The Importance of Visual Management in a Lean Laboratory
A Laboratory is usually a busy environment with many different activities simultaneously in progress. Having a good understanding of what is happening with each sample and test, or at least having quick access to that information is essential to the smooth running of that lab. Consequently, the importance of good, effective and up to date Visual Management cannot be overstated.
An effective Daily Board should ensure that anyone entering the lab should be able to see and understand all work that is in progress or planned within the lab at a glance. It unites personnel around a common goal, ensures that critical information is disseminated, and keeps the lab running smoothly.
In order to design a sustainable and helpful visual board, ask yourself three questions:
- What is the goal of the board?
- Who will be using the board?
- What information do they need to accomplish the goal?
Too much information can be the death of a visual board, so it’s important to focus on providing the key players the information they need to accomplish their goal.
The above board’s goal is to facilitate the movement of samples through the lab and therefore each board section is directly related to that goal.
The Planning section keeps track of which stage each sample is in. There is an incoming queue for samples that have entered the lab but have not yet started testing. There is an In-Progress calendar which allows for easy scheduling of analysts to assays. After the scheduled completion of the testing, the sample can move into the completed stage. The Lot Tracker is helpful in three ways. It allows for easy scheduling of analysts to assays, it shows overall workload of the laboratory, and it shows which analysts have extra resources available. It can also be used as a way of highlighting activities that could potentially run into issues, thereby facilitating intervention.
The Daily Huddle Agenda is essentially a checklist to focus discussion at a brief daily meeting held at the visual board. The meeting is held at a time which is convenient for all personnel, typically at the beginning or end of the shift. At the meeting progress vs schedule is discussed and short-term action items assigned with particular focus on resolving issues or potential issues that have been highlighted.
The Investigation Tracker and the Problems / Issues Tracker are very similar. They give clarity to any issues happening in the lab and assign a responsible party and a timeline to make any corrections. Having deadlines (artificial or not) creates urgency when problems have a tendency to stagnate.
The Training Matrix is posted so that assays requiring more trained personnel are clearly visible to the entire laboratory. This empowers employees to train on assays that need more personnel and optimises the scheduling process.
A good Weekly Board is a collection of Targeted and Relevant Metrics (KPIs). Depending on what the goal of the laboratory is these metrics can be varied but should typically comprise one each in the areas of Quality, Delivery and Productivity. These KPIs should be updated on a weekly basis to facilitate a weekly lab meeting around the board. Here, the lab should discuss performance and trends and understand which areas need to be addressed.
Remember that a visual management board is not a one size fits all. Creating something that will benefit your team requires thought and input from all involved parties.
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