A story of Israel's MDA Blood Bank

From Eitan Burcat
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A few months ago I've invited Israel's Blood Bank to "collect blood" at my workplace, where 30 volunteers signed up in advance to donate blood. The MDA team was very polite, professional and attentive. But, I did found a way for them to be more efficient. I estimate they could take blood from at least 30% more people than they did take blood from - using the same amount of resources, no additional money and in the same time.

A couple of assumptions

  • There were more people willing to donate blood at our office than people who actually eventually donated blood. I'm pretty sure that's the case. There was a line of people standing around the bloodmobile the whole day, and some people didn't donate in the end of the day.
  • They need more blood. I'm pretty sure of that as well. As a member of the blood donation organization, it's a "known thing" that there's a constant shortage of blood in Israel.
  • I'm pretty sure, and this can be tested - that if the 2 staff members work at 100% capacity - they still have some free time on their hands. They, as a "resource" (gosh I hate to treat people as resources) - are not the bottleneck of the whole operation.

What did I observe

  • The team that operated the blood donations vehicle has to take care of a lot of stuff - operating the actual blood donation part, signing people up, verifying forms, keeping an eye on beds with 2 people in them, keeping an eye on a person resting after a blood donation, answering phone calls, answering questions, taking care of drinks and cookies, and probably much more things I'm not aware of.
  • There are 2 people in the team - which is quite enough to take care of things.
  • Seems like the 2 beds in the blood donation vehicle are the bottleneck of the whole operation. The line of people waiting - is formed near the beds - waiting for a bed to clear. People were not waiting for a staff member to attend them, nor for anything else - they were waiting for a bed to clear.
  • The staff is taking small rests, answer the phone, and take care of administrative stuff - while the bottleneck is not being used.

The suggestion

  • Observing that the bed is the bottleneck of the process - we want to optimize its use. All we have to do is make sure that the switch between 2 people lying on the bed - is done in an efficient way. And all we have to ask the operators to pay attention to - is not to do anything else when they are switching people in the beds. Not answer the phone, or organize papers, or answer questions for people way up the line. Just pay attention to the people doing the switch, and make sure it passes safely and smoothly as possible.
  • Optimizing the bottleneck, now, everything else will take care of itself.

What did I do about it

  • I emailed the organizer of our donation day, she forwarded my email to the heads of the blood donation operation.
  • In a few months I want to call them again, see if anything got changed.
  • I'm thinking of a better way to demonstrate how a big improvement is really easy to achieve.

Resources

  • Theory of Constraints, and specifically the book "The Goal" by Eliyahu Goldrat