Real Lean Transformation

Lab Testing - The Prioritization Problem

Lab testing schedules are often dominated by complex prioritization strategies but there is a less stressful way to successfully deal with samples.

No one can remember when, but it probably started out with one sample which was suddenly needed by a customer and was made a ‘priority’. It was granted preferential treatment and was quickly moved through its remaining tests and released. Success! But when the number of samples receiving priority status continued to creep up, the sheer volume of priority samples became overwhelming, requiring ever more complicated management systems. Now the lab must devote a large portion of its time to tracking, prioritizing, scheduling and searching for priority samples, requiring greater oversight, more micro-management and more meetings. This leads to increased stress levels, for managers and analysts, as everyone tries to quickly respond to the latest list, email or phone call.

As focus is concentrated on priority samples, the non-priority samples are sidelined and spend longer in the lab. Eventually, these now late, previously non-priority, samples become urgently needed and thus receive the priority status required to get them completed. This creates a vicious cycle where prioritization becomes the norm and dominates laboratory activities.

But the cycle can be broken. By calculating and testing at the levelled demand and assigning incoming samples a must start date, labs can achieve predictable and repeatable throughput times that are designed to meet customer required lead times. As a result, the volume of priority samples is minimized. By introducing Flow and accelerating a samples progress through the lab, BSM’s Lean Lab solutions reduce the need for priority samples but retain flexibility, so that when truly exceptional situations arise, the lab can insert a real priority sample at the front of the queue, while Must Start Dates assigned to 'older' samples already in the lab ensure that those samples are not left behind.

Application of the fundamental Real Lean Elements namely Levelling, Flow and Standard Work, allows labs to reliably and robustly meet customer demands without complex prioritization systems, excessive management and increased stress.

This blog was written by  Adrian Fegan, Consultant at BSM. If you would like further information on Lab Testing please send an email to Adrian Fegan.

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