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Quality Quandaries: Reducing Work in Process at an Emergency Assistance Center

Summary: An important principle of lean manufacturing is that it strives for low levels of work in process (WIP). Work in process or in-process inventory consists of all unfinished jobs or parts in a process at a particular moment in time. Disadvantages of high amounts of WIP include inventory costs, increased throughput times, and other kinds of nuisance. On the other hand, WIP makes a process less vulnerable to disruptions, because it provides a buffer of jobs to work on. The ideal of a small amount of WIP is well appreciated in the manufacturing industry. In the service industry, on the other hand, where inventory costs are relatively small, the advantages of low WIP are less obvious. Nevertheless, the benefits of reducing WIP may be substantial for organizations in the service industry as well, because it leads to shorter throughput times and less nuisance created by jobs being processed simultaneously. This article briefly explains why and how to control WIP in non-manufacturing processes. In the subsequent sections, a case study on an emergency assistance center is introduced and described.

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  • Topics: Lean
  • Keywords: Lean manufacturing, Health care, Case study, Emergency medical service (EMS), Service sector, Service quality, Health care industry
  • Author: Erdmann, Tashi P.; Boessenkool, Helga; Hogewoning, Lisette; Does, J.M.M.;
  • Journal: Quality Engineering