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Happy New Year, readers!

If you needed cheering up as we tolerate another lockdown here in the UK, fear not, for this is hopefully a hope-filling article about the Covid-19 vaccination programme, among other exciting things.

Firstly, updates from us. our new online courses are looking increasingly swish and hopefully are a bit of game-changer. We have only ever delivered the full Lean experience in person, so it has been rewarding to put something together that can be accessed more widely by clients and contacts anywhere in the world, including one of the most remote island communities in the world – you know who you are!

As we power towards the vaccination of the UK population, it felt like a good time to write a few words about the potential relevance of Lean methodology for this gargantuan and hugely important process to roll out 15 million vaccines by Mid-February and to have offered the whole UK population a vaccine by the Autumn. The most obvious starting point here is the reiteration of the 8 Wastes as examined most recently by my colleague Nicola. The reduction of waste is of course one of the Lean Principles, because doing so expedites processes and makes them less prone to error, in turn enabling required needs to be successfully met. These eight wastes are as follows:

Transport The unnecessary movement of materials, information, or equipment.
Inventory Excess stock, unnecessary files and copies, and extra supplies.
Motion Unnecessary walking and searching, and things or people not within reach or easily accessible.
Waiting Idle time that causes the workflow to stop, such as waiting for signatures or machines.
Overprocessing Processing things that don’t add value, such as excessive duplication or checking.
Overproduction Producing too much information or paperwork, or before it is required.
Defects Work that needs to be redone due to errors (human or technical).
Skills Not using the full potential of staff, and wasting available knowledge and experience.

Clearly, not all eight Wastes are of relevance. Most obviously, I think that it would be a struggle to find anyone across the country or indeed the world right now who would agree that it is possible to overproduce these vaccines! This example aside, it could be said there is much relevance here, particularly for the first approved UK vaccine from Pfizer because it has to be stored at -70C, a requirement that comes with a range of complications for transportation and storage, including the need for special ultra-cold thermal boxes fitted with specialist temperature alarms.

As such, the Wastes of Waiting and potentially that of Skills will have been issues that NHS and broader supply chain staff will have doubtless focused relentlessly on to ensure the genetic material does not degrade, as well as ensuring the necessary batch testing before and after production does not hold up delivery, with the EHRA’s indication that “multiple batches can be tested simultaneously” doubtless cutting out unnecessary Motion and Overprocessing.

These two Wastes could also be of relevance in the development of mass vaccination centres in highly populous spots such as London, with centralisation of administrative procedures, such as those relating to ensuring the right gap between vaccinations and the inoculation itself, cutting out the duplication of processing and moving that might have taken place across multiple, smaller centres.

So there you are, some thoughts on Lean and how it might relate to the amazing efforts of the people whose role in bringing this tragic pandemic to a close is so central. Here’s to a more normal 2021 from Springtime.

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