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Nissan’s ‘shot in the arm’ for healthcare sector

12th February 2007 Print
Car maker Nissan has provided an unlikely ‘shot in the arm’ to the healthcare sector by sharing its lean manufacturing techniques with a Sunderland hospital.

Manufacturing know-how, normally used to produce over 7,000 cars a week at Nissan’s Sunderland plant, is now benefiting patients at Sunderland Royal’s new £11 million day care unit.

So far, the project has halved the time patients spend in the unit from six, to three hours, by giving them specific appointment times.

And the number of steps used in patient treatment have been reduced from 29 to 11 after Nissan suggested unnecessary, duplicated checks could be removed.

Now, the hospital is looking to extend the partnership, and its ward managers are undergoing training that Nissan usually reserves for its manufacturing apprentices.

David Hambleton, divisional director for surgery at the hospital, said: “We’ve got the most productive car plant in Europe on our doorstep. We thought: “Why shouldn’t we work with the people at Nissan?”

“The thing that was difficult for us is that Nissan produces cars, so at the end of the line is a Micra or Note. We have a patient and they are all different, but we thought there must be something to learn.

“Now, a six hour patient journey, with lots of waiting time, has been cut to a three-hour journey.”

Brent Kilmurray, executive director of strategy and service development for Sunderland City Hospitals saw the potential for a tie-up during a visit to the Nissan plant.

He explained: “There are similarities in that we are dealing with a number of different processes, it’s a flow.

“The principle is around quality. We are building the process around the patients, making sure it is as slick as possible for their needs.”

As well as reducing waiting times, the day care unit has implemented Nissan’s ‘just in time’ delivery to improve stock control, and boosted the efficiency of its operating theatre, which is now productive for 73% of the time – an all time high.

Also, the hospital is studying how Nissan lays out workshops at the plant and car dealerships, to determine the ideal layout for its ward bays.

Dominic Lydon, Training senior controller at Nissan, said: “It has been a great experience working with the hospital staff.

“We took them on a tour of our plant, showing them a variety of lean processes in action, and let them decide which ones could be applied back at the hospital. They also attended a number of our training courses, and we helped run process improvement workshops.

“The project has been very successful. The way we build cars is quality driven and waste-free, and clearly there are benefits to be gained by incorporating some of these lean manufacturing principles into the healthcare sector – both in terms of patient experience and efficiency savings.”