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KPO and Materials Management join forces in 5S blitz


On any given day, Regina General Hospital’s (RGH’s) “Stores,” the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region’s primary inventory supply area, is a beehive of activity. The area, located on Level 0 and overseen by the Materials Management Department, receives, warehouses and distributes most supplies for RGH, Pasqua Hospital and Wascana Rehabilitation Centre, and fills rush and smaller orders for several other regional facilities.Staff fill approximately 300 supply orders for units daily.

recent 5S event at Stores.
The Kaizen Promotion Office’s Ioulia Ostrikova and Materials Management’s Rod Ens count inventory during a recent 5S event at “Stores". Photo credit: Medical Media Services.

Finding ways to support system sustainability, quality and safety, and patient flow/access by eliminating waste, adding value and reducing costs are regional priorities and were the primary aims behind a large-scale 5S which took place April 23 and 24 in Stores. 5S is a quality improvement initiative and stands for sort, simplify, sweep, standardize and self-discipline.“It’s really important to save time and steps when people are this busy,” said Ryan Wollbaum, Inventory and Logistics manager for the System and Support Division of Materials Management. “We want to reduce the time needed to get the product to our customers – the physicians and nurses who serve the patients. We want to reduce any duplication of work processes and eliminate processes with no added value.”

The Kaizen Promotion Office (KPO) and Systems and Support staff spent several weeks planning for the event, which brought together staff from Stores, the KPO and the Kaizen Operation Teams. The pre-work paid off, allowing the group to 5S 10 aisles of shelving in Stores core area – one more than originally planned.

Teams counted all inventory and applied considerable elbow grease to replace existing hand-written, sometimes faded, labels taped to the shelves with standard, magnetic colour-coded labels, each with the regional product number, type of issue, and item name. Because the new labels are moveable, staff can now more easily change the order of supplies, when necessary. One hundred and eighty slow moving items were identified and moved outside of the core area for further evaluation, helping create 264 square feet (24 square meters) of available shelf space.

At the same time, staff with the KPO worked with System and Support staff to change the master “pick” list – used by Stores staff to gather supplies for all units – so that the sequence of items on the list better matches the order of items on the shelves. A total of 750 items were electronically moved in five separate programs.

To test whether changing the order of these items improved picking time, System and Support staff ran two trials, comparing the former and current picking times of two separate unit orders. In both cases, there were improvements. In order one, staff picked three minutes and 35 seconds faster (original picking time was 11 minutes 42 seconds), and saved 23 steps, and, in order two, they reduced picking time by two minutes 55 seconds(original picking time was eight minutes 32 seconds), saving 64 steps.

“If you apply the savings to all the orders that Stores puts together each day, you can see that a considerable amount of time and steps that can be saved,” said Wollbaum. David Irwin, a casual Stores employee, said the changes make his job easier.
“They’ve absolutely made things faster, more fluid,” said Irwin. “There’s a lot better flow. It makes your time more efficient and user friendly, especially for people who don’t know medical supplies.”

Wollbaum said the next step is to determine the criteria for stock housed in Stores. The System and Support Division has contacted units which order slow moving stock to determine whether these items need to continue to be ordered, or can be discontinued and removed from shelves. Clinical feedback on stock is critical to ensure safe, quality care continues, while making best use of our resources. Affected units are reminded to reply to System and Support by June 30.