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OM in the News: Business Students Find Real World Applications for OM Topics

February 7, 2016

dnaCrime-scene DNA is processed three weeks faster at a state forensic laboratory thanks to internship work by recent Washington State University graduate Kristina Hoffman, writes WSU News (Feb. 3, 2016). A forensic scientist with the Washington State Patrol, she applied “lean” business management practices that resulted in a 26% increase in productivity, $5,200 savings on overtime pay, and reduction in the average turnaround time for processing DNA samples from 93 days to 71.

“The importance and impact are immediately translatable to the public at large,” said the director of the WSU degree program. A DNA sample could help identify a serial criminal who would be arrested 3 weeks sooner, thus making communities safer. Alternately, if you were a suspect in jail awaiting DNA analysis, you time in jail would be shortened by 3 weeks,” she said.


For her internship, Hoffman sought to reduce the delay in DNA sample processing by applying the principles of lean management, the topic of Chapter 16, which systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality. She enrolled in Lean Agility, one of the WSU professional science master’s courses. At the State Patrol, she incorporated lean principles into various aspects of the workflow, from DNA case assignment to sample analysis to sample result reporting.

In the Lean Agility class, adds our new coauthor, Chuck Munson at WSU, students learn how to minimize problems and maximize productivity. They use statistical and logical techniques to identify and deliver improvements in production and operations management.

Classroom discussion questions:

  1. Ask students for ideas as to how lean could be used in companies they know.
  2. What are some areas in which lean could be applied at your college?
2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2016 5:16 am

    Should you really talk about this as a ‘Lean’ project? Even using ten year old technology, the test takes only three days. Even if you have a slow process for bagging, tagging and shipping, you are still talking about ten times as long as it should take. Maybe this should be part of the discussion. Why are you celebrating such a minor improvements to a process that should take less than a week? Just an old lean guy with 40 years on the job… Still enjoy the posts.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. February 8, 2016 2:04 pm

    Thank you for reading our blog and for your discussion post. While we often provide world-class examples of Lean implementations in this forum, that was not our purpose for this particular posting. As the primary audience of our blog is educators of Operations Management, we thought that many of our readers would enjoy hearing about a non-business/non-engineering student who took a class on Lean techniques that our Lean professionals have helped perfect for decades and applied some of them to her job to make improvements. Of course, one of the most important mantras of Lean is continuous improvement, and as you point out, that particular lab may still have a ways to go. Nevertheless, there is pretty much nothing more satisfying to an educator than to see his or her students apply what they’ve learned in school to make improvements to their workplace or society at large. In fact, if only all of our millions of students who have learned about Lean over the years would have done what this student did, the world would be a much Leaner place today!

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