Superficial Lean Laboratory Explanation
When I see “Easy Lean” or, as I also saw recently in a consultant’s promotion, “Instant Lean,” I take notice and cringe. “Easy Lean” and “Instant Lean” don’t exist. Sorry. Lean seems simple to understand, but it’s really hard to instill in an organization.
This medical laboratory website has a description of the Lean process that’s so superficial that it might actually be harmful. This might fall into the subset of “L.A.M.E.” that stands for “Lean As Mistakenly Explained.”
The article starts off well enough, even with the scary “Easy” headline:
According to the Mayo Clinic’s Medical Laboratories white paper, “Innovations in the Clinical Laboratory,” Lean is a continual process of improvement: “The main objective of Lean, when applied in the laboratory, is to deliver quality patient laboratory results, at the lowest cost, within the shortest time frame while maintaining client satisfaction.”
OK, I can accept that. What I can’t accept is the notion of a “step-by-step methodology” for Lean – there’s no cookbook. This isn’t a one time exercise, it’s not something you implement and be done with.
Looking at their steps:
1) Value Stream Mapping
This is an OK place to start if you’re focusing on customer needs. The diagram and description leaves the customer out of it, unfortunately. You don’t just document your steps, you have to ask if you’re meeting customer needs.
The diagram is what I typically see when people confuse Value Stream Mapping with simple process mapping. What’s missing in this diagram is the waiting time BETWEEN steps. That’s often where the big opportunity is found, the delays and poor handoffs between steps in the process.
2) 5S Workplace organization
This is an acceptable explanation of 5S
3) Visual Management
This part of their article was particularly frustrating. There’s more to visual management than labeling everything. Ironically enough, their photo doesn’t show the typical 5S workplace where the locations of items are marked and labeled.
What you DO see is a label maker machine produced by the company that provided the author for the article. Conflict of interest, anyone? Of course a label maker company is going to say you should label everything.
Do you see any visual management cues in that photo? I don’t. The caption says “Visual cues such as labels make identifying an item and its designated storage area quick and easy.”
Sadly, they don’t have a visual picture of that!
4) Work cell specimen processing
Yes, cellular layouts are great for improving flow and eliminating wasted motion and specimen delays. Reducing batches not only improves flow (as they stated), it also improves quality by reducing opportunities for mismatching errors (which they ignored).
Although the author says Lean isn’t just a one-time activity, they pretty much ignore the management system and thinking that’s different with Lean. Lean isn’t just about what you do, it’s more a matter of leading and managing differently.
The article pretty much ignores the Toyota “respect for people” principle, which is a lost opportunity for the reader of that piece.