by Frank Vehafric, AFSCME Staff Representative
Over the last couple of years members of Local 328 have heard a lot about labor/management teams and process improvement. As we move forward both the Union and OHSU will continue to invest in process improvement initiatives and increasingly those inititives will take place in a climate of labor/management cooperation. OHSU, of course, is focused on competing in the marketplace and customer service and the Union recognizes the value of this.
But the Union also has objectives we pursue on behalf of our members which process improvement initiatives will help address. Member concerns such as excessive workload, working off the clock, working with inadequate training, staff or equipment and employee concerns about contracting out are all conditions which a good process improvement will help to correct.
The Union, at PBS, and OHSU in the Admitting project have each adopted process improvement paradigms known as Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma. A combined approach is called Lean Six Sigma. Expect to hear a lot about these methods over the next few years.
So what are Lean and Six Sigma?
Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing are toolkits to reduce waste in business processes. Both Six Sigma and Lean Manufacturing, are proven concepts and have saved clients millions of dollars without capital investment.
Six Sigma is a philosophy of doing business with a focus on eliminating defects through fundamental process knowledge. Six Sigma methods integrate principles of business, statistics and engineering to achieve tangible results. The main focus of Six Sigma is reduction of variations in product or service quality and centering processes on measurable indicators of customer satisfaction.
Six Sigma reduces waste through reducing variation in product quality and promotes a better understanding of customer requirements through the use of data and measurement. Six Sigma drives improvements rapidly with internal resources.
Lean Manufacturing is a proven approach to reduce waste and streamline operations. Lean Manufacturing embraces a philosophy of continually increasing the proportion of value added activity of their business through ongoing waste elimination. Lean’s main focus is on reducing steps in a process and shortening the amount of time work stays in queue.
Both approaches emphasize critically analyzing work processes, identifying waste and getting into the habit of using data to guide decision making.