The Purpose and Benefits of Continuous Improvement in the Laboratory
76% of laboratory leaders face rising costs in laboratory operations, alongside increased levels of burnout in their wider workforce.
Recent research reveals that medical laboratory professionals experienced a 73.3% greater prevalence of burnout compared to other healthcare workers over the pandemic – including doctors, nurses, and occupational therapists.
Unlike physicians and other medical professionals with decision authority, laboratory professionals are likely to have less skill discretion and overall lower dimensions of control, which can reduce job satisfaction – a key protective factor to burnout in the lab.
Continuous improvement unravels the causes behind burnout in the lab by optimising roles and processes. By equipping employees with a proactive, rather than passive role in the laboratory, continuous improvement enables employees to boost the efficiency of their work processes, solve problems, and capture new opportunities – curbing burnout while enabling your laboratory to improve cost efficiency.
Read on to find out:
- What is continuous improvement
- 3 benefits of continuous improvement in the laboratory
- How continuous improvement unlocks innovation in the laboratory
What is continuous improvement?
Continuous improvement refers to a set of processes built to optimise a laboratory over time. In most cases, continuous improvement is implemented through a continuous improvement pipeline to help prioritise and action changes over a set period.
There’s no shortage of processes and techniques underlying continuous improvement, making it challenging to identify the best methods to apply to a laboratory environment.
While lean methodology was initially developed for manufacturing environments, its principles are universally applicable across industries and is now used in an array of settings and industries – from computer science labs to clinical laboratories.
The lean method to continuous improvement drives efficiency across the overall laboratory by optimising speed, cost, and resource allocation. The overall goal behind this continuous improvement initiative is to holistically activate laboratory efficiency by improving processes to eliminate time deficits, limit waste, and maximise workforce potential.
What are the benefits of continuous improvement in the laboratory
1. Improved job satisfaction
Job satisfaction can help mitigate burnout in the laboratory and is crucial to employee retention.
Continuous improvement processes like lean methodology are built to maximise employee potential – part of this is ensuring that every role is as efficient as possible.
This means looking at whether a trained scientist is spending more of their time preparing assays than pursuing their core responsibilities, as well as whether lab technicians are over-burdened and require improved resource allocation.
This process holistically boosts job satisfaction by activating meaningful changes that limit burnout and improve the everyday work experience of employees across the laboratory.
2. Better work-life balance
Work-life balance was cited as the most important factor for scientific candidates in our latest global STEM survey.
Continuous improvement directly shapes roles and responsibilities, with the core goal of improving efficiency. In doing so, continuous improvement can help provide employees with improved work life balance and drive better workforce retention rates for the laboratory as a whole.
3. Reduced operational costs
The efficiencies brought about by continuous improvement fundamentally reduce costs – whether it’s streamlining processes to improve turnaround time, returning time to core science through improved resource allocation, or improving people’s roles to reduce burnout and drive retention, as continuous improvement is implemented, costs invariably reduce.
At Synergy, we’ve supported our clients with this first-hand, working with Cignpost Diagnostics, a leading health and diagnostics company, over the 2020 pandemic.
We implemented continuous improvement processes across laboratory operations, and lowered the complexity of processes to improve organisational agility. We redesigned processes and supported the restructure of skills requirements. Our work with Cignpost accelerated turnaround times, lowered costs, and improved quality through considered and optimised continuous improvement initiatives. \
How continuous improvement unlocks innovation in the laboratory
The prospect of innovation inspires scientists across the globe to pursue careers in industry, where they can proactively contribute to scientific development and progress.
However, while scientists are often hired with the intention to improve innovative capacity in the organisation, workload, administrative tasks, and manual duties in the laboratory can curb the potential of experts and limit progress.
Continuous improvement plays a fundamental role in powering innovation by optimising roles, processes, and methods in the lab to ensure that high-performance workers and expert scientists have the time they need to dedicate to their research without the burden of extra tasks on the side.
This can accelerate innovation while streamlining development phases and improving turn-around times, overall enabling your organisation to benefit from a more sustainable pipeline and a happier, more engaged workforce where skill sets are effectively deployed.
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