Automation, Lean, Six Sigma: Synergies for Improving Laboratory Efficiency
The Pathology Services worldwide, surrounded by products are today requesting solutions. The approach aims towards the brain-to-brain cycle between caregivers and laboratory professionals. Despite budgets limited to 2-3% of total healthcare expenses, Laboratories are providing information for > 70% of medical actions. »Perianalytics« is becoming the focus; understanding information and sample flow in the whole journey and processes. Process analysis is the main component to understand and shape the best combination of components in designing a truly cost-effective Laboratory solution. Methodologies like Lean (or Toyota Production System) and Six Sigma have started recently to be adopted also in healthcare and in the Laboratory environment. Those techniques showed already successful implementations in healthcare, after their development in other sectors. Their tools are addressing the definition of »value«, »waste«, »flow« as key drivers to improve performances. The synergy among the methods allows decision makers to identify the degree of automation really necessary in their laboratory, with streamlined processes. The different platforms made available by industries, for in vitro diagnostic testing, could become not cost-effective or efficient without a careful assessment of needs, pathways and value-related variables. Total laboratory automation or stand-alone islands for systems can be identified and chosen after process mapping and recommendations deployed with Lean and Six Sigma techniques. This article highlights some key concepts of Lean and their fit in laboratory organization, as methodologies to be implemented before selecting and adopting automated systems.