From chaos emerges efficiency--thanks to the lean process. In late 2008, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health's Population Health Branch began a project to improve vaccine storage, shipping and receiving practices at the provincial shipping depot, as over-processing had gummed up the vaccine-shipment works.
In order to fulfill orders arriving by fax from Saskatoon, Regina depot employees used to pack coolers with vaccine for shipment via internal mail. Saskatoon, for its part, hired a temp worker to unpack the boxes and then repackage the contents for shipments to rural and urban health centers.
In a lean upgrade to this onerous process, the storage depot now ships vaccine directly to healthcare facilities outside of Saskatoon, eliminating the cold chain unpacking and repackaging steps. The Regina staff then selected a refrigeration courier service. The courier picks up the shipment at the depot, takes it to a refrigeration unit in Saskatoon, and makes the deliveries the next morning.
The staff also developed a re-order signal to aid in inventory management. Each Saskatoon health center had to determine how much vaccine to order to cover a two-month period. Green (adequate quantity), yellow (inventory issue) and red (manufacturer problem or outbreak) cards on the vaccine shipments signal each center's supply.
The lean processes and visual re-ordering system rewarded the Population Health Branch with about $1.3 million in savings from 2009 to 2010, driven by cold chain and inventory reduction savings in addition to a reduction in waste.
- here's the article