Lean Takes On Cancer
Probably the most important automotive development of the year is occurring right now in Cologne, Germany, and it isn’t related to a new car or truck or crossover, but cancer treatment.
Yes, that six-letter word.
Mike Butler, a quality director at the Ford assembly plant in Cologne, was diagnosed with colon cancer and underwent treatment at the Center for Integrated Oncology (CIO) at the University Hospital of Cologne.
Butler said: “I spent five years in treatment rooms and thought about how I could make life easier for patients.”
Anyone who has spent a fraction of that time in treatment rooms knows how things aren’t typically easy, even with the best intentions of those who are providing care and treatment.
“There was a real lightbulb moment,” Butler continued, “when I realized that many of the systems that ensure car plants run smoothly could be applied to the hospital. Now there is an ideas exchange that is benefitting patients today, and could also help the way we move tomorrow. The more we work together the more synergies we find between our work at Ford and the challenges faced in cancer research.”
Ford engineers met with doctors, nurses, administrators, and patients at the hospital and as a result they’ve helped create some of the characteristics that are common in auto plants, taking into account principles associated with lean and agile manufacturing, such as providing high visibility of work to be done and the ability to reconfigure workspaces as needed.
Butler’s reference to how Ford is getting help regarding “the way we move tomorrow” is based on the fact that at the CIO they’re doing extensive research on cancer that is utilizing big data; this methodology, Butler said, can be beneficial as Ford works toward creating autonomous vehicles.
And these automotive practices being employed at the facility are working.
According to Prof. Dr. Michael Hallek, the director of the CIO, “With Ford’s help, we are making huge improvements that will benefit the lives and treatment of future patients for years to come. And hopefully, some of our methods of doing things will help Ford to develop what mobility might look like in the future.”
What’s more important: Michael Butler’s cancer is in remission.
Here’s hoping that automotive lean and agile practitioners everywhere help their local medical facilities to become as smoothly running as their manufacturing plants are—and that the quality outcomes are even better.
Prof. Dr. Michael Hallek and Michael Bulter: the hospital meets the factory