Wow, it's hard to believe but 2014 is here! With a New Year come new beginnings, a fresh start and New Year's resolutions. Getting organized was ranked as the 2nd most popular resolution for 2014; however only 8% of people actually achieve their resolution (Statisticbrain.com). I'm sure reasons vary from person to person – but getting your dental lab organized can bring huge benefits.
Where to Begin?
The easiest way to begin to get organized and “Lean” your dental lab is by following the 6S’s: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Safety, Standardize & Sustain.
Sort. Begin by removing all items that are not needed for the current job process. The key to keep in mind here is “when in doubt, move it out”. When Sort is implemented problems and annoyances in the workplace are reduced, communication is improved; throughput and product quality is increased.
Straighten. Keep needed items in the correct place to allow for easy and immediate retrieval. Start with something easy, like brushes and then move to more difficult areas. This is the time when you want to begin to develop layouts, procedures and equipment configurations that will aid in the workflow of your lab.
Shine. Start doing inspections on your equipment on a daily basis and clean your equipment at the end of every shift. If you clean at the end of the shift, it will be clean at the beginning of the next shift. Shine also means all equipment is operating with maximum efficiency with regular preventative maintenance and cleaning. Operators will notice when a piece of equipment is not at maximum performance.
Safety. Safety is extremely important in the dental lab. Make sure you have all your regulatory standards documented and are being followed. This is also a good time to review them with your employees.
Standardize. Define everything you do, so everyone will know exactly what they are responsible for and, exactly when, where, and how to do it, then do it the same each time. You cannot measure results if you have not set standards. Make sure you have written standards and procedures, OSHA documentation, training history and signatures and always keep them in an organized place, like a filing cabinet, accessible to all.
Sustain. As the saying goes “old habits die hard”. Sustain is the last and most important of the 6S’s. To make sure all your hard work and organization is maintained, do regular audits to ensure processes work and make improvement or changes when necessary. Just because it worked or made sense when you began does not mean it works now.
What You Get From Being Organized
While 6S’sing your Dental lab can seem like a daunting task you will reap the benefits that organization will bring to your lab and your bottom line. As you begin this transformation you will notice that tools are quickly and easily retrieved, safety and environmental conditions improve, space efficiency and visual management is easy. In addition, you will see that new employees understand and learn faster and the psychological benefits that tidiness and order bring.
Finally, when you are organized you will see that you can push more work through the lab in the same amount of time with the same amount of people, adding value for your doctors with faster turnaround, better quality, and predictable results.
Craig A. Pickett, RG, CDT, is NBC certified in Crown & Bridge with Technologist designation. A 25 year CDT, Craig is currently Technical Support Manager for Whip Mix Corporation.