Practicing ergonomists in many companies in the healthcare industry could benefit greatly by implementing the concepts of lean manufacturing. More importantly it shows how leaning a company's facility can also reduce ergonomic, safety and health issues as well as provide methods and standards, method improvements and cost/benefit analysis. Nursing homes for example were identified by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) as having the most dangerous jobs in America.

This paper offers an introduction to the entire system commonly called lean manufacturing and how it can be utilized in the Healthcare Industry. Understood as a system rather than individual tools and techniques, it can be seen that lean and ergonomics can be used in service and administrative functions to increase process effectiveness. Participants will learn how lean concepts can enhance their ergonomics and safety/health programs while setting standards, recommending method improvements and establishing cost/benefit analysis or metrics to measure your success.

Lean Manufacturing and Lean Principles

Lean Manufacturing can be defined as the principles and processes that reduce cost through the elimination of waste and the simplification of process. In other words lean manufacturing is an operational strategy oriented toward achieving the shortest possible cycle time by eliminating waste. The benefits generally are lower costs, higher quality, and shorter lead times. "Lean manufacturing" represents half the human effort in the company, half the manufacturing space, half the investment in tools, and half the engineering hours to develop a new product in half the time.

Lean is about being able to do more with less and getting more with less. Lean is about eliminating waste and producing what your customers want when they want it. Everywhere you look represents an opportunity, a place to increase output, improve quality, eliminate non-value added steps, reduce inventory, improve on time delivery, and become more efficient and productive. The characteristics of lean processes are:

  • One-Piece Flow Production (First In First Out)

  • Standard Work

  • Just-In-Time / Pull System

  • Short Cycle Times (Lead Time Reduction)

  • Quick Changeover (Set-Up time Reduction)

  • Continuous Flow Work Cells (Cellular Manufacturing)

  • Collocated Machines, Equipment, Tools and People (Process Flow)

  • Multi-skilled Employees

  • Empowered Employees

  • High first-pass yields with major reductions in defects

Lean Manufacturing incorporates the use of level sequential flow (Heijunka), the heartbeat or pace of the production system (Takt Time), continuous one-piece flow manufacturing, cellular manufacturing at a glance, and Just-In-Time/pull production scheduling techniques such as Kanban.

Exhibit 1. Comparison of traditional manufacturing to lean manufacturing (available in full paper).

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.