February 2006 
Volume 04, Issue 9 
Integrated Defense Systems

To your health

To your health

Boeing and a St. Louis hospital pioneer a partnership in Lean


Boeing has successfully integrated Lean principles into both commercial and military operations for years. Thanks to Lean methodologies that eliminate wasted time, materials and money, the company continues to realize improvements in cost, quality and efficiency.

It should come as no surprise, then, that since May 2005, the company has partnered with DePaul Health Center in St. Louis to assist the hospital in its Lean journey, part of a shared commitment to business excellence in the community.

"It might seem crazy that an airplane manufacturer is teaching a hospital about Lean," said Industrial Engineering Manager Bob Mir. "But the great thing about Lean is that it can be applied anywhere."

The road to DePaul's Lean implementation began after Mir made several trips to DePaul's emergency department. Waiting for hours to see a doctor gave him ample time to spot inefficiencies. After each visit, Mir related his experiences to his wife, Claire. They might have been typical husband-wife conversations—except that Claire is the director of the emergency department at DePaul Health Center.

Employee's health scare builds Boeing-hospital ties

Lead Process Control Engineer Greg Benfer is happy to be alive. Little did he know that when he experienced cardiac fibrillation on July 16, 2004, Benfer would be relying on his manager's rudimentary knowledge of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). But Ken Katzenberger's quick intervention saved Benfer's life.

Upon his return from DePaul Health Center after the incident, Benfer got busy. Having heard Katzenberger say he wished he had been better prepared to help Benfer, DePaul personnel volunteered to certify interested F/A-18 employees in Benfer's building in CPR. To date, more than 200 have been trained, thanks to Benfer's publicity efforts. Voluntary fluorescent signs above certified employees' cubicles indicate that they are CPR trained. In the works are badge extenders that indicate the wearer has CPR training, as well as easily spotted fluorescent bags containing CPR kits (a mouth cover and tube) that can be clipped to a badge or a lunchbox for easy access.

Benfer hopes that other buildings in St. Louis will soon follow suit. "Giving back a life is the greatest gift of all," he remarked.

Soon, Bob Mir, Industrial Engineering Manager Dave Millman and Lean Consultant Madonna Buhr found themselves leading a Lean-focused tour of F/A-18 production at Boeing in St. Louis for a group of DePaul executive managers. Training, value-stream mapping, workflow and process-improvement sessions for both the emergency department and hospital laboratories followed.

Since then, the partnership between Boeing and DePaul has flourished, reaping benefits for both the company and the hospital. And "since we, as members of the community, may need to run to the emergency department at any time, it helps us, too," Millman added.

DePaul Health Center President Melinda Clark is excited about the progress made so far. "Thanks to the Lean techniques we've learned from Boeing, we believe we can improve processes that enhance the quality of care and clinical outcomes of our patients," she said.

Buhr concurred. "When we helped them reconfigure the flow of patients through their emergency department, there were tears in some eyes as we realized the impact streamlining processes could have on improved efficiencies, patient and employee satisfaction and teamwork among departments," she said. "Our DePaul colleagues are true pioneers for health-care excellence."


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