Service level agreements provide a basis for the metrics against which performance of groups are measured. Discussing and understanding the reasons for (or even implementing) service level agreements are an important initial stage of Lean projects.
Upon beginning a Lean project it is important to understand the service level agreements that are in place for the lab or group, if they exist. For example, labs can have agreements with production, quality assurance and with the site overall. In the situation where they do not exist the creation of these targets is an important early goal within the project.
Quite often the question ‘where did that X hour/day service level agreement arise from?’ is met with a shrug of the shoulders. Another common response is ‘It used to be 48 hours but now it’s 24 hours’. The agreements were reached a long time ago and the goal posts have been shifted without the understanding of most people in the group, including managers who are being held to the targets.
Setting up discussions between the relevant groups can yield great benefits for a Lean project. In some cases production may have changed their operations and are now proceeding without waiting on in-process test results from the lab. Turn around times for a batch should be balanced across all labs/groups at the site in a well thought through manner. For example there is no reason for a chemistry lab to complete all testing within 7 days if the product requires a 14 day sterility test.
Finally it is important that all groups adhere to the service level agreements the majority of the time e.g. samples should be delivered by production at the designated time, labs should provide results within the appropriate time frame, etc. Regularly failing to meet the agreed service levels leads to distrust between sections of the business. It can also result in losses for the business and causes disruption in the daily work flow of the site.
All Lean project solutions are designed to meet the agreed service level agreements and this should be the normal operating procedure. However due to changing business needs there will be times when priority samples/batches arise and all solutions are designed to accommodate this situation, when required.