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Procurement and Logistics ‘Fostering a continuous improvement culture'

The Logistics Team at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust is responsible for the process of planning, implementing and controlling the efficient, effective flow and storage of goods and related information from their point of origin to point of consumption for the purpose of satisfying customer requirements.

Following a review of business needs, the team has adopted a ‘kaizen’ (or Continuous Improvement) mentality. By introducing sound lean procedures, the department has undergone a facelift in recent months, ahead of the Trust’s Connecting Care” initiative which will renew the working practices of every clinical and support area.

A recent ‘5S’ project has been undertaken in the receipts and distribution area at the main Wonford Hospital site in Exeter and has resulted not only in an aesthetically pleasing environment to work in but a more efficient and free-flowing work process as well. The project was so successful that manpower could be re-allocated from the R&D area to other areas requiring support within Logistics.

This project was immediately followed by another to increase the efficiency of the materials management rounds known as “top-up”. This involves delivering vital supplies to over 86 clinical areas in and around the Trust’s two hospital sites.

It is highly unlikely anyone will have noticed a change when they see stacked cages being wheeled along the corridors by the materials management team, however, the improvements made are only too noticeable in the data which shows the average time it takes for the logistics assistants to complete the rounds is reduced by as much as two and half hours, per person per day.

This allows more time for the team to concentrate on materials and inventory management (adding more value to the Trust), and setting up and servicing new top areas, including the clinical research replenishment area in the new £28 million Research Innovation Learning Development Centre at no extra cost or increased head count to the Trust.

Whilst there is still a long way to go to reach the team’s ultimate aim of ‘best in class throughout the National Health Service', these changes, using sound logistics and change management principles have provided a stepping stone from which to build from and the team is on its way to achieving the aim.

A closer working relationship with Procurement colleagues has also been developed, resulting in system improvements, collaboration on specific and on-going improvement projects and an improved flow of communication. This has resulted in stronger team ethic across the department, greater flexibility throughout and a desire to work together as well as with other areas of the Trust to address specific challenges and provide benefits across the hospitals.

Logistics Manager, Denis Plant, who after a highly successful career in the Royal Navy joined the trust five months ago, said: “Since joining the trust, I have been made to feel welcome by everyone I have met. The measures and projects that we have undertaken have been put in place by the whole team, not just management. We gave the team guidance and ideas to build on. I sowed the seed and watched it grow. These lads are at least the equals to people I have worked with in the military demonstrating core values that are not always prevalent amongst today’s society.

“The support I have received from my manager (Hélène Waterhouse) has also been equal to if not better than anything I have experienced before, a highly experienced logistics expert in her own right. Hélène is very keen on fostering a continuous improvement culture within procurement and logistics which is considered best practice throughout the industry. This has recently been demonstrated by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply who have bestowed the honour of FCIPS upon her, including Hélène in an exclusive group of procurement professionals.

Head of Procurement and Logistics, Hélène Waterhouse, said: “I am delighted with the changes the team have designed and implemented. This truly is teamwork at its very best and this is going a long way towards our goals as a department. I am proud of what has been achieved to date and look forward to the successful delivery of other continuous improvement projects in the pipeline and currently on-going.”

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