Engaging Lean improvement in your Lab doesn’t have to take forever to generate results. You can often see immediate improvements with small, simple changes. Here are five things, all related to Lean principles, you can do in your Quality Lab that will bring quick returns and generate the foundation for new work habits. Problems will become easier to spot and solve by going to the next step of Lean implementation and applying the appropriate problem-solving technique.
The Challenge: To increase testing capacity and delivery Right-the-First-Time by improving scheduling, and performance visibility
- Eliminate waste through better scheduling and more efficient execution of ancillary activities. Dedicate time each week with your team to build or review the schedule, paying attention to all ancillary activities, to determine what your technicians can do prior to testing to reduce wasted time (i.e., restock chemicals/agents, ensure equipment is in good working order, etc.). This upfront planning will reduce time your technicians spend searching and waiting during testing.
- Establish shared team targets by creating a weekly/daily visual lab schedule on a white board. A simple whiteboard will make ancillaries activities and all weekly/daily testing programs visible. Be certain to include what, who, due dates, daily/weekly targets, leading and lagging indicators, etc., so everyone understands the team workload, and how he or she contributes to achieving your overall lab goals.
- Conduct a 15-min daily team meeting to help eliminate 80 to 90% of day-to-day lab problems. With your white board in place, develop a daily stand-up meeting agenda with your technicians to include: quick feedback on the previous day’s activities, what needs to be done today and any special arrangement to make it happen, as well as any other information to be shared or decisions to be made. This quick status meeting will improve communication and coordination of activities within your team.
- Build the right leading metrics – the key to reaching overall lab targets. As an example, if you want to reduce quality issues that are generating rework, it would be useful to track all the causes of retests, then track the main causes. Once clearly identified, the team can work to resolve the issues. It’s important to take the time to determine what key performance indicators will help your teams reach their goal.
- Use A3 thinking to help teams successfully address reoccurring quality and reliability issues. Once you have the 4 fundamentals above in place, it becomes possible for your teams to spot and address problems which prevent Right-the-First-Time and Just-In-Time. A3 problem-solving allows your teams to follow a structured and disciplined approach to identify and eliminate problems. (For more information on A3 Thinking and Problem-Solving, click the links to our Word of the Month on each.)
Because your laboratories are a vital link in your value chain it is important to find ways to improve capacity and utilization, reduce lead-times and increase reliability. Applying Lean/operational excellence principles provides useful ways to address these challenges.
As we’ve shown, starting with some small changes, consistently applied, will drive waste elimination and improve responsiveness, freeing your technicians to add additional value to your internal and external customers alike.
Additional Resources You May Find of Interest:
For more information on applying Lean in your laboratories please check out the links below or contact us. We would welcome the opportunity to chat with you.
Leaning the Quality Control Laboratory White Paper
Lean in Laboratories Virtual Event