Do you want to see simple solutions at work?

There different ways to create improvements in your business. One way is through innovations. Another one is using common sense, low-cost solutions. In this post, I want to present to you one example.

Need simple solutions to improve a laboratory efficiency

ChemTest is a chemical laboratory that provides services for the food manufacturing industry. The laboratory had problems to released test results as per the customer demand. It was common to see samples waiting for analysis, piling up on the refrigerator. Therefore, the staff was working overtime to process the backlog. The manager was getting ready to hire an additional lab technician. But I suggested to let me help him. He agreed to walk the lab with me while explaining what he thought was wrong.

Reasons for the laboratory inefficiency

I noticed various boxes on the floor, which is a safety hazard. The working tables looked cluttered. I watched one technician searching for the right sample for almost five minutes. They don’t have an efficient method to store them. Also, I observed another technician walking around the room to work on different workstations to complete his test. While I was watching him, somebody came to drop more samples. She just put them right on top of the piled the other guy did while searching a while ago.

Within the first ten minutes, I identified two causes for inefficiency, disorganization, and ineffective layout. Everything I pointed out was waste from the customer’s point of view. All those things contribute to increasing the testing time per sample without adding value to the process.

We have a short meeting with the staff to explain the situation. Also, we invited them to be part of the solution by participating in an improvement activity called Kaizen. They were happy to do something. Although they like the extra money, they wanted to spend more time with the family.

Simple solutions to reduce processing time and increase tests per day

The laboratory performs on a daily seven major types of tests. One of them accounts for almost 70% of the daily demand. We focused our analysis on that test type. The staff draws a process map with the steps to complete that test. They also measured the time to complete the test and watched the process to identify waste.

We used 5S, a housekeeping and organization program to clean and organize the entire laboratory. The staff used a drawing of the facility layout to draw all the walking between steps of the process. They also measured the distance walked. Based on their observations and suggestions, we moved some equipment and tools to have them closer to where they need them.

Just by doing that, they reduced the walking time by more than 50%, which reduced the test process time as well. Other benefits of this event were: 27% reduction in over-time, 52% reduction in total process time, and 30% more on-time test results released to the customer.

The results

They need some help to move the equipment, but the investment was peanuts compared with the benefits. After the event, the customer noticed the improvement in the quality of service, and the team was able to rest better and spend more time with their family.

You can have similar results by using continuous improvement as your strategy to increase customer satisfaction. Let’s have a good old conversation about how you can do it!