The waste in your walk

Hospital administrators do a lot of hang-wringing over long turnaround times for procedure and operation rooms. They not only can’t get enough procedures done, but they have surgeons waiting around, twiddling their thumbs while rooms are getting prepared for the next patient. If several procedures in a 12-hour shift are scheduled and each one takes 15 minutes to set up, hours are wasted each day. Such an organization might boast of patient-focused care, but metrics indicate quite the opposite. Not being in a position to meet customer needs can hurt all the way to the bottom line.

A spaghetti diagram can illuminate wasteful steps – actual steps – in process flow.

So how do you create the ideal flow? To start, I’ve written before about how it’s extremely important – this can’t be stressed enough – to go to the gemba and seek out the so-called motion waste. This can be done on an intricate level with what’s called a Spaghetti Diagram, a title that should be apparent by this picture.

A Spaghetti Diagram is a graphical tool that helps understand the activities involved in any process with details of the actual physical flow, or lack thereof, and the amount of traveling involved. It also highlights the flaws in the process, especially when you see how your staff is spending time in order to provide the best service or care to the customer. Unnecessary motion occurs when the operator doesn’t have everything he or she needs where needed and in the necessary amounts. This also occurs with poorly maintained equipment, a lack of standardized processes, the right metrics or no accountability. Many causes could exist, but the key is to use the diagram to work on those issues.

Here’s how to make one:

–          Before you do anything, explain to your staff why you’re there and what you’ll be doing. Address any apprehensions they might have.

–          Draw a layout of the work area you are trying study. Contact the facilities department if you want.

–          Note important landmarks where staff members move to retrieve materials or equipment and use numbers for each station or work area.

–          With a pencil, draw this movement as they go about their work from the start to the end of the process. Use different colors if more than one staff involved.

–          See patterns? Dig deeper, pull out a stopwatch and even get a measuring wheel from a hardware store to note the time and distance. Follow the worker around if need be.

–          Take those results and share your findings. Shared information helps with shared responsibility.

Now grab your pencils and get to work!

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