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CarterBlood Care Draws on Lean

Carter BloodCare (CBC) is Texas’ largest blood center, providing more than 300,000 units of lifesaving blood components for patients annually. Their 16 acre main facility in Bedford, Texas is equipped to store, components locally before distribution to over 250 Texas health care organizations.

How did Carter BloodCare achieve process savings, cost avoidance, increase productivity, and create a more useful, efficient work space? They embraced a methodology that has been used in the highly competitive manufacturing industry for decades: By deploying Lean initiatives.

The Situation

Growth and expansion of CBC services had severely impacted the need for additional space. CBC also faced pressure to reduce costs while increasing productivity. Management had been searching for a tool to meet these challenges. CBC participated in a Fundamentals of Lean Enterprise training course presented by the Texas Manufacturing Assistance Center (TMAC). Exposure to the Lean foundation and philosophy inspired CBC to further explore these principles as a means to drive a culture of continuous process improvement. Selecting Lean methods as a catalyst to drive improvements throughout CBC’s business model was quite an “outside the box” endeavor within the blood collection industry.

In engineering process terms, Lean is defined as a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste (non-value added activities) through continuous improvement by flowing the product at the pull of the customer in pursuit of perfection. In layman terms, Lean is an
established system for identifying problem areas, reducing and eliminating needless (non-value added) work, and creating a logical, efficient process that serves both the bottom line of the business and needs of the customer.

The Solution

Two TMAC Lean specialists worked with CBC to develop a plan on how to achieve their goals. The scope of the first project was to implement Lean methodologies in three specific areas: Records Audit and Data Entry (RADE), Reference and Transfusion (RT), and Component Processing.

Three teams comprised of people from the specific department and a handful of cross departmental
staff were formed. TMAC worked with each team to complete time studies and develop a value-stream map of the current process configuration. Spaghetti diagrams were completed for each major process to help visually display inefficiencies of the ‘current state’. Using the DMAIC method (define, measure, analyze, improve and control) teams were then asked to develop a ‘future state’ map indicating improved processes and reduction/elimination of waste. Using this systematic process, each team identified ways to eliminate process bottlenecks, improve cycle times and increase capacity using their existing building footprint.

Prior to implementing projects with TMAC, three CBC departments insisted on the need for an expanded footprint to accommodate growth. After the design and implementation of several Lean projects, they actually increased capacity in each department thus avoiding the need to expand the physical layout. Across the board, the departments are realizing significant improvements in process, space utilization and the bottom line.

The Results

The blood component processing lab completely redesigned their process flow. Upon completion of these changes they will have the ability to process nearly twice the volume in less floor space. In addition, batch size reduction in blood component processing has allowed for less variation resulting in a reduction of lost components from expired production times. Reference and Transfusion (RT) experienced similar results and anticipate they’ll have the capacity to double the volume using the existing floor space. The department was able to significantly reduce “process travel time” from 780 steps down to 165 steps. Standardized workstations eliminate variability. The RADE department significantly reduced cycle time from 24 hours to approximately 13 hours and has eliminated the need to staff a third shift. All audit functions are now completed by 1:00 a.m. as opposed to 6:30 a.m. Additionally, CBC significantly reduced the number of units placed on hold (work in process known as WIP) due to the overall efficiency improvements in the entire process.

Measurable Impacts:

  • Over $950,000 in process savings & cost avoidance
  • Doubled capacity while reducing floor space
  • $250K Sales Impact
  • Reduction of Work in Process
  • 66% productivity increase
  • Elimination of 3rd Shift
  • 5.5 hour reduction in audit cycle time
  • 79% reduction for component & staff in-house transportation
  • Reduced batch sizes
  • Decreased variation & defects
  • Transition to Lean component processing layout for all locations

Carter BloodCare found the right tool in the box, proving yet again that the effectiveness of deploying a Lean philosophy is no longer a secret just for the industrial sector!

“The inclusive approach of the project implementations has allowed staff to be intimately involved in the improvement process. Company culture has been enhanced as staff report increased job satisfaction and greater sense of worth. “

Michelle Stefan
Senior Director of Administration
CarterBlood Care


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