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LEAN Storage Strategies For Hospitals

According to the Lean Enterprise Institute, “the core idea of LEAN is to create more value for customers with fewer resources.” And one place your hospital can start is your storage areas. By adopting a LEAN storage strategy, you can achieve:hospital lean storage strategies par vs kanban

  • Improved quality of care
  • Improved staff satisfaction
  • Higher productivity
  • Improved MD satisfaction
  • Improved patient flow
  • Lower error rate
  • Higher revenues
  • Lower costs

But to do this, hospitals need to stop focusing on PAR, and start adopting Kanban.

PAR vs Kanban for Inventory Management

PAR is defined by setting a certain quantity and maintaining that level (i.e. keeping it up to par). Materials managers typically only use a visual examination to know if stock is at the PAR level. On the other hand, with Kanban a set quantity is designated based on usage patterns. Inventory is only replenished when a signal is received (ex. a card, empty bin, RFID trigger).

Why is PAR Becoming Outdated?

1. Manual Counting Process

PAR relies on material managers and staff to manually count all inventory. Counting is considered a “worst practice” because it’s frequently inaccurate, time consuming, and not always completed properly.

2. Productivity Drain

Because of all the manual counting and replenishing, employees spend too much time refilling inventory, when they could be focused on other activities.

3. No Standardization

With PAR levels, it’s almost impossible to keep an accurate account of what supplies were used. The refill quantity is not exact and can change every day. This encourages overfilling and discourages first in, first out (FIFO).

Why is Kanban Better?

1. No Daily Counting, Reduces Re-Supply Trips

Using a fixed quantity and a dedicated location (ex. bins) eliminates the need for daily counting. Once the bin is emptied the same quantity is replenished. Each bin only needs to be replenished when it runs out. By filling the bins with enough supplies for a whole day, you can reduce the number of re-supply trips.

2. Medical Products are Always On-Hand

Because Kanban uses a two-bin system for stocking supplies, there are always going to be medical products on-hand. Nurses will no longer have to deal with stock-outs that cause them to make special requests to materials management or grabs supplies from a different room.

3. First-In, First-Out Reduces Expired Medical Products

Kanban promotes the first-in, first-out system, in effect, rotating medical products so that no item is left on the shelf too long. Not only does this save time, it reduces the costs associated with expired medical products.

4. Shows Patterns & Adjusts to Changes

Over time, the Kanban system will show patterns such as which medical products are used most often. This allows you to better manage your stock levels. Quantities can be easily refined and adjusted based on their usage patterns.

What to Use as a Signal for Kanban Replenishmentrfid restock tag for lean kanban inventory management

Setting up a Kanban system is actually very easy. Most of the work is collecting the usage data to decide the right levels of inventory you need for each medical product. The other part of setting up the Kanban system is deciding what kind of “signal” to use to alert material managers that supplies need to be replenished.

The most efficient option is to automate the process with RFID technology. This Kanban system is equipped with an RFID digital restocking tag. Once the items in the primary bin are used, a nurse clicks the button on the restocking tag. While the nurses are waiting for supplies to be restocked, nurses pull items from the secondary bin.

A notification is automatically sent to the materials managers with all the information relating to the products that need to be restocked (i.e. quantity and location). Essentially, the RFID technology replaces steps in the counting process, saving valuable time while real-time information improves accuracy.

Contact Us for LEAN Storage Strategies in Your Hospital

Southwest Solutions Group® specializes in providing storage systems for hospitals that will help eliminate waste and optimize LEAN strategies. To learn more about how we can help your hospital, give us a call at 1-800-803-1083 or send us a message.


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