Bins and shelving system saves valuable minutes

Hospital system reorganizes medical supply room to improve patient care through new supply chain practices.

By ·

The University of Chicago Medicine recently launched an initiative to improve the academic medical center’s supply chain practices. A new Kanban system includes shelving and rail-mounted bins that reduced excess stock, stock-outs and misplaced items.

After the center’s supply chain team assessed the daily process of staff members locating the correct medical supplies, they recognized that one of the system’s greatest challenges was the ability to get back to the patient as quickly as possible. With nearly 150 storage rooms throughout the medical campus, team members worked to standardize room layout and ensure product organization and accurate labeling. Before the project, it was common to find multiple types of items in bins, items hanging from carts, and items placed haphazardly on the top of shelving units.

“Bins with dividers worked great for our process until we were challenged with the rotation of extremely high-volume items in the emergency department’s supply room. It just wasn’t practical for this area,” says Julie Aggen, senior process transformation specialist at the medical center. “The rail hanging system was the answer to that challenge.”

The new storage system (Akro-Mils, included high-density storage areas, clear bins for item visibility, gravity hoppers for first-in, first-out item lot rotation, rail hanging and shelving systems. Rather than moving large amounts of product from one bin to another, associates slide empty bins off the rail, push over the bins still containing product, and slide the empty ones back on the rail for restock. This eliminates the need to lift heavy bins full of product or transfer product from bin to bin.

“One of the benefits of implementing a Kanban stock replenishment system is having a built-in stock rotation function,” Aggen explains. “We’ve reduced waste by removing unneeded products from supply areas. Overstock returned from supply areas has totaled $37,000, and clinicians identified hundreds of items in the supply areas that were no longer needed.”

In addition, the team deployed RFID technology to manage the reorder process, a just-in-time replenishment system, and color-coded Kanban cards that fit in the card holder on the front of the bin. Aggen says the supply area reorganization led to a noticeable increase in open floor space and an easy-to-maintain storage environment. 

About the Author

Josh Bond, Senior Editor
Josh Bond is Senior Editor for Modern, and was formerly Modern’s lift truck columnist and associate editor. He has a degree in Journalism from Keene State College and has studied business management at Franklin Pierce University.

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