Go Lean: Lean Manufacturing

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Go Lean: Lean Manufacturing

by Keith Loria, Reporter | March 04, 2009

The changes have resulted in an 85% reduction in how long patients wait to get lab results back, and lowered inventory costs by $1 million. The hospital reduced overtime and temporary labor expenses by $500,000 in one year and increased productivity by 93%. While direct cost savings aren't passed on to patients with the new system, less waiting, increased safety and more efficient care are.

Other hospitals around the country that are finding similar success include St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, in Houston, Texas and the Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Georgia.

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"One of the goals of lean health care is to awaken a new level of thinking and introduce manufacturing approaches that have been proven to produce excellent efficiency and profitability," says Meadows CEO Alan Kent. "The lean team at Meadows developed 44 action items for reducing lead time to admit, treat and discharge a non-critical ED patient, 18 of which were determined to be low cost and high impact."

Future of Lean

When it comes to where lean manufacturing can take medical device manufacturers or anyone in the health industry, the possibilities are endless.

"They can start looking at getting more market share. They can design something new because they have more resources available now. There is a free up of cash that could allow for an acquisition of another company, maybe the suppliers of the competitors to be more competitive," Duggan says. "They can also grow through product development. Be more reliable, more accurate, much more sought after. The company that's designed to grow frees up a wealth of opportunity for any strategy to drive their people thinking about the strategies."

That seems to be an opinion shared by each of the companies we spoke with for this story.

"The nice thing about lean is that it's never ending and you are constantly trying to improve," Reiss says. "Now we have several different programs in the company where a group of people can get together and try to improve something."

Johnson agrees. "Lean Sigma is a core element of our strategy and how we will fulfill many aspects of our mission. If we can create an organization of 38,000 outstanding problem solvers, I am confident that Lean Sigma can help this company rise to nearly any challenge that the future holds for us."

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