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Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - Kalkaska Memorial Staff Incorporates 'Lean' Thinking

Kalkaska Memorial Staff Incorporates ‘Lean’ Thinking
Japanese manufacturing efficiencies help hospital processes

Eliminating wasteful efforts from processes works well not only in Japanese auto factories, but also within the corridors of hospitals.

During the past decade, hospitals across the nation have moved to incorporate the Japanese principles of Six Sigma and Lean to create more efficiency and the “continuous improvement” philosophy into health care administration and operations. Lean principles are based on the Toyota Production System that spread to American manufacturers with the publication of the book “Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation.”

Kalkaska Memorial Health Center Dining Services manager Arica Black recently graduated from a six-month program at Northwestern Community College that certified her as a Lean Manufacturing Champion.

“Lean concepts have definitely helped our processes,” she said. “We used it to track and change our chemical usage and storage, and were able to reduce costs and eliminate some of our storage space.”

NMC Training Services began offering Lean training to office and health care settings two years ago. Lead trainer Heather Fraizer, Ph.D., said even though the principles are the same, applying them in an information-based setting poses particular challenges.

“Waste and work-arounds are often more difficult to see in office settings and it sometimes helps to see examples from other offices,” she said.

Kalkaska Memorial Health Center Administrator Jim Austin said the Lean philosophy has proven successful at helping many hospitals shorten the time patients wait for care or services.

“We’re thankful for Arica’s interest in Lean and for other staff who have undergone training in its concepts,” he said. “Health care reform issues are forcing the health care industry to rethink how we do things. Lean concepts help us do that in a systematic way that ultimately creates efficiencies that will benefit our patients and the community.”