Real Lean Transformation

Importance of including Lab Planners when designing Lean Lab solutions

When designing lab solutions, Analysts, Lab Managers, Supervisors and Approvers are all important stakeholders.  The solution will be designed so that these stakeholders can carry out their tasks as efficiently and obstruction-free as possible.  However, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the lab Planner is also a critical stakeholder, and planning of the workload, both for the lab as a whole and for individual analysts, is the first step to ensuring a levelled workload and flow through the lab.

The single biggest factor affecting a lab’s ability to meet leadtimes in the most productive way possible is a volatile incoming workload.  Real Lean Lab solutions provide an effective way of dealing with a volatile workload - i.e. by controlling the execution of day-to-day testing, and effectively levelling the workload to ensure that the lab has the same amount of work to execute each day/week, thus ensuring that the lab can be resourced optimally.

But a Planner’s role is to schedule work optimally, to meet customer delivery requirements.  So, while ensuring that the lab has a levelled workload is central to achieving optimal resourcing, the level of Work In Progress (WIP) in the lab also has a large bearing on the lab’s ability to meet customer delivery requirements.  Too much WIP usually results in queuing at workstations and thereby restricts Flow throughout the lab, resulting in excessive throughput times.  Real Lean solutions also establish Flow through the lab, ensuring that once a sample begins testing, the way is clear to complete testing without unnecessary delays.

In a small to medium sized lab, which has implemented a Real Lean solution, the person who does the planning/scheduling is usually either an analyst or a supervisor.  It is likely that this person was involved in the design team that designed the lean solution, but whether they were or not, it is critical that they fully understand how the lean system works, so that they launch work into the lab according to the “rules” of the work execution system in place, so that work is allocated in a fair and even way to suitable analysts or role-holders.

Often however, in larger labs or, for a group of labs, the planning/scheduling of samples may be performed by a dedicated Planner, or even a Planning group.  In such a case, it is important that at least one such Planner is involved in the design team from the start.  The Planner needs to be central to developing the solutions and have an in-depth working knowledge of the mechanics of executing work in a levelled way.  This is the only way that work can be launched in a manner that supports the solutions.  If this is done correctly, sustaining the solutions and thereby, the gains, becomes almost automatic. 

This blog was written by Cathal Boyce, Principal Consultant at BSM. For further information on Lean Lab solutions send an email to Cathal Boyce

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