As lean continues to gain popularity, laboratories across the country are realizing that there are many opportunities for improvement within their environment and processes. Today’s labs are faced with reduced budgets and fewer staff; lean is a successful solution for managing processes in a safer, more cost-effective way.

What is Lean?
Lean is strategy for managing a work environment by eliminating waste, organizing the workplace, streamlining procedures and establishing clear, visual standards. In the laboratory, lean initiatives focus on improving safety, reducing errors, and automating the specimen handling process.

The first step to implementing a lean lab is removing “waste” - any activity that does not add value to a process. There are four lean tactics that are essential to eliminating waste:
1. Value stream mapping: Create a map of your existing processes and ideal processes. Slowly modify your layout, workplaces and processes to get closer to your ideal state.
2. 5S workplace organization: Use the 5S’s – Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain – to better organize your lab, reduce waste and optimize productivity.
3. Visual workplace: Use labels, signs and colors to create a visually-instructive lab and minimize the waste associated with not knowing (e.g. searching, asking, waiting, retrieving).
4. Work cell specimen processing: Layout your lab in work cells to minimize movement, reduce batch sizes, decrease setup time for testing, and standardize processes.

By implementing these lean tactics, laboratories can create a concise, step-by-step methodology for organizing, cleaning, developing and sustaining a safe and productive lab environment.

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