In part 1 of this series, we discussed team development and equipment selection. In part 2, we will assume that your equipment selection has been completed and that the equipment has also been vetted for your building system requirements. The next step is deciding where to place your equipment within your operational space.
The first thought would be to create a layout for process flow and efficiency. Secondary to the design flow planning would be to examine structures within your space to ensure that you can put the equipment where you want. Existing structures in walls, ceilings, and floors can create issues when trying to deploy your equipment. A case in point, placement of the sterilizers within one of my projects had us relocate where we wanted to place our sterilizers on the drawing. The issue in question was a soffit that ran across part of the department. Originally, the plan was to remove the soffit and relocate some plumbing, etc., that ran through the soffit. Upon further review, the soffit was in place because above the department was an auditorium and the floor's pitch created the need for the soffit. Obviously, the soffit would have to stay, and we would need to go back to the drawing board—exam in detail every inch of the location where you want to place your equipment. A slight movement of your equipment can cause flow issues, the incapacity to place other equipment where you want them, and possibly access issues to the equipment when repairs are needed. Using a linear pathway will reduce output steps. Think Lean!
Once you have settled on your equipment locations, you will need to design the operational flow for your department. To a certain degree, you would have already designed the major parts of your throughput design by placing your equipment. Now, you will need to settle on where to locate your miscellaneous pieces of equipment and the support systems for them. This is a critical step in your process. Ill-placed supporting structures can cause redundancy in the work process, which creates inefficiencies. I recommend placing your supporting structures, such as sinks, ultrasonics, HLD devices, workstations, storage carts, etc., on your drawing and reviewing your workflow using a spaghetti diagram. Work through each process of receiving inputs from various departments to see how your staff will manage them in your designed environment. Remove redundant steps in your design. As another recommendation, make sure you choose ergonomically designed equipment. Sinks and workstations should be able to be adjusted to meet the needs of your staff members.
In the next part, I will discuss the selection of supporting equipment for your department and how to design supporting systems within your workspace. We will also talk about supporting systems such as HVAC placement and lighting within the department.
This blog series is intended to be a synopsis of my thoughts relating to my career and my experiences of the last 38 years in sterile processing. That being said, this blog content will be a multipart series because of the length and depth of the content I will cover. As a sterile processing manager, I have been blessed with the opportunity to help design multiple sterile process departments, ambulatory reprocessing areas, GI reprocessing areas, and some outpatient medical reprocessing areas. My goal is to impart some of the knowledge I gained from participating in these projects. Come back next week for more discussion.