A few weeks ago I spent several days working with a private ambulance company on the Canadian prairies. This company, which has been in business for about 40 years, has an impressive commitment to continuous quality improvement and improving outcomes and efficiencies. During my time there, one of the senior leaders gave me a tour of the facility. I love working from a “strengths-based” perspective with my clients, so I get very enthusiastic when I find excellence to build from with my clients.
Just one example of excellence I found during my initial facility tour was a relatively recent change the operation has made in order to reduce downtime of ambulances during shift change. Previously, all of the ambulances would return to headquarters at the same time at the end of a shift. The Paramedics in each ambulance would then spend a whole bunch of time going through their respective vehicles, having to restock every band aid, medication, ointment or other supply that had been used, in order to prepare the vehicle for the next shift.
Along the way, someone was smart enough to identify that this was taking far too much time and that the result was that the vehicles ended up sitting for extended periods of time, inactive, as the Paramedics did the restocking. This also meant that Paramedics who should be out in community saving lives were spending their valuable time loading up medical supplies.
In order to eliminate this lack of efficiency, the operation completely revamped the workflow process. Specifically, they developed a system whereby every supply needed in a fully stocked ambulance was included in one of several clearly labelled and numbered bins. Newly stocked bins were well labeled and sealed, such that if a bin was opened and something used during a shift, it would be obvious that some kind of restocking would be required.
The revised process is now quick and efficient. The Paramedics ending their shift drive the vehicle into the re-stocking bay. They remove from the vehicle each bin that was opened on shift and place those bins on a shelving unit against the wall on the left side of the vehicle, inside the re-stocking bay. Those bins will later be restocked by another employee who is responsible for this function. After removing these “used” bins, the Paramedics then replace them with replacement bins that are fully stocked and stored on shelves on the right hand side of the vehicle. At all times, this shelving unit has multiple restocked bins ready for Paramedics to take and put in their vehicle when needed.
If they removed 5 bins they now select replacements for those same 5 bins and put them back in the ambulance. If 9 bins were partly used, they would replace those 9 bins. Every bin is labeled clearly so it is simple to know which bins need to be replaced. In about 5 minutes flat, the vehicle is completely re-stocked and ready to head back out on the road with the Paramedics on the next shift. I love this example of improved workflow that leads to greater efficiency in the workplace.
Cameron’s Call to Action
- Give consideration to your various workflow processes and identify at least one that your operations team could review.
- Ask team members to help identify where opportunities exist to improve processes leading to greater efficiency. It’s often middle managers and front line staff who identify these things before senior leaders do, but senior leaders don’t hear about them if they don’t inquire.
- Where opportunities emerge, revise processes and measure for change to gauge the outcomes.
Cameron is an Executive Coach and Consultant specializing in business growth and workplace mental health.
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