A critical component of improving any existing process is first measuring it! “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” (Bohmer, 2008) There are multiple tools for determining a process’ baseline, such as process mapping and spaghetti diagrams. Possibly, some of the more controversial tools are those used for work measurement and standards. There are four recognized methods for gathering information on the time it takes to perform a task (or set of tasks).
Faced with a need to increase laboratory testing capacity, Real Lean releases hidden capacity quickly and cost effectively.
Increased demand for lab capacity is a positive indicator of a growing business. Deciding upon the best option to increase capacity, however, never seems to be easy! In particular, when existing space, equipment and staffing capacity is thought to be maxed out, the next option tends to involve a space expansion (see the top row of graphic below) – a complex project with significant capital expenditure, which drags stakeholders from Engineering and Facilities, Finance and HR into the mix.
Real Lean is the term used by BSM to describe a specific methodology, one which enacts the actual core principles of lean and delivers real value stream optimisation, both financially and operationally, for its clients.
When designing lab solutions, Analysts, Lab Managers, Supervisors and Approvers are all important stakeholders. The solution will be designed so that these stakeholders can carry out their tasks as efficiently and obstruction-free as possible. However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the lab Planner is also a critical stakeholder, and planning of the workload, both for the lab as a whole and for individual analysts, is the first step to ensuring a levelled workload and flow through the lab.
The effort to make the work and processes visible, in a work environment, is called visual management. In general, there are a couple of key items for any successful application of visual management.
Structured Problem Solving has been one of the foundations of Lean transformation, and of almost any high performing company over the past 50 years. However, many labs reject Structured Problem Solving techniques outright, or use them as a ‘box – ticking’ exercise to satisfy management that they are adhering to the latest directive. Why is it, when successful organisations pride themselves on a culture of continuous improvement and problem-solving, that in Labs, it is often the missing link to true transformative improvements…?
To an outsider (and often even the insiders) laboratories can seem like a workplace hovering on the brink of chaos. The lab is constantly bombarded with hot requests for this lot or a special test for that project. Investigations, vacations, changes in product, adjustments in mix, FDA inspections, equipment issues and narrowly specialized analysts can often add to this sense of chaos. Usually it is difficult to see how work flows in the lab, if in fact it does flow. It can also be next to impossible to identify what is “normal” behavior. One of the critical steps in creating a Lean Lab is separating the routine (or in some cases, the most routine) from the non-routine or non-predictable.
Deployment of 5S in a laboratory setting is a time consuming effort and one which in itself delivers little in terms of productivity gains. So why bother…?
While it might sound like some sort of fad diet, “lean” in the context of business improvement refers to a specific methodology that originated in the Japanese motor industry toward the end of the 1980s. Over the decades, this lean philosophy has been successfully adopted by many companies across a broad spectrum of industries and, more recently, lean thinking has filtered into laboratories. The focus of a lean laboratory is to test samples in the most efficient way possible in terms of cost, or speed, or both. Although most of the key principles of lean apply in labs, the specific challenges facing laboratories require significant adaptation of standard lean tools.