Optimizing Workplaces and Workflows – a Lean Lab Guide

The term 'lean' originated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during a 1990 study of the highly successful Toyota production system. Since then, the understanding and implementation of lean principles have become embedded in many sectors, helping to eliminate mistakes, reduce delays, lower costs and improve the overall quality of products and services.

The success of lean manufacturing principles has led to this model being adopted across many business sectors, including the laboratory environment. When these principles are correctly implemented in the laboratory, the results are impressive, delivering simpler workflows and processes, shorter lead times and enhanced productivity. 

While most of the key principles of traditional lean manufacturing are equally applicable to the laboratory, scientists also face additional, unique challenges. This guide addresses some crucial steps in the lean approach to laboratory workflows, to help improve and maintain efficiency and productivity.

Potential benefits include:

  • More defined, structured and controlled laboratory processes
  • More consistent and predictable laboratory performance
  • Significantly increased productivity
  • Shorter lead times
  • Reduced costs
  • Reduced work in process (WIP)
  • Improved right first time (RFT) performance
  • Detailed understanding of lab capacity and resourcing requirements
  • Greater empowerment of laboratory personnel
  • A culture of proactive performance management and continuous improvement
  • Improved customer service levels

Further guidance on the adoption of lean principles is given in a supporting webinar, which offers advice on how to identify the actions with the biggest potential to improve productivity, and steps to take towards a lean lab environment.