Laboratories are not the same as manufacturing environments so do the standard Lean ‘Wastes’ even apply in Labs?
In operations where the short interval (e.g. daily or weekly) workload varies, the most common method of distributing the work is to share it equally between the available people. We call this method “available work through available people”. The consequence of this approach is that even low daily workloads expand to fill the day resulting in poor productivity. Carefully designed standard work can improve your department’s performance by consistently making the most out of people’s time.
You’re a site leader three months into your Lean Programme and on the face of it things are going well but you’ve got doubts that the organisation structure is supporting your lean journey in the way you’d want.
Visual management is an integral part of a Lean Laboratory. It unites personnel around a common goal, ensures that critical information is disseminated, and keeps the lab running smoothly. When a visual management board is well designed, anyone should be able to walk in and have a clear understanding of the labs operational status and current performance.
Day to day operations of individual departments in life science companies rely on many decisions made outside of each department’s own remit. When embarking on a Lean strategy, the pillars of operational excellence (Levelling and Flow) can be supported by increasing awareness of how each department functions and explaining constraints.
Typically, laboratory Standard Operating Procedures and Work Instructions are wordy, patch-worked documents and a hindrance to testing analysts and reviewers alike. Over their life cycle, procedures usually become increasingly difficult to decipher due to multiple disjointed revisions. As a result, training and routine testing often relies on the retained knowledge of key experienced personnel, with an accepted culture of ‘Chinese whispers’. This dependence on undocumented hints and reminders can be tackled by applying Lean thinking to the design and layout of Laboratory SOP’s.