Here is an article that might serve as an inspiration for those of you who are looking to make a career transition from manufacturing to healthcare. The linked news article features a former Herman Miller lean change agent who is now working for a hospital in western Michigan.
And in a manufacturing state such as Michigan, there exists a vast talent pool for hospitals to tap to learn how to squeeze waste and inefficiency out of every aspect of an enterprise.
I hope more hospitals realize what talent is out there right now, a great time to hire someone to help with your Lean efforts — getting started or bringing your program in-house after starting with consultants.
At Saint Mary's Health Care, Palmreuter spends much of his time finding and resolving administrative waste.
One of his early successes came in the pharmacy at the health system's Wege Center, which was having difficulty keeping up with the workload at certain times of the day. He worked with staff to optimize the delivery of drugs each day to patients and outside clients such as area nursing homes.
He also consolidated two automated dispensing systems into one, generating $240,000 in annual savings. The pharmacy also has been able to pick up more business from outside clients.
In the surgical services department, he helped staff get a better handle on managing the inventory of supplies and equipment. The net savings: $700,000 by reducing inventory.
Great things to be working on, eh? Those are great results. They cut costs AND increased revenue by creating capacity. Hopefully, that's a great reminder to everyone that Lean can help create growth for a hospital without requiring expensive capital expense.
There's one little thing that jumped out at me from the article. Granted, it's about Steve and his transition, but if you were in his shoes, would you be a bit embarrassed with the “he, he, he” focus on the lean expert in the article?
Some of the least rewarding work I ever did was in a manufacturing company that wouldn't give the front-line staff time to work on improvement (hmm, that actually sounds like many hospitals). I was expected to “make them Lean,” which is going to be as effective or sustainable as getting the staff involved (as I was always able to do in my work with hospitals that were embracing Lean, thankfully).
That nitpicking (on the author of the article) aside, it seems that St. Mary's is lucky to have him, based on what Steve says in the article:
“It's not about just those home runs,” Palmreuter said. “What we really need to be doing too is stringing together a lot of base hits.
“How often do we walk right past that type of waste because we presume it's not that big, so we assume it's not worth our time?” he said. “We miss those opportunities every day because we just don't have the right culture in place.”
Lots of little changes, many small improvements — that's a key aspect of “kaizen” and lean. Not everything is a huge project, nor does everything even require a week-long event.
Congrats to Steve and the leaders and staff at St. Mary's. They are setting an example that, hopefully, more hospitals will follow.
If you're in that career transition (or looking to find a guy like Steve, perhaps), join the discussion at my free site http://movetohealthcare.ning.com.
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