Real Lean Transformation

Slow down… so that you can speed up.

Slow that you can speed up. Sounds like something Yoda would say. Component sub-optimization for increased system performance.

Conventional wisdom indicates that when a piece of laboratory equipment is purchased for a large amount of money, the equipment should be run as fast and as much as possible. Too bad conventional wisdom doesn’t equate to actual wisdom.

The result of optimizing a single component of a system is almost always exhibited in the form of a decrease in the overall performance of the system. Let’s look at a car, for example. If the pistons in the engine were allowed to move as quickly as they could, the engine would quickly overheat and seize up. If the fuel injectors were allowed to ingress fuel as quickly as possible the engine would choke and cease to operate. In a vehicle, each individual component is usually operating far below the actual capacity. In a luxury sedan, the performance of the engine may be sub-optimized to provide the smoothest and quietest ride for the passengers. On the other hand, in a rally car, smooth and quiet are tossed out the window to allow for greater speed and control.

This same phenomenon occurs in laboratory environments, but, because the laboratory “system” is much less integrated than an automobile, the optimization of components is much easier to see than the optimization of the system. In fact, we commonly see labs with pockets of exceptional performance, but failing system performance. One example would be a lab where batch records are rushed through production reviews, only to sit waiting for QA review and subsequent corrections. This is a case of optimizing the speed of production review, while sub-optimizing the performance of the whole review process. By slowing down, or sub-optimizing, production review we can improve the initial reviewing accuracy, decrease the number of subsequent correction, and increase the speed of the QA review.

Just because a component can operate faster, doesn’t mean that it should. Care should be taken to properly understand the functions of the operation and set an appropriate rate of operations that support the overall health of the system.

This blog was written by Preston Chandler, Consultant at BSM-USA Inc. For further information on component sub-optimization for increased system performance please send an e-mail to Preston Chandler.

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