Monthly Archives: December 2013

Guest Blogger – Jessica Cleveland’s Personal Perspective of IE’s in Hospitals

I had the opportunity to mentor a talented undergraduate industrial engineering student in independent research this semester.  Jessica Cleveland is a Senior in UCF’s Industrial Engineering program who is interested in applying operations research to healthcare challenges.  Below is her personal perspective of IE’s in Hospitals.

JessicaCleveland

IE’s in Hospitals – A Personal Perspective

by Jessica Cleveland

In the fall of my sophomore year I worked on a group project that made me realize Industrial Engineering skills could be applied to hospitals. The project involved analyzing the process of delivering food trays to patients during meal times at a local hospital. We found that the trays were being inspected for errors after they were already loaded. Because trays were loaded one in front of another, the inspection process required taking out the front tray in order to inspect the back tray, and then placing it back in its spot. The As-Is inspection process took approximately 2 minutes per cart. With an average of 45 carts being delivered per day, a total of 2 and a half hours were spent inspecting the carts and correcting errors. Suggesting that the nutritional services personnel conduct the inspection BEFORE loading trays into the cart reduced the daily process by 2 hours. So what value does that bring to the patient? This means that their food will not arrive cold or too early. By delivering edible food, fewer trays will be refused and patients will get the nutrients they need for a quicker recovery. Seeing first hand that even a simple improvement like this makes such a positive impact on someone’s mother, father, brother, or sister, is what made me passionate about pursuing a career, as an IE, in healthcare.

A little over 2 months ago I began an internship with another local hospital that sees 200-300 patients in the emergency department (ED) every day. With such high demand for our emergency department, there is campus-wide focus on ED Throughput, or how quickly we can get patients waiting in the emergency department seen by a doctor and admitted if need be. ED Throughput relies heavily on inpatient discharges and this is where my projects have been focused.

To some people I joke that my job is to look at numbers, but from those numbers I derive information, knowledge, and eventually wisdom. An example of information is the average turn-around times for the housekeeping staff to clean a dirty bed, or discharge cleans. This information I then turn into knowledge by analyzing the turn-around times and the number of discharge clean tasks by hour of day and day of week in comparison to the current staffing levels. By examining the staffing levels, turn-around times, and number of tasks I provide wisdom by determining the number of housekeepers needed per hour to accommodate discharge clean task demand.

As part of my job I am also responsible for populating and distributing various scorecards.  These scorecards display measures of performance for various entities in the hospital, for example, the turn-around times for the housekeepers to clean dirty beds. Other scorecards include performance metrics for: nurses complying with hourly rounding initiatives, doctor communication with patients, lab turn-around-times; the list truly goes on. It is this kind of transparency that is needed in hospitals and IEs are the experts at producing it.

What I’ve learned is that ideas for change can come from anyone in the hospital, but finding the value in a change that verifies it as an improvement is what Industrial Engineers provide. By analyzing data, Industrial Engineers implement ideas in the most effective and efficient way.

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Seminar Series at Northeastern University

I presented in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Research Seminar Series at Northeastern University on November 22nd.  I enjoyed sharing my passion for logistics modeling to a diverse audience – as the room was full of graduate students in their joint Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department.  I had a great host, Dr. Marilyn Minus, I received some inquisitive questions and feedback,  and I very much enjoyed my time interacting with their faculty and students.  I also got to spend the weekend in the beautiful city of Boston with the more-well-known Dr. Pazour.

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If you are interested, here’s the Seminar Announcement.

The Exciting World of Logistics

There has been a lot of buzz about logistics lately — more specifically, the future of logistics.  Two big stories from two big tech companies hit this week.

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The first is about Amazon testing a drone delivery system they call “Prime Air” for last-mile delivery.  The technology is still under development and has some regulation hurdles to overcome, but it is a solution to a difficult logistics feat — same hour delivery.  The idea of being able to order something one minute and a half hour later being able to enjoy that something is pretty exciting.  Of course this service wouldn’t be for all items or all customers — instead it would be focused on delivering products less than 5 pounds in urban areas in close proximity of distribution centers.  But, that would still cover my household and we order everything from Amazon.  I really mean everything: in the last month alone, we have had cases of soup, cases of cereal bars, a bobble-head doll of Walter White, toothbrush heads, hair gel, numerous CD’s, a few video games, a handful of books, printer toner, plus other essential items delivered to our door.  Just think what we would order if it would arrive in a half hour!

The second story comes from Google — who has been acquiring companies with a focus on automation and many of the applications are in supply chain and logistics.  The recent New York Times article, “Google Puts Money on Robots, Using the Man Behind Android” makes me think that Google thinks logistics is an exciting field with lots of opportunities — I do too!

Some quotes from the article:

“A realistic case, according to several specialists, would be automating portions of an existing supply chain that stretches from a factory floor to the companies that ship and deliver goods to a consumer’s doorstep.”

“The opportunity is massive,” said Andrew McAfee, a principal research scientist at the M.I.T. Center for Digital Business. “There are still people who walk around in factories and pick things up in distribution centers and work in the back rooms of grocery stores.”

Logistics is pretty cool, huh!