Applying operations excellence to laboratory analysis.
Increasing work volumes
A large and strategically important provider of laboratory analysis needed to improve throughput, first time quality and turnaround time. There were also short term backlogs and a need to prioritise late arriving tests that had to be completed without delay. Increased volumes were being experienced and there was a further requirement to create capacity to deal with centralized work that would be transferred in from another lab in the group.
A detailed review and diagnostic showed that although there were great skills and a large number of capable people, they were being hampered by a lack of lean service and operations excellence approaches to work.
Similar work type teams
A 10 week project was launched to identify and agree improvement activities, implement them and finally hand over ownership to help sustain the benefits. Firstly a review of work types and volumes led to redesigning the organisation into teams focused on similar work types based on actual test requirements.
The workflow approach was changed to a “pull” system where staff drew work as their capacity came available rather than work being “pushed” out by management.
To assist the flow of work, all completed work was peer reviewed immediately rather than waiting in a queue until an expert had time. This way feedback was immediate and captured issues while still fresh in the mind of those involved. It also fostered a coaching and mentoring approach rather than the traditional ‘technical police’ approach, and enabled quality coaching to be introduced.
A series of daily structured team huddles were initiated in all areas based around the teams’ new visual management boards and led by the local manager/team leader.
Most importantly, the Gobeyond Partners team was directly involved in supporting and coaching the local management, encouraging and assisting them at all points. This helped gain buy-in, embed changes, and led to a more sustained series of changes taking place with everyone on-board.
40% improvement in first time quality
First Time Quality was improved by 40% over all areas involved with the changes. The new ways of providing immediate feedback were greatly appreciated by all the lab staff (a fact confirmed by anonymous surveys), leading to improved confidence and comfort in the roles.
Throughput improvements were evident, ranging between 4% and 60% on a daily basis with clear opportunities to stabilise this beyond 10% in the short term. During the 10 weeks there was a significant increase in volume of incoming work. Despite this the TRT was kept at the same levels, with improved levels of control and capacity to deal with spikes in workload.
Ultimately the changes allowed the group to have confidence that their longer term business plan was achievable and they were able to move forward with their challenging longer term strategies.