Lean Tools: Digital Pedometers


Omron HJ-112 Digital Premium Pedometer

One thing I am often doing in the course of my Lean work is trying to help reduce the “Waste of Motion” in terms of employee walking. This is especially true is hospital departments, where employees aren't tied to stationary assembly line jobs. Some walking is “necessary waste,” since patients are in different rooms of course, but a lot of the walking is waste that can be eliminated.

  • Nurses walking around looking for supplies or missing medications
  • Pharmacy or Laboratory technicians walking back and forth because equipment layouts are poorly designed

You might say “well, just reduce the waste,” but I think there is come value to measuring and quantifying the amount of walking employees are doing, to establish a baseline and to measure how much walking waste you've reduced by improving the system.

Employees often walk many miles every day. Measuring this, in the past, has been based on sampling time periods and literally counting steps. Tedious.

I've discovered a new tool that I'm going to use – a digital pedometer. The thing I really like about these new pedometers is that they don't have be clipped to your belt, something that can look dorky or be uncomfortable. These new style pedometers can be through in pants pocket or lab coat pocket, while still accurately measuring steps (and distance, if you configure it for a person's step length). Someone can walk around all day and forget that it's even there.

Now, please don't paint me as a “toolhead.” A pedometer like this is NOT a substitute for direct gemba observation. But, this tool can allow you to focus on the process rather than counting steps. By improving the process to reduce walking distances, everybody wins: patients get better service and care and employees aren't as tired at the end of the day!

The first model I linked to up top has the same hardware features as this second one, but the second one has some additional health management software, which might be good if you want to use this for personal use (as my dad does).

Omron HJ-720ITC Pocket Pedometer with Advanced Omron Health Management Software

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


  1. Cool tool, Mark. Andy why not reduce the waste of measurement in a hospital where there is so much walking anyway?? Great tool…and I could expect is allows more accurate counting by not requiring a lot of attention. Less “measurement bias”

    Great idea

  2. My company hands these (a low end version) out as part of our health and wellness program. Of course, they’re looking for more steps, not less!


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