It was the same Joseph Juran who linked manufacturing and the healthcare industry; he wrote: as the health industry undertake change, it is well advised to take into account the experience of other industries in order to what worked and what has not. In the minds of many, the health industry is different. This is certainly true as to its history, technology and culture. However, the decisive factors in what works and what does not are the managerial processes, which are alike for all industries.This is the reasoning that allows the principles of lean production and management to be applied in healthcare, despite these being originally developed for application in other industries.
We mentioned that the lean philosophy calls for value creation through elimination of waste. These wastes are common in all industries and are not unique to healthcare. The following is a summary of these wasteful activities:
Producing something in excess, earlier, or faster than the next process needs it
The cost of managinga large supply inventory may not be obvious at first glance; beside consumption follow-up and space required to store, there is a need to follow expiration dates and to constantly ensure that the items in the inventory are not technologically obsolete. It was already shown that the overall cost of smaller and more frequent shipments is lower than a large-volume purchase for which a discount was provided
A lot of walking waste can arise from poor design of the working area
In healthcare this can be evident when moving patients, lab tests, information, etc.
There are times when material provided to the customers (patients) mandated by regulations can be confusing. For example, multiple insurance claim forms, including ones that are not bills, can confuse the unexperienced novice
There are many examples for these defects that can be related to poor labeling of tests, incomplete information in patients' charts or in instructions provided to referrals, etc.
There is not much need to explain why waiting a few hours in line is a wasteful activity
Under-utilizing staff :
Under-use is not only time-dependent but also involves deeper levels such as not sharing knowledge or not taking advantage of someone's skills and creativity; under-use typically shows in hierarchical structures and not using teams.
A Brief Introduction to Six Sigma
Six Sigma is a rigorous and disciplined process improvement methodology that uses data and statistical analysis to measure and improve any organization’s operational performance. Six Sigma methodology was developed by Motorola in 1986. General Electric (GE), under the leadership of Jack Welch, embraced Six Sigma in 1995 and reported $12bn of savings in their first 5 years. After observing GE's many successes with Six Sigma, other organizations adopted six sigma methodology for process improvement.
By using this management methodology, companies would be able to eliminate defects in any process. A process is said to have achieved six sigma if it produces 3.4 defects per million opportunities. For a process, defect is considered as anything that is outside the customer specifications.
Six Sigma Methodologies
Mainly two methodologies used in Six Sigma are DMAIC and DMADV. DMAIC stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control and is used for existing processes. DMADV is used for new processes and it stands for Define, Measure, Analyse, Design and Verify. Each phase of DMAIC and DMADV has various deliverables to be achieved while executing a process improvement project. DMAIC methodology helps in reducing the variations in a process by identifying the root causes for any problem and resolving them by implementing the best solution. DMADV methodology helps to design a new process after analyzing the customer requirements.
Six Sigma in an Organisation
An organization usually makes a roadmap for Six Sigma implementation. The roadmap involves the creation of infrastructure, identification of six sigma projects, project group selection and six sigma training, project execution and six sigma implementation. Different people in an organization, when involved in six sigma implementation take up roles and responsibilities as Champions/Sponsors, Process Owners, Master Black Belt, Black Belt, Green Belt and Yellow Belt. Black belts, Green Belts, and Yellow Belts would form project teams and execute six sigma projects.
For the organization, Six Sigma would benefit by reducing Defects (50-90%), Waste (10-60%), Rework, Process cycle times (20-50%) and improvements in Quality, Production Efficiency, Productivity (10-20%), Customer Satisfaction, Capacity, Profitability and Competitive edge.
Six Sigma has proven to be a successful process improvement methodology in industries like Manufacturing, Telecommunications, Banking, Finance, Insurance, IT, ITES, BPO, KPO, Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Logistics, Shipping and Supply Chain.
A company or organization can take best advantage from Six Sigma methodology by providing right training and skills to its employees. Employees who are equipped with Six Sigma expertise and knowledge can solve problems in the best way to enhance productivity and spontaneously this will lead an organisation towards growth and success.
Amitabh Saxena is an award winning lean six sigma trainer and expert. He is the founder and CEO of Anexas Consultancy and loves to write and share his expertise. Over the years he helped and trained thousands of Entrepreneurs, Business Professionals worldwide by providing Lean Six Sigma, PMP, and other professional training.