Lean: UH Social Work
Supply-Side EconomicsWhen the UH Social Work Supply Team decided to streamline their supply ordering process, they got a whole lot more than they bargained for.
Using lean thinking, the team developed a standardized supply order list, substituting less expensive products to save money where possible. For instance, they researched, accepted bids and chose a new vendor to reduce the cost of toner cartridges.
Savings also resulted from no longer stocking supplies that staff could provide themselves (such as tissues, a $1,000 a year savings), and charging other departments for the supplies they were using regularly. They also made quick fixes such as adding copier counters.
The team consisted of Leanne Mannor and Byron Myer, administrative assistants; Stefanie Peters, A.C.S.W., M.P.A., Social Work manager; and Mary Ann Wilson, executive assistant associate. The lean team also formed a Supply Committee that meets quarterly to forecast supply costs for capital, operational and facility items.
“The ultimate goal is we’re all becoming better stewards of our resources,” says Peters.
Another big payoff came in freed-up staff time, achieved through collaboration with Volunteer Services that trained volunteers to deliver mail.
But the biggest surprise was more space. Because the lean team adopted a stock ordering pull system—ordering only when someone needs the product—they cut down their storage space to one cabinet and opened up a whole room to use as conference space.
“It became evident really quickly that we could eliminate the supply room,” says Peters. “Management support and having all the right people at the table were two key components to our success.”
“I believe all departments should look into trying a lean project in their area,” says Myer. “The size of the project doesn’t matter. If you take the time and analyze any process, I promise that you will be able to cut out an extra step or an additional hand-off that wasn’t needed.”
“This lean project really hit home about how seemingly small things can affect a department in a big way,” adds Peters. “This is where staff at every level can participate. You can really see the impact on the bottom line. And, whenever you improve a system from the inside, the patients and the families benefit.”
"Please keep up the good work social work"- Ella Williams, Security Services
"Great job social work team!" - Chloe Bester, Health Information Management
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