Lean Management not only means process optimization but also strict customer orientation. It is like a large toolbox that contains many different methods to eliminate superfluous processes and “create value without waste”. Renfert also places emphasis on less waste in its work processes and added value for its customers. For this reason the company recently introduced Lean Management. What tools Renfert will use to implement the lean ideas, what this means for dental technicians and how this model can also be implemented in the laboratory is explained by Klaus Baschnagel, member of the Board of Management.
Mr. Baschnagel, Lean Management philosophy means: “value creation without waste.” What do you hope to gain by implementing this concept?
We want to continually improve our work processes with Lean Management and orient ourselves even more to the future and customer requirements. In previous years we have continually grown: more products, services, employees …
We want to continue growing but be leaner in our processes. To do this we must identify superfluous activities and waste and eliminate them. Lean Management helps us achieve higher performance without additional expense.
What type of waste is there?
“Internal and external enquiries, overproduction, stock levels, unnecessary transport, movements and information as well as waiting times, complexity and wastage of resources etc. – all areas that also apply to dental technicians in their laboratory.
Does this mean that the lean philosophy can also be transferred to the processes in a laboratory?
Yes. You only have to think of stock levels! Dental technicians must ensure that their workflow is not interrupted unnecessarily. The real value creation, which technicians have, is the dental restoration. But they must also continually check, update and reorder their consumable and raw materials. This is no different at Renfert. The flow of goods and stock levels are optimized using the Kanban system, a lean tool.
Can you give an example for optimizing the stock levels in the laboratory?
Dental technicians should first record the average use of a specific material; for example three bottles per week. Then the replacement time should be recorded; for example one week. This means: as basic stock for two weeks they must have six bottles in stock. To compensate for fluctuations they should increase the amount by a safety stock level. The total amount is halved and converted to the “two-box system”: if the first container is empty, the second should be fetched from the store. This box is then the Kanban, the signal that stock must be re-ordered. All relevant information is on the box, so that the ordering process is easier.
It is said: More than 70% of all projects fail due to lack of communication. How has your in-house communication changed since the introduction of Lean Management?
We don’t necessarily talk more with one another but rather more structured and in fact every day at a specific time. We have also introduced the “Shopfloor Management” system. In the morning employees of a particular process sector exchange ideas about their work. Their results are then discussed a level higher on a second shopfloor and so on. Thus everyone knows in the shortest time whether the traffic lights are on green or whether action is still needed. This can also be easily implemented in the laboratory.
What added value does Lean Management provide compared with a QM System?
We are not concerned with the end in itself with Lean Management but with increasing the added value for our customers. If we have waste in the production or administration, of course the customer does not want to bear these costs; and waste always leads to higher costs! We therefore want to operate as cost-effectively and efficiently as possible. We achieve our quality using a QM
system; with Lean Management methods we optimize by focusing on efficiency and cost-effectiveness – for the benefit of the customer.
Can you give us an example of a lean change?
We have changed the process for our 30 country-specific mailings. The working stages have been reduced, the interfaces minimized and communication improved. The process is now more slimline. Where we had a previous throughput time of approx. ten weeks, it is now only five! How does the customer benefit from this? We are more flexible, the contents are more up to date, and we can utilize the working time gained in other ways for our customers.
What do you recommend as the first step to dental technicians who want to slim down their processes?
Make employees aware of Lean Management and convey personal responsibility to them. They must learn to recognize waste in order to eliminate it. An initial topic could be “cleanliness and order at the workplace”. Instruments or consumables are often searched for in the laboratory. The point should not be reached where a drawer contains too few items or too many useless articles.
Which question do you ask yourself anew each day?
Where do I waste my time and therefore also that of my customer?
And how does it look at your workplace? Do you now have a “lean desk”?«?
Yes, it now looks very tidy (laughing). For example I no longer have a tray. Everything is digital. I get fewer enquiries and can deal more consistently with my core tasks. My desk is therefore really leaner.