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The Veterinary Clinic's Lean for Micro Case Study

Lean for Micro Case Studies

Lean for Micro Case Studies: Happy and Healthy Vet

The Veterinary Clinic based in Killoe, Longford is home to three vets, five nurses and two support staff. In its eleventh year, the company has achieved the status of Veterinary Hospital, the highest standard of classification for veterinary practices from the Veterinary Council of Ireland. Owner Emma Plant explains why they decided to take part in Lean for Micro with Longford Local Enterprise Office.

Click below for The Veterinary Clinic's Lean for Micro Video Story

The Veterinary Clinic

Why Lean? 

"The Lean programme appealed to us as a way of utilising non veterinary-led business improvements. I found out about Lean through our Local Enterprise Office and was hooked by the idea of having an outside professional pair of fresh eyes assess our business. The value for money of Lean is incredible. We have access to a highly-qualified and experienced Lean mentor [Allyson English, Jigsaw Better Business] on a regular basis. Very little investment is required from us thanks to the subsidised scheme from LEO. After researching what Lean is all about, I decided we needed to avail of this opportunity to run the hospital as efficiently and effectively as possible"

What issues in your day-to-day operations did Lean bring up?

"The staff probably didn’t know what to expect from our first session with our mentor Allyson, but very quickly she showed simple effective ways of running any enterprise. She was able to engage the team in looking at our workplace with fresh eyes. We went down through:

  • How is our workplace laid out? Is it safe?
  • Is there a place for everything and everything in its place? How do we ensure this is a continual process of keeping things in their place?
  • How we utilise our time, down to the small action that only takes maybe 20 seconds, but when repeated 100 times a day becomes a repetitive strain potentially.
  • What is obsolete in our day-to-day environment, what is superfluous to requirements, what’s sitting there wasting space or not being used?
  • What is the flow of work, where are the delays, the stops to getting things done better

This was only the start - Allyson guided us through the steps of Lean so confidently that we all took pride in our contributions. We all felt we could improve things. The best part then was how she showed us how to quantify the changes we made on a weekly or monthly basis, and check we were sustaining the changes made"

What practical changes have you made to the business as a result of Lean? Are those changes paying off?

"Changes include looking at the availability of essential day-to-day tools in the hospital. By keeping all our equipment in a more orderly way it changed lots! From spending frustrating precious minutes looking for a particular item such as a nail clippers or thermometer, now every drawer, cupboard and shelf is clearly labelled with the contents. 

We also bought all staff belted pocket organisers so we all have all the common bits to hand all the time. It is an individual’s responsibility to take care of these and replenish as needed.

Efficiency with relaying lab results to owners were also looked at. Now we have a system where incoming bloods, x-ray, ultrasound results are discussed with the owner as soon as they come in, then marked off the chart.

We bought the biggest whiteboard possible! On it, the inpatients for the day are displayed and also the days operations list. So everyone sees and knows what pet is where, and their details are easily visible with a patient plan for the day. When you have changing shifts the continuation of patient care is so important. We can easily relay plans and outcomes and stages of progress of all our patients to each other.

We looked at wastes in the hospital, not just physical rubbish but areas we were not utilising staff to their full potential- we had a skilled Project Manager in another life who was on reception, it only took involving her in the Lean meetings to throw up some really interesting ways of saving time and energy. This includes using walkie talkies between our two separated teams in the building (thanks COVID!) to improve fast communication for all. Really simple but so much more efficient!"

Does Lean help safeguard the business in the context of BREXIT and COVID-19?

"LEAN is perfect for safeguarding a business during pandemics and Brexit. We still operate our business without any clients coming into the building. This is challenging, as we really need to have a conversation with every owner of a sick pet to get a good clinical history and make a plan that is agreeable to both owner, pet and vet. We weren’t happy with doing this by phone, and we were wasting a lot of time by running in and out of the car park to customers. So, we built our huts! They are wooden hut type areas built at the windows of the Hospital so that the pet is inside the room with the vet or nurse and the owner is safe outside from the weather, with the privacy of conducting a socially distanced productive consult.

If a business isn’t able to adapt physically and in general operation, and fast, during a pandemic then there’s no hope of surviving normal times. Lean teaches you to be bulletproof to common pitfalls. It teaches your staff how to think about solving problems and not just putting up with them. It gives everyone the confidence to work better, with a common aim.

As regards other COVID-19 challenges, Lean made us look at everything! We knew there would be potential supply issues with Brexit looming also. We stockpiled the most crucial medicines and looked at alternative suppliers early on in the year.  I honestly think there could not have been a better time to access Lean than now! Yes, the changes have paid off - we work really hard all day but we know we can quantify the quality of that work now. 

Would The Veterinary Clinic Recommend Lean to other Longford businesses?

"Whatever business one is in, Lean should be an integral compulsory element to it. It will open your eyes, it will enable and empower staff to make improvements, it will give a voice to everyone, it will tell you in numbers how you are doing on a weekly basis (not financially but through continuing checks and scores), it will make you strive for the next level in efficiency.

"It is not complicated or fancy, it is basic common sense"

The value for money is first rate. A mentor is available to us for the duration of the scheme , Allyson knows us all, she makes us work to think and to tease out problems. From farming to floristry, every enterprise can only benefit from having a Lean programme. We can’t wait to finish our first level and start the next!"

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