Developing a lean culture in the laboratory

Clin Leadersh Manag Rev. 2006 Jul 25;20(4):E4.


The Director of Pathology at Jackson Memorial Hospital was interested in improving the operational efficiencies of the department in order to enhance the department's level of service in conjunction with the expansion of the overall health system. The decision was made to implement proven Lean practices in the laboratory under the direction of a major consulting firm. This article details the scope of the initial project as well as the operating principles of Lean manufacturing practices as applied to the clinical laboratory. The goals of the project were to improve turnaround times of laboratory results, reduce inventory and supply costs, improve staff productivity, maximize workflow, and eliminate waste. Extensive data gathering and analysis guided the work process by highlighting the areas of highest opportunity. This systematic approach resulted in recommendations for the workflow and physical layout of the laboratory. It also included the introduction of "standard workflow" and "visual controls" as critical items that streamlined operational efficiencies. The authors provide actual photographs and schematics of the reorganization and improvements to the physical layout of the laboratory. In conclusion, this project resulted in decreased turnaround times and increased productivity, as well as significant savings in the overall laboratory operations.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques
  • Efficiency, Organizational*
  • Laboratories, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Medical Laboratory Personnel / organization & administration*
  • Medical Laboratory Personnel / statistics & numerical data