In these tough economic times, an efficiently run lean laboratory makes sense. Lean laboratories focus on testing that delivers quick, cost-effective results.  This organizational process has also been used in the manufacturing industries to produce dynamic results.  Pharmaceutical consultants emphasize that a lean laboratory saves resources, time, and expenses – which is much needed in the competitive pharmaceutical industry.

Another key component to running an efficient lean lab is value stream mapping – a process which identifies each step as either valuable or invaluable. The following seven wastes don’t add value to lab work flow and should be carefully monitored:

•    Transportation of goods
•    Inventory storage
•    Movement of people
•    Waiting
•    Over-production
•    Over-processing
•    Defects

Storage and waiting steps contribute to 90% turnaround time. Value stream maps create a much better workflow within the lab environment. It ties process steps closer together and helps identify areas where the biggest waste occurs. Sometimes these delays and wastes aren’t obvious to the employees involved. The goal behind value stream mapping is to eliminate these delays and streamline process steps.

One of the key principles applied to lean laboratories is that physical environment greatly impacts how people work and how they produce.  When looking at a lean lab layout, it’s advised to review how much lab space is being used for storage.

Labs are filled with supplies and some of these supplies may be outdated (or haven’t been used for years). By reducing over-ordering and implementing effective supply ordering systems, 30% of the lab space could be used for more productive operations.  This “5s” lean framework ensures that once the lab workspace is organized that it stays organized and free of clutter.

Another key component includes standard work which ensures minimum variation in how process steps are performed. It’s advised to use photos and videos for training purposes so that SOPs (standard operating procedures) are implemented correctly.
•    By separating process steps, labs create hand-over points – which reduces delays and increases batching of work
•    The goal is to make sure process steps are close to each other (within a few steps)
•    50 to 75% of turnaround time is eliminated when this type of work flow/process steps are applied in lean lab environments

Little’s Law states that turn around time increases in direct proportion to the amount of WIP (work in progress).
•    Simple control methods such as completion priority can be implemented to reduce turn around time.
•    Completion priority (resources are moved to work at a later stage compared to beginning new work) reduces turn around time by up to 50%.

A popular tool that is commonly used in lean laboratories is process simulation. Process simulation creates a virtual model that allows for experimentation in a cost-free environment (and doesn’t disrupt ongoing processes). Some examples include: equipment, processes, or staffing may be altered, added or removed.

Ant life sciences consulting firm will tell you that not only do lean laboratories save the pharmaceutical industry time and money, but they add efficiency and higher standards to the laboratory environment.

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