By January 31, 2010 2 Comments Read More →

Akron Children’s Hospital Embraces Lean

Here is an article that discusses the adoption of Lean methods at Akron Children’s Hospital (“Hospital embraces lean strategies of manufacturing“).

The article spells out how the hospital didn’t need the typical “mores” that most organizations want:

  • More money
  • More people
  • More space

They learned they needed process improvement and creativity instead.

I’ve seen this happen at many hospitals:

When sterile processing technicians couldn’t keep up with the demand for clean surgical instruments at Akron Children’s Hospital, the only option appeared to be a $3.6 million expansion.

The key word is “appeared.” Too many organizations are quick to want to spend their way out of process problems – throwing more space or more people (or more equipment) into the system. To their credit, Akron Children’s used Lean analysis and improvement methods to solve the problem another way – a way that was far less expensive than millions….

They increased capacity from 13,000 to 16,000 procedures a year and involved the staff members in improvement, a key Lean principle:

”We didn’t need more FTEs,” [James Seymour, manager of sterile processing] said. ”What we needed was to redesign. . . .The staff members, the team, we’re the ones who solved the problems.”

The focus on people extended to ACH making a committment to their staff:

Watson said the hospital leadership has pledged no one will be laid off as a result of any Lean Six Sigma activities.

When necessary, he said, ”we will redeploy people within the organization.”

The article clearly articulates the benefits of Lean for the patients, employees, and the hospital. Nice work.


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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an eBook titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

2 Comments on "Akron Children’s Hospital Embraces Lean"

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  1. Dean Bliss says:

    An excellent example, Mark. Many times the ability to increase capacity is overlooked in deference to cost reduction.

  2. Buying their way out of capacity problems is all too common in many companies. Many unenlightened leaders look for easy solutions, and, unfortunately, it is still easy to spend money as long as there is a “budget” for it. It is always a pleasant surprise to see companies, especially in health care, making enlightened (not necessarily easy) decisions.

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