Transforming your dental lab through the adaption of lean techniques has many benefits for the lab and its bottom line. Through lean processes dental labs are able to eliminate unnecessary steps & waste, increase quality & consistency and even increase profits. However, did you know that less than 40% of labs integrating a Lean program achieve their desired results?
Beginning a Lean transformation in your lab is more than just going through the process of the 5S's or learning how to lean your model room with small batches. The true success and heart behind any lean transformation is the labs employees. No matter if you are a small or large dental lab - if your employees aren't engaged in what you are doing, your lean journey will not be as successful as it could be.
In order to make your Lean journey a successful one, here are 5 things you can do to keep your employees engaged and your transformation on track:
Focus on communication. When any kind of change happens it is only natural for employees to be fearful or hesitant. Make sure you communicate properly with your employees the Who, What, Where, When and Why's of what you are doing.
By your defining these things employees can see a clearer picture of what they can expect out of the whole process. If you don't already hold weekly, monthly or quarterly meetings – start doing so. These meetings are a great opportunity to keep everyone informed about the state of the lab. At the meetings you can highlight successes, share the number of cases you've moved through the lab or how many new customers were acquired – anything you think that has value to your employees.
Ensure everyone is aligned with the same goals. You, as the lab owner know what the goals of your lab are, but do your employees? Make sure you share the goals and vision you have for the lab with your employees. If you don’t already have a communication board – make one. Make sure the communication board is located in an area that is seen by everyone. Larger labs may need more than one. A communication board is the perfect way to post the lab's goals, success stories, other success measures and it enables employees to see how they contribute to the overall success of the lab.
Find a champion. Identify one or two people, depending on the size of your lab, who can help be an internal cheerleader. This person should be passionate about Lean, someone who is willing and able to influence others and someone you trust. By finding an internal cheerleader, you will be able to get the rest of the team on board easier than trying to rally everyone around Lean initiatives by yourself.
Build Trust. Another key element to a successful Lean journey is to build trust with your employees. Encourage 2-way communication and ask employees: what’s important to them, how you can help them be more successful and what they would like their work place to look like. By asking these questions, it lets employees know that you value them and their opinions.
Provide additional resources for continuous improvement. Just because your lab has completed its Lean transformation doesn't mean your journey is over. Offer employees opportunities for continuous improvement. Add a suggestion box where employees can submit ideas for improvement. Just because the process worked when you began your journey doesn't necessarily mean it's working now. Then work with them to come up with a solution and empower them to implement the change or improvement.
Remember, Lean and other improvement initiatives are processes that rely on changing behavior and take longer to institute than other improvements. Thus, more time and patience is required.