At a Glance
50% reduction in space & 44% savings in personnel
LifeSciencesCo’s Laboratory Services group just recently changed management and anticipated to introduce a new type of services in about 3 months. The new services would require new equipment and more personnel, but the lab space footprint was fixed. We decided to try the company’s first Lean Lab project to find the necessary space and personnel.
Introducing anything new, especially in an unsettled environment with recent management change, is always a very challenging thing. The key to change management is always about managing people. We did not want to just start a new Lean Lab project; we wanted to build a culture for sustained and continuous improvements.
The first and most important thing we did was to communicate with the lab personnel. We let everyone know about the new services coming down the pipe and why we needed to do the Lean Lab project. We made it very clear that NO ONE was going to lose their job if the project was successful.
We then trained everyone on the Lean Principals and tools, such as 5S and Value Stream Mapping. We also came up with a plan and schedule. Given that we had only about 3 months to introduce a brand new service, I set the project timeline to be 6 weeks, so that we could use the remaining time to install the new instruments and training. Everyone was very skeptical about the aggressive timeline. I asked all the lab personnel to focus on the tasks they needed to do, and I would remove ANY obstacles that came their way, such as funding for the project, getting permits for the necessary lab remodeling…
While the 5S concept was easy for most lab operators to understand since the Lab was reasonably organized, the spaghetti diagram was an eye-opener. No one was expecting how complicated these flows were. Furthermore, convincing lab operators to give up some of their nice big lab benches for small, custom built work unit carts was a challenge.
As we worked through the tasks one by one, overcoming expected and unexpected obstacles along the way, the lab personnel changed from being skeptical to being optimistic, and became fully committed to the success of the project.
The Lean Lab project reduced the space need by 50% and reduced the personnel need by 44% in just 6 weeks. The savings allowed re-allocation of those space and personnel for the new service offering. Having accomplished what they had thought impossible, all lab operators were very enthusiastic about the new service offering, as well as continuing operational improvement projects.
- S. Wallace