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
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. 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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