Lean Q & A

What’s so good about Lean?

Lean will directly increase your bottom line by improving customer satisfaction, quality of care and staff engagement whilst reducing your costs.

Ok but it’s a manufacturing methodology, right?

It originated from manufacturing yet the underlying principles and challenges faced in healthcare are similar to all other industries, including car manufacturing!

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So what can it actually do?

It’s been well documented in healthcare to:

– Increase profit margin

– Reduce patient death

– Reduce medication errors

– Reduce waiting time for lab results

– Increase staff productivity

– Increase staff morale

– Reduce inventory costs

What do you think it could do for a vet practice?

We can deliver a better service to our clients and patients for less cost! Seems too good to be true but through Lean it is absolutely possible. It’s a way of creating an environment where the staff wants to continually do the best they can all the time.

It’s also a way of finding the best solutions to problem areas of the business, whether in our day-to-day operations “on the shop floor”, or more behind the scenes at an HR, finance or management level.

Not only are solutions found, ways for sustaining and improving the solutions are put in place too.

If you’re a large practice or veterinary organisation, you can achieve greater streamlining between departments and even between you and your suppliers.

If Lean is taken onboard by the whole organisation (i.e. the management!), then it can also set the whole practice’s strategy.

Isn’t it just another trendy fad?

No, for the last 20 years it’s been employed in thousands of successful companies across just about every industry and sector. It was the key reason that Toyota has become the biggest motor manufacturer in history in terms of sales, and its dominant success in everything from rising sales and market shares in every global market, not to mention a clear lead in hybrid technology, stands as the strongest proof of the power of lean enterprise.

Frustratingly, the vet profession is one of the last industries to take it onboard yet this offers us a fantastic opportunity to improve our practices!

Who else uses Lean?

Ford, Intel, Kimberly Clark, Nike, Caterpillar, John Deere, 3M, Boeing , GE, Johnson and Johnson, Black and Decker, UPS, USAF, Jaguar , Aldi, Autotrader, BBC, NHS, Weston’s Cider, Blue Cross, Clic Sargent, Guide Dogs Association, The Children’s Society to name just a few.

We don’t know anything about Lean so how do we suddenly become “Lean”?

The best way you and your staff can learn Lean is by problem-solving. This brings together many of the elements of Lean including the tools and philosophy behind them, and puts them into practical use. Your staff also takes away this knowledge to apply to the next problem.

  1. Manos A, Sattler M, Alukal G. Make healthcare lean. Qual Prog 2006;39:24.