In this post, I'd like to share a nice 7-minute video from St. Clair Hospital in Pittsburgh, showing the transition from an inefficient “par level” system (that often led to stock outs for nursing supplies) to a two-bin kanban system that works. The video was produced by St. Clair, not by me. I appreciate them sharing the video with the world.
The video shows the process they went through, including comments from the industrial engineer, who was hired to put the system in place. With the system in place, they had ZERO stock outs and zero manual requisitions sent down to materials management.
The video also has some interesting comments from a manager who was initially VERY opposed to the kanban system… but is now a fan of the system.
When I tweeted the video last week, there was a comment back about how the items in the kanban system were clearly non-charge items. One hospital (it was either Seattle Children's or Park Nicollet… or both, I forget) told me once when I visited that, when they put a kanban system in place, they took out MOST (not all) of their automated inventory control cabinets. Many of the items they thought were charged to patients were actually not charged… so they didn't need a cabinet to track usage to patients – they just needed a system that ensured staff have what they need for the patients. And, kanban does just that.
There's certainly time and effort required to put a system like this in place… but it just works. The investment in system design pays off in terms of better staff satisfaction, reduced waste, and better patient care.
At 1:44 in the video, you'll actually see a picture of a kanban card from the Lean Enterprise Institute office (used to replenish coffee pods), that I featured in this blog post from 2010. See how LEI helps the Lean community? :-)
The video also makes think of the comment people often make: “We can't turn the hospital into some sort of factory.” Well, factories generally do a better job of making sure their front-line staff have the supplies and materials they need – right at the point of use. Using methods from factories, like 2-bin kanban systems, allows healthcare staff and clinicians to be less rushed, more caring, and better providers.
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