Lab tech draws CPI to reduce steps, improve processes

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

When a self-proclaimed “passionate for process improvement” NCO found the class he needed to innovatively improve his section, he ended up impacting the entire medical clinic at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Soper, 45th Medical Support Squadron lab technician, said the 45th Space Wing’s Continuous Process Improvement (CPI) program was the answer his team needed to help move them in the right direction to fix the concerns he had in their work area.

“We were facing a 10 percent increase in patient workload during fiscal year 2016 and minimum manning with upcoming deployments,” said Soper. “We wanted to do something to minimize the miles our lab techs walked every day to process sample lab tests.”

A weeklong Green Belt academics course taught Soper new tools and techniques to use in solving problems, improving processes and creating value for patients and physicians.

“Soper learned simple tools to help set up an efficient and standardized work center,” said Thomas Maxwell, CPI instructor at the 45th Force Support Squadron’s Manpower Flight. “His lab team redesigned six processing areas. They moved machines to where they would be more useful and color coded reorder indicators so they could reduce time spent inventorying supplies.”

Creating what essentially works like an assembly line helped put things in a logical order to process a sample, Soper said. Setting supplies, equipment, computers and a refrigerator into its most functional space helped the team reduce the amount of personnel movement needed to process.  For example, one area was processing up to 120 samples a day with about 20 steps for each sample.

His lab technician team discovered they walked approximately two miles a day in a 25’x 25’ area and Soper wanted to eliminate those unnecessary steps, said Maxwell.

“This team made significant savings across the board,” said Maxwell. “They eliminated 75 percent of their walking steps to almost a quarter mile, they’re projecting a 20 percent savings on lab test kits and increased their team’s overall productivity by 30 percent.”

Additionally, Soper eliminated any clutter and color coded references to match the places they belong as a quick reference an Airman can go to while processing their tasks.

“Everything a lab technician needs to run the process is now right in front of them, which gives them more time to focus on administrative care and less time on looking for things,” said Soper.

The doctors, nurses and staff at the 45th MDG’s clinic have noticed faster turnaround times on their reports.

“What is happening ‘behind the scenes’ at our medical clinic to improve our patient’s quality of care is amazing,” said Col. Julie Stola, 45th Medical Group commander.  “Because our Airmen are passionate about the mission to provide compassionate, high quality care, ensuring mission ready forces and healthy families, they are coming up with innovative ways to make our processes better. Soper has set a benchmark for all other services that the 45th MDG provides to hundreds of beneficiaries, daily.”   

The CPI program is offered as a single day or weeklong course to provide simple tools and techniques needed to solve problems and improve processes.

To enroll in CPI training, contact Thomas Maxwell, at 321-494-0808.