flowchart

This flowchart outline the reporting requirements.  Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, LEPCs must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually, and provide information about chemicals to citizens.

CStruve_LEPC Reporting Requirements Flowchart

Diagram 2. Severe Storm Evacuation Shelter Areas Floor Plan

This floor play is one of the very first projects I put together for a local school.   I was asked to do a walk through and suggest shelter areas that could be utilized during severe weather if the students and faculty had to be evacuated from the classrooms.

CStruve_Brookwood_floor_plan Severe Wx

Diagram 3. Full Activation Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Organizational Chart 

We have new members anywhere from 3 to 4 times in a year.  As a result, I’ve got to maintain our org chart.  With SmartDraw, I’m able to click on it and make the change.  It’s that easy.  I created this org chart when I first started using SmartDraw over 10 years ago.

CStruve_Full Activation EOC Org Chart

Diagram 4. County Map: 1998-2008 Presidential Disaster Declarations 

I used SmartDraw’s Maps feature to pinpoint all of the areas that were affected by severe weather which led to Presidential Disaster Declarations.
CStruve Map


I am working towards a bachelor degree in Information Systems Security – Cybersecurity.  Before starting my program at American Military University, I reviewed the requirements for my classes and many of them listed Visio.  So, I looked into using Visio. Visio is a very complicated program from what I saw.  I looked at the price and oh, my Lord . . . there was no way I was going to use that.  When I asked my professor if there were any other options, he emailed me the link to SmartDraw.  Oh yes!!! We can use SmartDraw.

It turns out that both Visio and SmartDraw are approved software programs to be used in class.  I’ll need to create a lot of network designs for class assignments plus many other types of diagrams, charts, graphs etc. SmartDraw is going to play a big part in my educational pursuit.


SmartDraw is equipped with a robust Emergency & Disaster Planning Template Category. It contains a number of templates, sample diagrams, and symbols to help you get started in no time.

disaster category

SmartDraw Tip: Navigate to the Emergency & Disaster Planning Category.  Scroll through the sub-categories. Review templates and sample diagrams in the Preview Screen.  Select the appropriate template.


How do you use SmartDraw?  I’d love to hear your story. I’m always intrigued to find out how other members of the SmartDraw community are using it.  Send me an email at