Swedish is known for its room-service programs and the new Issaquah campus gave it a chance to leverage that experience in the design of its new hospital kitchen.
A main goal was “to produce a one piece flow so staff didn't have to do re-work,” says Swedish Nutrition Services Director Candace Johnson. “We designed the line to minimize wasted steps and labor and to be ergonomically appropriate regardless of the height of the line staffer.”
The entire room service line is one piece, with no moving carts or tables, allowing trays to slide easily from start to finish, only being lifted once, when they are placed on a delivery cart. In use, a ticket prints at the beginning of the line, while hot and cold components of the order appear separately on LCD screens on the line's other side, where kitchen staff prepare them.
During busy periods, when a hot item that takes several minutes to prepare comes up, cooks can press a “hot button” that tells them how many identical items are in the queue, so all can be initiated at once.
Trays are assembled from cold to hot, with slide-fed cooler access doors at the end of the line where cold beverages and condiments are added (the cooler is stocked from inside, helping assure efficent stock rotation). A hot beverage station is also there, so a completely assembled tray can then be lifted once, directly to a delivery cart, and rolled out an exit door to an elevator that serves all floors of the hospital.
Soiled trays from earlier service are brought back down on the server's return, but are taken in a separate door to the ware-washing area. The server then washes up using the automated handwashing system and in a few steps is then again at the beginning of the circular workflow.
Initially, the system has been set up with china serviceware, including plates with domes rather than traditional heat-holding bases and lids. “We are testing this approach because we wanted to have a more elegant look and also lighten the trays,” says Johnson. “It would not work for larger campuses.”
Overall, “the lesson is: touch everything once, load it without extra steps, and deliver it quickly.”