Similar to many Vermont businesses, BioTek Instruments, Inc. faces significant business constraints including aggressive international competition, increasing material and labor costs as well as a shortage of adequate labor. However these issues have not kept BioTek from growing and becoming successful. While attempting to address these issues, BioTek has also looked internally to continuously improve its operations so that it can pursue world class performance for its world class products.BioTek’s President Briar Alpert routinely asks department leaders to incorporate Lean business techniques into their annual strategy. Looking to respond with a focused solution, Marketing and Sales Operations Manager Deborah Farnham decided to contact Sean Jordan at Grasp The Situation, LLC (GTS) about implementing Lean in her department. After some discussion about the challenges and opportunities within the Customer Care team, it was clear the development of good problem solving skills would be the best next step for the department. Problem Solving was the appropriate next step because the team already had some Continuous Improvement/Lean awareness training and really needed to learn one of the keystones of significant sustainable improvement: Problem Solving said Jordan. The Customer Care team has a lot of experience and is very passionate about the success of BioTek. The team also has a lot of projects going on at one time and looks to solve problems quickly. According to Jordan, an overwhelming amount of businesses focus on the rapid solution to a problem for short term results without investing the effort to truly understand the problem for sustainable results.So GTS designed a series of short sessions that would fit into the team’s packed schedule to teach and practice the eight step PDCA problem solving method. The team developed skills for identifying the root cause of problems, creating standards and monitoring the implementation of solutions. Even though the sessions were designed for education and skill enhancement some team members went ahead and solved existing business problems. In between the training sessions, a team member used her skills to reveal the root cause of a problem and save BioTek from expending resources on the wrong solution. According to Farnham, Working with GTS was amazing. The GTS team quickly grasped key concepts and concerns of our Customer Care team, translated those issues into workable problem statements, and helped us move forward with practical solutions. They never gave us the answer but helped us to formulate what was right for us, for our culture, and for our company. They gave us the skills we need to do this on our own. Now that the Customer Care team has developed additional skills for creating and sustaining improvements, they will be able to challenge other BioTek departments as the leader for improvement. Since our sessions with GTS, we frequently refer to our developing problem solving skills and how we can make continuous improvement. Its a theme in our department and one that we try to practice on the seemingly smallest of issues to the more significant projects. Our Customer Care staff has an average tenure here at BioTek of 15.5 years. Theyre a knowledgeable group but always ready to make improvements in their jobs and our service to our customers said Farnham. One department that often leads the drive for improvement is manufacturing. As expected, BioTek’s President called upon the manufacturing area to deliver more results.Due to increased customer demand for a product line, Manufacturing Manager Deanie Dimick asked a manufacturing team to identify further improvements to one of the production areas. Sean Jordan from GTS worked with Dimicks team to review the current process, analyze the roadblocks to further improvement, and create the solutions to remove the roadblocks. Even though the technique used to facilitate the analysis by Jordan was Value Stream Mapping, he tends to refer to project as problem solving on a large scale. Essentially, the big problem was further improvements in delivery performance for a product which quickly revealed several smaller problems that needed to be solved. With support and the willingness to experiment, the team created a plan to implement several solutions that would remove the roadblocks to success said Jordan. However implementing proposed solutions was not enough. In order to sustain the solutions as well as address unresolved problems, the team needed to create a check and act schedule. By meeting on a regular basis, the team could address the status and results of their implementation.Before the team finished their value stream mapping session with GTS, they documented their target. The team believed they could achieve the following results in six months: 20% increase in weekly production capacity; reduce lead time by 50%; as well as achieve a 10% jump in on-time delivery. As the weeks and months passed, team members kept up with daily production requirements while trying to implement their changes. When the six month deadline arrived, the team was able to say they achieved their targets and created further improvements for their customers. Yet the team doesn’t get too much time to rest on its success, because they are already looking at improving another production area.BioTek Instruments, Inc., headquartered in Winooski, VT, is a worldwide leader in the design, manufacture, and sale of microplate instrumentation and software. The BioTek Instruments, Inc. instrumentation is used to accelerate the drug discovery process, to advance discoveries in genomics and proteomics, and to aid in the advancement of life science research.Grasp The Situation, LLC, is located in Essex, VT and provides coaching, training, implementation and technical assistance to local, regional and national organizations looking to improve their business performance.