If you walk into the average hospital supply room in America today, you will likely see they have a very visible problem. Or should we say a visibility problem. And we’re not just talking about the tangible ones like products and supplies hidden behind cabinet doors, strewn on countertops or just generally in disarray but also things like hidden costs and time. Not only is this a detriment to supply chain managers, clinicians can also get ensnared by this issue while trying to provide quality care for their patients.
In this post, we’ll provide several tips for improving supply room efficiency by way of adopting lean methodology processes. This can be a great way to strike out on the journey with a comprehensive goal of improving the overall efficiency of the entire hospital supply chain.
Remember, every journey begins with a first step. But as a former manager once told me, “You don’t eat an elephant all at once. First, start with a nibble on the toe!” So, to make sure we don’t bite off more than we can chew, we asked for the expertise of one of our veteran supply chain and logistics Project Managers, Alicia Sanders, to get us started. Proficient in lean methodologies, Alicia has both lead and assisted with many lean process improvement projects. With her guidance and efforts, several healthcare organizations have successfully improved supply room efficiency throughout their facilities – and not just the supply room nodes but also in tough areas such as perioperative services and OR suites.
As stated in the opening of this post, visibility is hugely important to managing the supply chain of any healthcare institution. Improving the healthcare supply chain will likely lower costs, boost revenue, and ultimately improve patient care. This can be in a number of ways and walking the halls of your operation can wield some low-hanging fruit. You just need to know what to look for to lead to those hidden benefits:
Without further ado, it’s time to get to the good stuff! Following are Alicia’s tips for improving the efficiency of hospital supply rooms.
It’s important to reach out to staff and team members to not only get their feedback on initiatives planned but also to allow them to provide input for the areas of improvement. Sanders advises, “Always engage and connect with clinical staff and managers when attempting to improve supply room efficiency in their work areas.” Be sure to gather feedback from them in regards to:
Gathering proper feedback from your team members is a great first stage to improving the efficiency of supply rooms, as it touches on several aspects the opportunities for improvement.
Think of this as spring cleaning. “Executing a rapid 5S event in the supply room will help eliminate waste, along with items no longer needed in that area. It will also make room to add any supplies which are missing, and gives nursing staff an opportunity to organize supplies in a manner that works for patient care.” Example: all Luer Lock Syringes are now in one location, in order by size, as opposed to being spread out in several locations.
Sanders goes on to say, “After holding the 5S event, get in the habit of checking supply rooms once a day. Doing so will help identify which supplies move too fast, too slow, or just right so adjustments can be made accordingly.” Maintaining appropriate par levels is key to an efficient replenishment model
A supply chain management team that practices this habit brings their hospital one step closer to keeping clinicians out of the supply chain process and doing the work they were meant to do. Reducing their time in supply rooms means they have more time to spend at the patient’s bedside providing care.
For the utmost in efficiency improvement, Sanders recommends adopting the practice of Kanban. “Kanban really is the most efficient, reliable way to deliver supplies in a clinical setting.” Adapted from successful manufacturing and retail industries, Kanban is a visual replenishment system that helps ensure supplies are delivered to the right place, in the right quantity, at the right time. This process provides immediate, tangible, and measurable advances in lean growth, removing ambiguities and overcompensation of supply systems.
Two-bin Kanban systems, in particular the BlueBin Kanban System, tick all of the boxes when it comes to improvements in healthcare supply chain efficiency.
Ultimately, improving the efficiency of your supply chain is going to benefit the entire organization. Who doesn’t want to save time, money, and energy? These tips should help any team to improve their overall efficiency. But the ultimate cheat code is the BlueBin Kanban system. A guaranteed way to maximize not only the efficiency of your hospital supply rooms but of the overall supply chain for healthcare supplies.