• Set throughput does not increase with container usage; on the contrary, it
decreases. Plus, in the decontamination area, work on containers adds up
to 450 non-value-added minutes of labor a day – a huge drain on
productivity. And after containers come out of the cart wash
there are additional labor costs associated with mak-
ing them ready for the processing area.
• Containers do not cost a facility
less in the long run. Based
on our analysis, it can
be quite expensive to
use containers due not
only to the dispos-
ables cost but also the
labor required in the
decontamination area to
render the containers re-usable.
Plus, as containers age, repair
•Containers are not the best
solution to holes in sterile wrap. Rather,
they’re one of the most expensive. Holes in
sterile wrap are most often due to improper
handling, use of incorrect wrapper weight,
inner pans with feet, and square corners. A relatively low-cost solution is
proper staff training, including placement of towels under pans.
• Containers are not the de facto safer packaging method. There are
well-document ed issues around gasket and latch failure that visual
inspection can fail to detect. This was clearly proven in the “Dunkelberg
study,” which demonstrated that visual inspection is no guarantee against
sterility failure and that whole container barrier integrity should be tested
annually using a varying pressure bacterial aerosol challenge. Containers
can fail even a simple water test in which the container is filled one third
with water and latched/sealed per vendor instructions (the container is
then tilted to observe any gasket/latch failures).
Based on these findings, our SPD is transitioning to becoming 100
percent container-free. Our output has increased, and we have realized
measurable savings on supply costs alone. Notably, before making the
switch, we did a one-month test of eliminating containers and using
sterile wrap, and saw a 20-point increase in productivity. From my perspective as a Lean Sigma Six Black Belt, that was significant. From my
perspective as a department manager with bottom-line responsibilities,
it was all the proof I needed.
If other SPD managers are challenged to meet their facilities’ demand for set output, I encourage them to take a look at their container
use. In today’s do-more-with-less environment, switching to sterile
wrap may help them achieve similar labor and supply efficiencies in
their organizations. And isn’t that just what the doctor ordered?
productivity. And after containers come
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