Real Lean Transformation

Applying Lean to the Lab through Visual Management

The effort to make the work and processes visible, in a work environment, is called visual management. In general, there are a couple of key items for any successful application of visual management.

First, somehow the work itself needs to be made visible.  This can be brought about by tearing down walls to allow line of sight or removing cupboard doors.  Often, just allowing line of sight into the work area can help individuals to see the work therefore be more connected.  Even when using these approaches, it can be still quite difficult to see what is actually going on.  You may find that a representation of the work will need to be created, which is commonly accomplished by using a whiteboard.

We also need to be able to see who is doing the work (which also means that we’ll find out who isn’t doing the work).  On a whiteboard this might take the form of someone’s name next to an assignment or next to a particular sample.  Making both the work and those doing the work visible will help to make a more structured and understandable environment.  Again, seeing structured work helps us to be more structured even without changing the work itself.

In addition, abnormalities must be easily identifiable.  In a laboratory environment, colored magnets may be used on a board in the lab to show when there are problems with particular samples or tests.  Whatever you choose, the abnormal situation needs to stick out like a sore thumb.  When we see the sore thumb, we want to fix it.

This blog was written by Preston Chandler, Consultant at BSM-USA Inc. For further information on implementing Lean in Labs send an e-mail to Preston Chandler.

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