Lean Six Sigma Sample Analysis Process in a Microbiology Laboratory
Faced with shrinking budgets, growing volumes, and personnel shortages, clinical laboratories are increasingly moving to automation to maximize output and efficiency. The best tool for improvement is the Lean Six Sigma concept. The concept reaps the full benefits of automation. A Lean process in a laboratory is focused on testing products and materials to deliver results in the most efficient way in terms of cost, speed, or both. The goal of a Lean laboratory is to use less effort, less resources and less time to test incoming samples. On the other hand, the Six Sigma concept provides process workflow and products/services without defects. The Lean Six Sigma approach analyzes laboratory workflow to help identify inefficiencies and uncover opportunities to free capacity, reduce turnaround time and lower costs. The assessment examines the end-to-end process looking closely at workflow as well as overall laboratory efficiency. The proven techniques of Lean and Six Sigma enhance productivity in the laboratory environment and ensure the best outcomes. This article analyzes a particular process, defines the approach, and gives a review of results obtained by deployment of the Lean Six Sigma concept. The article discusses a sample analysis process in a microbiology laboratory. A traditional process that applies standard analysis methods has a number of non-value-added activities, takes too much time, and has opportunities for defects. By mapping an existing process using a SIPOC model, 12 activities were identified. With the use of Lean tools four non-value-adding activities, which are not needed if a new system is used, were identified. Six activities had opportunities for improvement in terms of significant reduction in process time, and saving resources. Only two activities in the existing traditional process, with the use of standard analysis methods were optimally solved, and this did not require redesign or removal. The application of Lean Six Sigma concepts and automated analysis systems on a new process led to only nine activities in the process that now takes much less time and uses less resources. This article presents a description of the main principles, practices, and methods used in Lean and Six Sigma. The Lean tools particularly discussed here are 5s and spaghetti diagram. For Six Sigma, DMAIC methodology is used, and a review of applied quality tools for certain process improvement phases is given.