A laboratory should be seen as the independent eyes of the customer certifying that the final product is suitable for their requirements. This fits perfectly into a Lean Organisation by putting responsibility onto the Plant Operators to produce quality product and avoid waste. A byproduct of this change process is the reduction in cost of a traditional Laboratory.

Traditionally the Laboratory technicians did all the testing at Intake and In Process, recorded the results and attended the production meetings which dealt with customer demand, specifications and production output. As you climb the value tree the customer specification becomes more onerous, the price per tonne increases and the pressure to allow product which is marginally outside specification through the gap increases.

If you are serious about becoming a lean organisation the Laboratory has to operate in a different way. It becomes responsible for the Calibration of Instruments, outlining the Testing Regime for Intake and Process Control which must be the responsibility of the Plant Operator. The Laboratory sets out the rules and then makes sure that the Plant Operators comply with them. That will mean random testing and monitoring the results and the action that Plant Operators take when there is a problem.

Once you get to Finished Product the bagging operation will have to take samples, do some simple testing but the samples will have to go to a central laboratory for functional testing on behalf of the customer. The Laboratory Technicians will have to maintain a sample repository for customer requirements and have a relationship with another Laboratory to send samples for compliance testing to maintain in house high standards.

The Laboratory will need a Compliance Cell which monitors and does final product testing, a Micro and Chemical Cell to do specialised testing which is required for food and medical products and an Environmental Cell dealing with EPA requirements focusing very much on the site, water and effluent treatment.