Due to increasing competition in the field of medical testing it has become prudent for Laboratorio De Analisis Argentina (LAA) to evaluate its process and identify strengths and weaknesses to improve the operations of their laboratories. An in-depth investigation into day-to-day, step-by-step breakdown of activities has uncovered where, and how LAA can achieve efficient operations.
From the original collection of samples to the final step of communicating the test results to the patients, LAA has shown that they have created a process with numerous factors to success as well as room for improvement. The following is a flow chart representative of the steps of the process and the reliance each step has to other steps:
While not all information was provided in the same metric for each step, the table below has converted each step to minutes per 1,000 samples to allow the capability to compare one step to another. Step
Minutes per 1000 samples
This table, while used as a starting point, does not represent the efficiencies of each step as it does not take into account the number of workers per step. To make each step as efficient as the others and to remove any bottleneck from the process, the worker ratio per step should fit the same ratio as the samples per minute. There should be ten times as many people testing as there are communicating results to patients and a little less than three times as many people processing than there are distributing and so on. This is not the case with LAA. The following table factors in work hours per step and as a result, distinguishes available capacity and reveals the bottleneck.
Resource Unit Load (minutes/ sample)
Resource Unit Capacity (samples/ minute)
Resource Pool Capacity (samples/ minute)
Available Capacity (samples/hr) Processing
The bottleneck is represented by the lowest available capacity which in this case, is the Separation stage. It is important to note that the Processing stage also has a fairly low available capacity. So, for LAA to improve on the amount of samples they can handle in a day, they must improve the beginning of their process. At the same time, because the beginning of the process is slower than the rest of the steps that can handle samples more quickly, this may lead to downtime of staff that is merely waiting for more samples so they can do their job. This creates to eliminate some workers and begin to rectify the problem of huge staff expenses. Specifically, if LAA was only looking at limiting the amount of overtime worked, then it must figure out a more efficient way to process and separate samples. More likely than not, the solution to this factor would be to hire another full time worker. With an estimated demand of 5,000 samples a day, processed during a 16-hour operational day, every step must process at least 313 samples per hour to meet this demand. Under this context, it can be seen that due to a high available capacity for the latter steps, workforce exceeds demand and can be cut. However, since not enough is known about the various tests performed and the specialties of the each individual worker at this testing phase, this step requires further investigation before any internal changes are made at this point in the process. The low levels of available capacity on the beginning steps and the high levels of available capacity at the later steps explain the high standard deviation seen on chart exhibit 4. Because the bottleneck is at the beginning of the process, there is a lot of uncertainty to the daily efficiency as it is highly based on when the samples arrive from both external...
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