Our client had a highly productive analysis laboratory, however one of the limiting factors to their capacity to analyze samples was the amount of time it took to perform a wet chemistry extraction step prior to analysis. The preparation step became a bottleneck, creating delays in turn-around-times, and causing huge lead times of samples getting in the door to the time they were ready for analysis. The lab asked us to take a look at both the physical and digital aspects of their preparation process to make it efficient and stop being a limiting factor.
Prior to improving the process, we needed to start by gaining a really good understanding of the process. Involving our clients laboratory management team, as well as on-the bench front line technicians, we collected a large amount of data and created a highly detailed value stream map of this bottleneck preparation process. This value stream map allowed us to pinpoint areas of opportunity for improvement in both the physical and digital aspects of the process.
We started by eliminating a significant number of wasteful steps in the process that we determined with the laboratory team to be unnecessary or redundant. We then digitally streamlined the process by implementing highly intuitive digital logbooks for technicians to complete their necessary record-keeping. By making things simple and easy to use, we were able to shave a significant amount of time off of the process. Finally we created a standardized process so that productivity and results from the area would be consistent, and it would be much easier in the future to train new incoming staff members.
After implementation of the new process, and some fine-tuning adjustments, the productivity and efficiency of this preparation process significantly increased by a factor of more than 60%. In fact, samples were coming through this area so efficiently, the instrumentation in the lab almost couldn’t keep up to it. The laboratory entirely eliminated their backlog of work waiting for this step to be completed, significantly reduced their overtime budget, and as an added bonus, saw a major increase in quality as technicians were now following a more standardized way of working which had built in error proofing.