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Excellence in Action: The Legacy goes Lean to improve resident food service

Excellence in Action: The Legacy goes Lean to improve resident food service

Food is very important to all of us. We must eat to survive, but food and meals are much more than that, they help to connect with family and friends, make and keep memories, and enjoy life. It’s no different for the residents of The Legacy Living and Rehabilitation Center in Gillette, Wyoming. In fact, meals are the most important part of the day for many of these folks. So when it was taking too long to serve meals to the residents, when mistakes were made in serving the right food to the right resident, something needed to change.

The Legacy and Campbell County Health were chosen by Toyota Production System Support Center (TSSC) for a Lean project that began last November. TSSC is a separate nonprofit part of Toyota, the vehicle company. Lean is a way of looking at a process, in this case, the process of preparing and serving meals at The Legacy, in order to reduce waste. In the Lean world, waste can be time, materials, or anything that doesn’t add value to the process.

It was taking too long to serve the 500-plus meals a day needed at The Legacy, an average of 72 minutes for the test neighborhood, Birch. It took up to five nurses to assist in the meal service too, taking time away from caring for other residents. The project goal was to reduce the time it took to serve meals, thereby improving both the quality of the food and the satisfaction of the residents.

Many hours of live time measurement, observation and analysis of how food was prepared and served resulted in changes with how every part of the food preparation and service process worked. A few of the many changes were: to standardize the community kitchens in each neighborhood; holding a 5-minute “huddle” before every meal service so everyone is on the same page; standardizing and restructuring resident meal cards (like menus) so they are easier to read; and changing the food scheduling process for staff.

Though the changes may seem relatively small, the project has resulted in some significant reductions in the time it takes to serve meals in the Birch neighborhood. “We have been able to serve our residents an average of 20 minutes faster for dinner,” says Nutrition Services Manager Lisa Miller. “And the perception of the food quality has gone from 15.6 percent to 81 percent.”

Not only is this great for the residents, but we’ve recognized that we can use Lean to develop better ways to do things.”

“The residents’ perception of the quality of food has improved from a rating of 23% Always to 71% Always,” said Mary Barks, Resident and Family Relations Coordinator. “The residents, families and staff have told us the system we have developed is more organized, food is hot, and residents are happier with the quality of the food.”

In order to sustain all the changes they’ve made, staff have created a manual of the steps they used to measure, monitor and implement their improvements. Coaching helps ensure the process continues and it’s also used to train new employees.