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Am J Clin Pathol. 2010 Jan;133(1):24-31. doi: 10.1309/AJCPD1MSTIVZI0PZ.

Application of the Toyota Production System improves core laboratory operations.

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Department of Laboratories, Seattle Children's Hospital, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle 98105, USA.


To meet the increased clinical demands of our hospital expansion, improve quality, and reduce costs, our tertiary care, pediatric core laboratory used the Toyota Production System lean processing to reorganize our 24-hour, 7 d/wk core laboratory. A 4-month, consultant-driven process removed waste, led to a physical reset of the space to match the work flow, and developed a work cell for our random access analyzers. In addition, visual controls, single piece flow, standard work, and "5S" were instituted. The new design met our goals as reflected by achieving and maintaining improved turnaround time (TAT; mean for creatinine reduced from 54 to 23 minutes) with increased testing volume (20%), monetary savings (4 full-time equivalents), decreased variability in TAT, and better space utilization (25% gain). The project had the unanticipated consequence of eliminating STAT testing because our in-laboratory TAT for routine testing was less than our prior STAT turnaround goal. The viability of this approach is demonstrated by sustained gains and further PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) improvements during the 4 years after completion of the project.

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