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Using Lean Tools to Identify Inefficiencies in IHC Processing

The Leica Biosystems Process and Solutions Optimization team partnered with a medical university to examine how to optimize their  IHC  lab. Laboratory leadership is interested in gaining efficiencies in the immunohistochemistry and special stain lab as volumes increase. The Process and Solutions Optimization team identified some ways to help this laboratory recognize and overcome areas where inefficiencies have hindered their ability to increase capacity.

Using Lean Tools to Identify Inefficiencies in IHC Processing

As Figure 1 shows, there are myriad steps found in the special stain/ IHC  lab. The divergent work paths reflect the number of independent processes performed by, generally, two technicians. Many of the processes are manual and involve slide sorting, hand writing, and recopying information on paper. For a run of 149 total slides, 42 minutes was spent organizing information to prepare the run.

As seen in Figure 2, by eliminating the hand-writing, paper, and relabeling, the complexity of processing the slides is greatly reduced.

Using Lean Tools to Identify Inefficiencies in IHC Processing


  • By reducing handwriting and paper, along with utilizing a single platform  IHC  system, the hands-on tech time was reduced by 40% with current processes (from 52 minutes to 31 minutes).
  • By eliminating additional waste steps such as double (or triple) labeling, the hands-on tech time was further reduced another 21 minutes bringing the total hands-on time to 10 minutes, an 81% reduction in hands-on tech time.

Projections and Realized Results are specific to the institution where they were obtained and may not reflect the results achievable at other institutions.

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