Implementing A Lean Laboratory

With the rapid growth of research specimen data and the need of data sharing across regional research teams, timely, traceable and accurate laboratory information becomes important for researchers. 

A reliable identification solution will provide much more benefits in comparison to a manual data recording systems. Benefits include reduced human errors, increased workplace efficiency, ability to store more information into a barcode label and an accurate specimen tracking process from receipt to disposal.

Brady is trusted for reliable, first-rate solutions for laboratory identification and specimen tracking. Our laboratory identification solution includes lab-specific label printers, labeling materials, supporting designing software systems and data collection tools.

Implementing a Lean Laboratory
Lean is a set of techniques used to manage a work environment by eliminating waste, organizing the workplace, streamlining procedures and establishing clear, visual standards. In a laboratory, lean initiatives focus on improving safety, eliminating wasted motion, space and supplies, reducing errors, and automating the specimen handling process.

1. Work Cell Specimen Processing (WCSP)
One of the most useful lean lab strategies is work cell specimen processing (WCSP)—the physical or logical layout of all testing and processing equipment, technicians, and materials through which a specimen flows. Work cells minimize movement, reduce batch sizes, decrease set up time, improve lab safety and standardize work processes to reduce errors.  Clear and concise idenitification aids oftens plays an essential role in such processes, ensuring the right specimen are used each time.

2. Remove the Waste
Eliminating any activity that does not add value to a given process helps maintain a lean lab. Below are some suggestions to reduce common waste in your laboratory

TYPE OF WASTE   EXAMPLE OF WASTE   HOW TO REDUCE
Transportation   Technician walks around the lab with specimens in order to get to the next step   Optimize the placement of lab equipment to minimize the distance that samples must travel when processed
Inventory   Excess inventory of a consumable item   Standardize consumable types and order “Just In Time” (JIT)
Motion   Technician leaves work area to find missing supplies   Keep frequently used items and materials close at hand and well organized for easy retrieval
Waiting   Peak demand and specimens waiting to arrive for processing   Implement a flexible staffing model with cross functional training
Over Production   Numerous specimen are batch processed at one time, creating a backlog of specimens too large for the technician to handle   Implement single piece flow systems that are immediately recognized by LIS; this enables the specimens to quickly flow directly to the next step without waiting
Over Processing   Extra paperwork; tracking down information which increases turnaround time   Implement standard work protocols and chain of custody tracking
Defective Product   Data error due to handwriting   Simplify data entry and data management with bar coding and automated systems that connect to LIS


3. Optimize Productivity with 5S

sustainThe 5S approach emphasizes the importance of maintaining an orderly workplace and using visual cues to reduce the amount of wasted time that is spent searching, looking, waiting and asking, optimizing productivity for your laboratory.

Below are some simple ways you can apply the 5S principles to your lab:

  • Sort: Sort through all of the items in a given location, marking all unnecessary items with a red tag or sticker. Move the red tagged items into a temporary holding area where management can determine how to dispose of them.
  • Set in Order: Determine the best location for the remaining items. Set inventory limits and re-order triggers.
  • Shine: Clean your entire laboratory to eliminate the sources of contamination. Use cleaning as a forum of inspection to detect equipment abnormalities and impeding failures before they occur.
  • Standardize: Create guidelines and procedures for maintaining the first three S’s. Use visual controls like check sheets and schedules to provide daily, monthly or quarterly instructions on how to maintain order.
  • Sustain: Regularly communicate and train employees to maintain the laboratory’s adherence to the 5S standards.