Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Einstein's Equation of Lean Relativity

No, not Albert Einstein! Moraito “Morey” Einstein, Albert’s third cousin, twice removed on his mother’s side.

Just kidding! However, this, in a simple equation, explains Lean.

“F” stands for Flow and “V” stands for Value from the client’s point of view.

Taiichi Ohno’s equation states:

                                      Capacity = Work + Waste

What this equation states is that there is always waste in our current state. When we remove some waste, we create a new current state, but there is still waste. We pursue perfection, but never achieve perfection.

If we substitute our total “Value Streams” for “Present Capacity” and “Flow” for “Work”, we get:

                                     Value Streams = Flow + Waste

Rewriting the equation gives us:

                                     Flow = Value Streams - Waste

This, then, is essentially what flow means. Flow is all the different processes (value streams) that occur in the management of a veterinary practice with as much waste removed as possible (and then continually improved).

Also, remember that Value is defined as that which a client desires (Dc) and is willing to pay for, that moves (Mp) the patient's condition toward the desired outcome and is performed correctly (without waste; W) the first time.

                                           V = Dc + Mp - W

Everything about Lean is about improving flow, because flow ultimately results in greater value. A3 problem solving, 5S projects, kanban, Just-In-Time (JIT) concepts, error proofing (jidoka), visual management, continuous improvement (kaizen), everything is aimed at pursuing the perfection of flow. We continually improve systems and processes in order to improve flow, and therefore, value. 5S organizes the hospital by removing clutter from work areas, organizing the areas so that they have only the needed equipment close to hand with a consistent place for everything and everything in its place. 5S also makes problems visible, and solving those problems allows us to improve flow.

For example, at our hospital we were constantly having to leave the exams rooms to find this or that item. Not good for flow! So, we went to each of the exam rooms and got rid of duplicate suture scissors, hemostats, tourniquets, etc. Then, the staff and I created a list of the supplies and instruments that we routinely use within the rooms. We chose a roll of tape, Vetrap, cotton swabs, gauze squares, clippers, a small supply of various syringes, a digital thermometer, a Nye tourniquet, a stethoscope, fecal loops, etc. We even put some blood tubes, Idexx spinners, and a bottle of heparin in each room to facilitate quick blood draws for lab tests. Finally, we organized the drawers so that they were the same in each exam room. Now, each room is the same, with the most used resources close at hand. In addition, we all now know, regardless of which room we’re in, that tape is in the right hand drawer and the tourniquet is in the left. There is less confusion. We don't have to think, “This is exam room 1, so the suture scissors are here...no, there...no, in that drawer.” There’s no more time spent searching for items. Also, doctors and/or staff can now quickly (visually) tell if the drawers are complete (standardized). If not, the problem is fixed right then so it doesn't continue to be a disruption. This improves flow, thus value.

Kanban and JIT improve resource utilization by creating a system that provides drugs, supplies, staff schedules and doctor’s time, to name a few, only when needed, where needed and in the amount needed. This frees up cash, space, staff and doctors to do more patient care which improves flow which equates with higher value. Visual management techniques, A3 (PDSA) thinking, and “5 Whys” root cause analysis allow problems to be easily seen and fixed at the root cause(s), again, in order to improve flow and value. Even kaizen, the concept of utilizing our ultimate resource, our staff, to identify and fix problems and remove waste (muda) from our value streams is for the purpose of perfecting flow.

Time is money. And, time spent on wasteful activities and processes is money lost. Everything in our hospital, even wasted items, has to be paid for through income from clients. Otherwise, it comes out of our pockets, our bottom line. Value from the client's perspective means not being charged higher fees in order to cover waste.

All of this, then, is contained in the equation F=V. Simple, right?

The different individual concepts and “tools” of Lean are relatively simple. The difficulty is conceptualizing how the different elements interrelate to create Lean, putting it into operation within your practice and, then sustaining it long enough to get positive results and change the organizational mindset to automatically think Lean. But, that is a different equation and a different blog!

For now, just remember, “it's all about da flow, ‘bout da flow, ‘bout da flow…!“

What are your thoughts? Let us know.

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