Posted by: knightbird | March 28, 2015

Alaska Crime Lab Backlog

Here is a quote from a news article in Anchorage today:

“Rep. Liz Vazquez, R-Anchorage, asked Dym over and over to explain “in a sentence or two” why it takes so long for kits to get through the system and how the department is working to shorten the time.

“Two years is a long time for a victim and a case to come to justice,” Vazquez said.

Dym said he has the staff, the equipment and the space to get the kits processed more quickly. The staff has reworked its processing procedure to speed things up. The next step is figuring out how to increase the productivity of each analyst, Dym said.

He brought up the idea of hiring an outside consultant to help the department figure out a way to increase analyst productivity.

“Most certainly the backlog of the crime lab is my job to manage,” Dym said. “We have been engaging in a very methodical plan to improve it and increase capacity.”

The answer is an incredibly easy one for a Lean Practitioner-hold a Kaizen event. In one week, we can improve the process substantially. We would understand why, based on fact, that there is literally no flow. My mantra: Takt Time, Flow, Pull and Standard Work. This is straight out of Art Byrnes outstanding simplification of what happens when we look at a system.

We would start by gathering facts and data. That includes Takt Time. How many kits do we receive in a time frame and what are our requirements to process those kits on a timely basis. With experienced staff in the Kaizen, we can gather that data fairly quickly. Then we look at flow. What is the current state. We track kits through the process with time frames identified. What is actual value adding time, and what is lead time. Spaghetti diagrams are probably a great help here. When we are comfortable with the available data, we brainstorm about how to eliminate waste and reduce lead time. As most lean experts know, there is generally a small reduction in value adding time, but we can achieve huge reductions in lead time. We design experiments (PDCA) that we hope will achieve a reduction in lead time. If we do Kaizen correctly, we actually come up with 7 experiments to improve the system, and work our way through them until we have achieved improvement. After brainstorming and coming up with improvement strategies, we actually implement as many as we can right away. We rearrange the lab to achieve one piece flow. We minimize movement like walking. We bring everything we need to the lab through a Pull System in a Just In Time system.

And we create the appropriate forms to help achieve a successful defect free test every time. We maintain this result through a visual workplace that notes when a test arrives, where it is in the process, and establish an Andon for addressing problems. At the end of the week, we implement what we have because it will be incredibly better than what we started with. I wouldn’t be surprised with a 90% reduction in the time it takes to process the kit.

So why are they asking for a consultant to tell them what to do? I spoke to our new Governor when he was a candidate and just after he was inaugurated about Lean Government. I sent volumes of examples by email and wrote an opinion piece for the same paper that reported about the exchange between Representative Vazquez and staff. I sent testimony to the house finance committee about the beneficial impacts of Lean Government. I sent a similar document to House Democrat friends of mine and talked to one staff member of a prominent Anchorage house member. I have heard nothing back from any of them. Not a word. We can solve these problems. It’s actually easy from a technical lean approach. It’s a people problem, and the problem starts with the Governor and Legislative Leadership. They should pay attention to what has gone on in other  U.S. governmental entities if they truly want to solve problems and save money.

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