Employee ideas are moving from the drawing board to the manager’s desk in UTMB’s internal program to improve business efficiency.

Bhavin Divecha, left, and Rica Watts helped their LEAN team chart the flow of user calls to the Information Services help desk.

Called the LEAN Initiative, the program promotes the philosophy of kaizen, a Japanese word for “improvement” that describes the methodic study and improvement of manufacturing and business-management processes.

Working groups of employees in Business and Finance areas reported their recommendations for greater efficiencies during a presentation on Dec. 16 to William Elger, executive vice president and chief business and finance officer, and his leadership team.
About 40 employees, divided into seven working groups called “LEAN teams,” worked throughout November and early December to observe operations in various departments, meet with employees and make recommendations to increase productivity. Each member of the group had previously received about 20 hours of intensive LEAN training prior to working on a specific LEAN project.
Speaking at the meeting in December, Elger said he was very impressed with the quality of the projects, and he praised the employees for the time and effort they spent on the LEAN initiative in addition to their regular duties. Their recommendations will move into implementation in the new year, he said, and additional training will be offered to other Business and Finance employees in the spring.
“We intend to incorporate LEAN training and principles into our core business practices here at UTMB,” Elger said. “As state funds continue to decrease and costs of doing business continue to increase, improving the way we operate becomes absolutely critical to our success. This inaugural Business and Finance LEAN team has demonstrated how important this initiative will be to UTMB.” The Health System already has several LEAN projects under way, and the Academic Enterprise is set to begin LEAN training in 2012.
At the meeting, team leaders described their observations, methodologies and recommendations, which are summarized below:
  • Recycling paper. Recommendation: Modify the shredder machinery and adjust waste pick-up schedules to avoid the current backlogs of unshredded paper. The recommendation is designed to assure that paper is recycled on the same day that it is collected.
  • Closing clinics. Recommendation: Develop a comprehensive checklist to assure completion of the more than 30 tasks deemed necessary in closing or relocating clinic space. The team implementation of the checklist will result in cost savings, clear delineation of duties, and overall greater efficiency as clinics are relocated or new clinics are opened.
  • Onboarding new vendors. Recommendation: Change procedures so adding a new vendor in the purchasing system is a cohesive process performed primarily by the prospective new vendor. The team said its proposal would cut the number of people involved in the process by half, and shorten new vendor approval by several days.
  • Disposing of surplus property. Recommendation: Change the disposal request form so it may be sent electronically and inserted in a spreadsheet. The team said the new electronic form would speed pick-up of property, reduce redundancy in data entry, and minimize the chance for human error.
  • Updating online campus directory. Recommendation: Create a single place online where faculty, staff and students may update their directory information and require them to review the listing every three months. Accurate directory information is critical to the effectiveness of the emergency notification system, and it also facilitates day-to-day operations, such as mail and parcel delivery.
  • Enhancing help-desk services. Recommendation: Reduce the volume of help-desk calls by raising awareness about UTMB network passwords. The team recommends putting a log-in message on desktop computers and launching an awareness campaign about the easy steps involved in changing a password. The team said 19 percent of help-desk calls are for assistance with password resets. By encouraging users to change their own passwords, IS technicians will have more time to assist users with other technical needs.
  • Streamlining police reports. Recommendation: Increase police patrol time by letting officers write routine field reports by hand in the field and submit them for data entry at the end of their shift. The team said officers now must complete the reports at the police station. The travel consumes an average 15 percent of an officer’s time in the field, the team said.
Members of the LEAN teams include Chuck Anderson, Rev Annamalai, Basil Arnold, Christine Bradford, Kara Campbell, Shawn Carr, Neal Cooper, Jennifer Coughlin, Bhavin Divecha, Renee Fogle, Bill Fuqua, Lupe Galvan, Paul Gonzales, Matt Havard, Rhonda Hernandez, Stacey Jackson, James Kitchens, Jodie Miller, Teresa Nangle, Jennifer Potrykus, Derek Purser, Wade Radicioni, Kim Ray, Pete Rieche, Russell Rodecap, Gary Scales, Oliver Scott, David Simon, Ashley Smith, Karla Soto, Bo Stults, Doug Stark, Mary Sweeney, Frank Valiulis, Kim Vaughn, Leah Vaughn, Barbie Walz, Rica Watts, and Cheryl Welch.
The origin of LEAN often is traced back in history to Ford Motor Co.’s adoption of the assembly line. Toyota Motor Corp. later used and perfected LEAN techniques under varying names such as kaizen, Toyota Production System, Just In Time, and Continuous Flow. Manufacturers originally created the LEAN principles, but they have also been applied in service industries such as health care.