Toyota Put Its Manufacturing Skills to Work—and Cut Infections in Pediatric Hospitals by 75 Percent

By September 19, 2017Shopfloor Main

Modern manufacturers don’t just make things. They are constantly innovating.

With that in mind, Toyota’s Production System Support Center (TSSC) prides itself on leveraging Toyota’s decades of experience in manufacturing to help other manufacturers, nonprofits and community organizations find better ways to do their day-to-day work—sometimes outside the realm of manufacturing altogether.

Toyota recently partnered with four children’s hospitals to help them figure out why patients were contracting CLABSIs infections far too often:

All shared a similar challenge: Far too often, young patients fitted with a central linea plastic tube placed in a large vein that routes to the heartwere contracting infections. In medical speak, such events are referred to as Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infections or CLABSIs.

All four of the institutions in the TSSC project were baffled and frustrated by this persistent issue. After all, doctors and nurses at each hospital were following strict hygiene protocols. Yet, somehow, harmful bacteria as well as other germs were getting past their defenses.

Toyota adviser Scott Dickson went to work, observing routines at each hospital, interviewing staff and taking detailed notes on the process. That’s when Toyota identified the problem:

In each case, health care practitioners were following the proper steps to ensure they were germ free. But the rooms in which the children were being treated? That was a very different story.

So, for example, while a nurse might don sterile gloves to operate a medical device, he or she might inadvertently place that device on a counter or blanket that was not sterile.

“What they thought was the problem and what was actually the problem turned out to be very different things,” says Dickson. “There’s no way we would have figured it out if we hadn’t spent time at each site and talked with the nurses on the floor.”

Toyota drew from its own standardization practices to implement a quick solution:

Once they’d identified the culprit, Dickson said the next step was to apply Toyota’s problem-solving methodology to come up with a solution. Then it applied TPS standardization principles so that everyone who might come in contact with patients knew exactly what steps to follow…

“The way we systemically break down a problem was completely foreign to the people at the hospitals,” says Dickson. “In the end, their reaction was: ‘Oh, my gosh. We never thought of that.’”

Toyota’s work has helped reduce CLABSIs infections in those four hospitals by 75 percent over the past year, surpassing its goal, and the hospital staff are using Toyota’s practices to isolate and solve other problems on their own.

“It all comes back to how we observe and think and then teaching them how to observe and think,” Dickson said. “TPS works, and not just in manufacturing.”

It’s just one way manufacturing is helping build the future.

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