by Quality Team
Lean is about seeing and eliminating waste. In Lean terminology, waste is anything that does not add value to the customer (external or internal) or promotes respect for people. Lean is the backbone of Emory Healthcare’s EmPower journey of continuous improvement.
One tool in Lean process improvement is 5S for inventory and space organization. 5S stands for SORT (separate the needed from unneeded), SET-IN-ORDER (set needed items in a visual and easy-to-use manner), SHINE (clean and regularly inspect the area), STANDARDIZE (a place for everything and everything in its place), and SUSTAIN (sustain the first 4 S’s with audits and clear roles and responsibilities).
When we looked around our environment as part of a critical assessment of waste, our staff identified the main supply rooms at EUH and EUHM as prime for improvement. These areas exposed our people to multiple instances of waste due to the lack of organization, cleanliness, and a robust system to manage incoming and out-going supplies. Staff was not able to find the right supplies in the right quantity at the right time. Clean linen was stored next to dirty linen, food supplies were in the same room as sterile supplies, and the room became a retention area for antiquated and unneeded equipment. There was no established system to check for expired supplies, which could create unintended patient safety risks and hurt our bottom line. Furthermore, the rooms had stained ceiling tiles, blown-out lights, and had not been mopped or cleaned in years.
In August, over two events spanning three and a half days each, a team of frontline process experts, department leaders, Quality Team leaders, and colleagues from the Department of Anesthesiology applied the 5S methodology to create a supply room management system that is visual and easy to use. These events took place at both EUH and EUHM.
The individuals participating in the event could see transformational change right on Day 1 (SORT - separate the needed from unneeded), when previously unimagined additional space was now available to them. Once the visual systems and standards were put in place with minimal training, anyone was able to stock-restock and identify abnormal from normal. Team joy was evident in everyone’s glowing faces when they proudly presented their accomplishments during the report-out on Day 4. EHC enterprise leaders invited to the events were delighted to the see the team’s blood-sweat-and-tears, and could see the potential long-term dividends of investing in the 5S process for inventory and space management.
It has been two months since the initial 5S events and the improvement work has not stopped. The participating teams meet on a weekly basis and have finalized a visual notification system of Kanban (pull signal) cards, refined the audit process and standard work documents (key elements to SUSTAIN), and created materials for training existing and onboarding new staff. The EUH and EUHM 5S teams plan to meet on a periodic basis to hard-wire the new process and are available to share their experience and expertise with anyone who sees 5S as tool to eliminate “waste” and create respect for our most valuable asset – our employees – and to continuously improve our work environments.