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NHS Lean leaders explore best practice at Best Factory Award winning site

Vernacare : 03 January, 2013  (Company News)
NHS staff and members of the Advancing Quality Alliance (AQuA) Lean Network across the North West of England visit the Vernacare production site that received a Best Factory Award.
NHS Lean leaders explore best practice at Best Factory Award winning site

Vernacare, which is a world leader in medical pulp production, has transformed its operation over a six year period through leadership and culture change, automation and lean best practice, embracing tools such as 5S and Six Sigma.

The delegates saw the complete production process - starting with the sorting of recycled newsprint  and finishing with the packing of pulp washbowls, bedpans, urinals and other single-use products that are used to prevent cross infection in hospitals.

Derek McIntyre, Global Operations Director for Vernacare, said:  "There are many parallels between the healthcare facilities managed by AQuA members and our production facility. Both environments operate complex processes where there is a relentless focus on quality, waste reduction, improving service and safety, eliminating errors, reducing delays and promoting best value.  We have proved the benefits of using lean management methodologies to improve performance and were able to share our experience with our visitors."

Vernacare won a Best Factory Award in 2012, which judges said was presented "on the basis of leadership excellence, massive improvement in culture and sound engineering." The award recognised Vernacare's continuous improvement strategy, which has turned its production process into a model of efficiency. Carefully planned investment and engineering excellence have allowed Vernacare to achieve impressive efficiencies and pass on savings to customers, without compromising on product quality.

The healthcare managers learned heard how Vernacare implemented a cultural change programme to actively engage and involve all staff in the business improvement process, empowering team members to share and develop their ideas. One of the continuous improvement techniques used by team members is the DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control) checklist, which was demonstrated to the visitors.

Vernacare's SCADA (shop floor control and data analysis) tool was explained. This was developed in-house to provide real-time data feedback - enabling staff to continuously analyse machine performance to ensure optimum output levels and quality standards.  As a result, the company can carefully manage  its process parameters to help manage demand. This has helped the business to achieve an excellent delivery record of 97.33 percent of orders on-time, in full, over the past 12 months.

The healthcare staff explored Vernacare's automated inspection and packing process, which helps assure leak proof standards of pulp production. Success is evidenced by the fact that the company had just 0.00027 percent complaints last year from the 131 million items of pulp supplied.

Derek McIntyre added: "Through our lean improvements we have been able to absorb huge increases in energy prices and a trebling of cost of our main raw material of recycled newsprint. We are continuously learning and it is helpful to be able to share insights with lean leaders in healthcare."

David Dixon, Quality Improvement Lead for AQuA said: "Our mission is to support members to improve the quality of healthcare by stimulating innovation, spreading best practice and supporting local improvement in health and the quality and productivity of health services".

"Vernacare's lean journey inspired our members, who were impressed by the level of staff engagement and involvement and their willingness to embrace change. They saw potential to apply some of the systems used by Vernacare for 5S and visual management and benefited greatly from a fresh perspective from an award winning site. Vernacare has held the BSI kitemark on its pulp since 1999. Its single use pulp products are helping hospitals and care homes in 46 countries to combat the risk of infections, such as Clostridium difficile, MRSA and Norovirus."

The biodegradable pulp is used in conjunction with the Vortex pulp disposal unit, an eco-friendly machine that disintegrates the pulp and washes it down the drain as part of a cold water cycle.

The process, known as the Vernacare System, was invented nearly 50 years ago in Bolton by Vernacare. The hygienic method of patient waste disposal is used by 95 percent of UK hospitals. Vernacare recently launched a new bedpan liner and single use disposable support to further support the NHS in its drive to reduce hospital acquired infections. 

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