In one study, a Seattle medical center
operating room reduced setup times
for one of its common surgery procedures by 37%. Based on that and other
initial results, they estimated that a full
implementation of 5S could save the
hospital $2.8 million per year. 1
On a small scale, another study looked
at the impact of 5S organizing at an
endoscopy unit at a community hospital. That unit was able to save $8,000 on
inventory, decrease on-hand inventory
by two-thirds, trim their cycle time by
17 minutes, and even convert a storage room into a staff room. 2
These kinds of data-verified outcomes are consistent with
our personal experience at Berkshire Facial Surgery. The
power of standardization—customized to our needs—had an
immediate impact and helped us tackle some basic yet vexing
challenges inherent in the setup of our practice.
Our three locations, while providing convenience of choice
for our patients, created significant challenges in maintaining
standardized storage and inventory-control practices.
Each office had its own unique design, with different
arrangements for cabinets, tools, equipment, and supplies.
One office maintains its inventory in a central location,
whereas another office distributes its inventory evenly to
procedure rooms. Previous attempts at using off-the-shelf
containers for supplies resulted in overstuffed bins, clutter,
disarray, and—most frustratingly—wasted time spent
searching for needed items.
Even more challenging was that every staff member had
to be trained three times (once at each location) and was
expected to remember each location’s organizational design
throughout frequent rotations. Although this loose conglomeration of systems was challenging for our veteran assistants,
for our new hires, it was a task of Herculean proportions.
As both operations manager and
a senior surgical assistant for the
practice, I was acutely aware of the
difficulties our setup posed and
the inadequacy of the tools we had
attempted to use to resolve them.
With the practice owners’ support,
I applied 5S principles to each location,
with special emphasis on the stan-
dardization. Overhauling the cabinetry
and drawer arrangement at each office
would have been prohibitively expen-
sive and a logistical nightmare. So, I
focused on finding a solution that could
be simultaneously custom-designed
for each location but still standardized
across all offices.
In our case, that solution came through
a collaboration with Organize My Drawer,
a maker of custom organizers. Organize
My Drawer offered an online design tool
to create custom storage systems that
precisely fit the drawers and cabinets at
each location and maintained standardized layouts at each.
The production and the delivery of the organizers were com-
pleted in a short time frame, which sped up our process.
Next, I paired those standardized layouts with a numbering
system that consistently catalogued the location of every
instrument and supply in that office. A reference manual was
added to tell staff the precise location of the tools or supplies.
Even if the cabinets and drawers varied from one location to
the next, there was no question about the location of each
item or piece of equipment. For example, if a doctor asks for
instrument A, the staff member can consult the alphabetized
reference book for the number written next to instrument A to
find the item’s location.
As an added bonus, the organizers could be easily removed
and cleaned as needed, and the system gave a polished look
to each practice, which comforted our patients and gave them
confidence in our treatment.
All too often in the field of health care, valuable systems that
protect some of our most important resources are lost in
the rapid pace of change. Systems that protect our time and
money often give way to more cumbersome methodologies
that, unfortunately, cost more and do less.
But as our experience at Berkshire Facial Surgery
shows, sometimes there are ideas that are powerful in
their simplicity and relative ease of
implementation. By embracing 5S
organizing and custom standardiza-
tion, we achieved a significant impact
at a very low cost—in both dollars
and personnel hours. That kind of
return-on-investment is something to
which every group practice aspires.
Justine Vieu is operations manager and
senior surgical assistant at Berkshire
Facial Surgery in Massachusetts.
Berkshire Facial Surgery collaborated with
Organize My Drawer to develop custom storage
systems for the practice’s medical supplies.
1. F.R. Farrokhi, M. Gunther, B. Williams, and
C.C. Blackmore. 2015. Application of Lean
Methodology for Improved Quality and
Efficiency in Operating Room Instrument
Availability. Journal of Healthcare Quality,
2. K. Laing and K. Baumgartner. 2005.
Implementing “Lean”’ Principles to
Improve the Efficiency of the Endoscopy
Department of a Community Hospital.
Gastroenterology Nursing, 28: 210–215.