A Day in the Life of the Hospital Tube System

Hi! I’m the Hospital tube system. I do apply Lean Healthcare practices to my work.  You probably use me every day, but there’s a lot about me that I bet you don’t know…

  • I transported over 1900 tubes today.
  • I’m a computerized system that records every transaction. That’s a lot for me to remember!
  • I transport one tube at a time to avoid collision.
  • I go to 51 stations in this hospital. This is a big place!
  • I have to go through 14 transfer unit intersections that allow me to turn left, right or go up and down to wherever you are.
  • I went back and forth to the Lab over 900 times today. They never get a break!
  • The ER sent me to the Lab over 120 times today. Get ready Lab!
  • The Pharmacy sent me back and forth over 600 times today.  Talk about a mission!
  • My Yellow tubes are for Pharmacy medication use only. They are special, so send them back to the Pharmacy.
  • Your station will not receive or send out tubes if the chute is blocked. So that’s why your station was beeping.
  • Hey, my tubes are for medical use only! Please don’t use me to send ice cream, burritos or tennis shoes to your friends in another department!
  • If you want me to get there you have to snap both of my tube latches or I’ll trip over something and get stuck in the pipe.

When that does happen, the entire tube system shuts down until maintenance can figure out where I’m stuck and rescue me.

  • I do have a limit so don’t overload me. I’m not Supertube Man!

A summary of some of my work as it applies to Lean Healthcare:

Tube System Activity Lean Healthcare Application
-Transport one tube at a time -One piece flow
-Yellow tubes -Visual management
-Station not receiving tubes – station beeping -Andon system (error notification)
-Tubes medical use only -Standard Work

This week’s blog was written by Ken Lowe. Ken brings over twenty six years experience in manufacturing which includes sixteen years in the automotive industry. He has a proven background to be a change agent utilizing business metrics to analyze and develop lean strategies that address the voice of the customer. His professional experience includes successfully leading operations in various roles to include Controller, Materials Manager, Operations Manager and Plant Manager. He was introduced to Lean Methodology while working with Johnson Controls, a lead supplier for Toyota, where he was Champion of Lean Implementation at his plant. Ken most recently worked with Cummins Filtration where he teamed up to lead the adoption of Lean Methodology in manufacturing plants worldwide.  He has experience in the leading and the training of:  Kaizen events (Rapid improvement, Breakthrough, 2P), Value Stream Mapping, Standard Work, 5S, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), A3 reporting and Visual Management (QCDS – quality, cost, delivery, safety).   Ken has completed Six Sigma Green Belt – DMAIC training.  Ken has a Bachelor of Science Degree from Bethel College with a focus in Finance.

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