If you live in a household with anyone other than yourself, I’m sure you’ve found yourself searching for something.  For me, it’s always the scissors!  I never realized how often I use scissors until they were not available when I needed them.  Working as a Lean Healthcare consultant, one would think my house is completely 5S’d (Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) with labels and all.  Don’t get me wrong, I like an organized household, but my husband has already warned me about bringing a label maker into our home.  Is searching for a pair of scissors life threatening? Of course not.  However, it’s time, and time is precious.  If there are only four of us living in our home – and we all know the standard location for the scissors – why should we have to label the location?  It should be so simple!

Working in healthcare for more than 20 years, I have been able to witness the transformation of healthcare improvements.  From advancement in technology and access of communication, the quality of care has steadily improved.  For those of you who remember the paper medical record, you can relate to searching.  Where is the patient chart?  You had to search the nurse’s station, patient room, imaging, and the list goes on.  We could spend hours searching for a crucial part of the patient’s care.

Today, searching for the patient chart has been eliminated with the electronic medical record.  However, there are still items we search to find.  I’m sure many of you who provide patient care can relate to searching for an IV pole, wheelchair, pillow, portable commode and maybe even a pair of scissors!

This past summer, while on vacation with my family, I observed a couple of tools that industries outside of healthcare have implemented to prevent searching.

The first tool that stood out to me was observed at the American Licorice Company in La Porte, Indiana—most famously known for their Sour Punch Straws and Red Vines. On the factory tour I noticed the typical floor tape to identify where the pallet jack was to be placed.  However, in the center of it was a pole with a red light on it.  When I asked the tour guide what the purpose of the red light was, he explained that employees were wasting time searching for the jack, creating downtime on their line.  They implemented a simple flashing light/buzzer that remains flashing and buzzing until the jack is returned and positioned in its correct location.

The second tool was visible at an ALDI grocery store. They have a very simple, yet effective method for customers to return their cart.  In order to use the cart you must insert a quarter in the appropriate slot.  If you want your quarter back, you must return the cart.  Amazingly effective – there was not one cart sitting alone in the entire parking lot!

I share these ideas to generate improvement thinking.  Sometimes it’s as simple as a label, and other times you need to get more creative.  In a healthcare setting how can we make sure the wheelchair or IV pump is available exactly when it’s needed?  As for my scissors, they are now attached by a long string in the organized “junk” drawer.


Today’s blog was written by Nicole Einbeck, Lean Facility Solutions consultant with HPP.

Nicole works primarily in healthcare lean led design and facility consulting services, involving improving workflow and documenting new standards.

For nearly two decades, Nicole has worked across the healthcare field, including human resources, risk management, occupational health, employee health, safety and wellness, and process improvement. She spent five years assisting in the Lean transformation at Monroe Clinic in Monroe, Wisconsin, where she also served as the Clinic’s move project manager and process improvement specialist.

Nicole holds a Bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion/Wellness and Psychology from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

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