The no. 1 secret to LeanOrthodontics®: Stop wasting

Lean management is a business improvement strategy that zeros in on the true needs of the customer by preventing waste from being rewired into the system. The key principle of the lean concept of workflow management is to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and profitability simply by eliminating waste from all aspects of the manufacturing process.

Every process in business and manufacturing either adds value or creates waste when goods or services are being produced. The core idea of lean production even in orthodontics and practice management is to highlight the things that add value and subtract everything else (that constitutes waste). As a proven consequence, when you eliminate waste, the quality of products improves, and production time and costs are fairly reduced.

What is considered waste?

When you think about waste, you intuitively know that it is undesirable, both in business and your personal lives. Originally, Taiichi Ohno, father of the Toyota Production System used the Japanese word “muda” to define “waste”. Avoiding muda becomes an integral part of the lean system as described by the phrase “Eliminate everything that does not add value!”

Indeed waste is regarded as any production aspect that does not add value or is irrelevant to your customer’s perspective such as transport, inventory, motion, and so on. On the other hand, value-added processes are those that directly or indirectly affect your customer and what they would be paying for. Some studies suggest that value takes place around 5% of the time within operations and the remaining 95% is waste!

The seven deadly wastes of lean

Efficiency is about achieving peak performance, where the least amount of input can generate the highest output. In cases where inefficient use of resources is being undertaken, waste production is inevitable. In the traditional lean method, seven key areas of waste have been identified, namely:

1. Overprocessing

Overprocessing means putting more into the product than is valued by the customer. Time, effort, and resources that do not add any value to the quality of care or the outcome of the patient are deemed a waste.

The solution: Identify repetitive, redundant, or less than valuable processes to save time and money.

2. Inventory

Inventory represents all the components that are not being processed, tied-up capital, and storage cost. Surplus supplies and medications, equipment, data, or stockpiles of pre-printed forms all translate to inventory waste that fails to generate income.

The solution: Don’t store any extra inventory.

3. Motion

Similar to transportation, motion refers to the unwarranted movement of operators such as when hospital workers move within their workspace that does not add value for patients. Increased walking due to poor building design, frequent reaching for supplies are all examples of motion waste.

The solution: Simplify all motion in the production line by placing supplies nearby, providing an ergonomic workspace, and implementing signals that are easy to find.

4. Transportation

Transportation waste involves moving people, supplies, and medical equipment unnecessarily. Transporting patients to different departments and scrambling to gather supplies increases the risk of patient injury and creates delays in care.

The solution: Minimize all transportation in the production process. By limiting unnecessary steps between any two processes, you’re allowing a good flow between the processes and a strict limitation of work in progress.

5. Waiting

Waiting or queuing simply points to any time when employees or patients are required to stand by. Long waiting times in the waiting room can be detrimental to patient satisfaction.

The solution: Make your work processes such that the flow is continuous and there are minimal buffers between steps in production, i.e. minimize patient waiting.

6. Overproduction

Creating too much of something or at inappropriate times in the medical context may be preparing medications for a discharged patient, duplication of tests, or extending hospital stays without clarity that the “over-treatment” can impact the patient positively. This gives rise to overproduction waste, and redundancy.

The solution: Match the level of processing to what the customer wants and is willing to pay for.

7. Defects

Defects can impact time, money, resources, and customer satisfaction. Usually, defective work, for example, lack of proper documentation should go back to production, which costs valuable time.

The solution: Design processes in a way where you eliminate the defects or efforts right from the start.

These seven types of wastes can be toxic to your business. Improve work processes by eliminating these wastes from your practice!