A: During your undergraduate period, become familiar with business operations and particularly finance. It is doubtful that your school has any undergraduate courses in health care finance, but check with the school of public health or an equivalent. You want to know enough about the “business of the business,” regardless of what career you pursue.
If your intent is to get into administration or management rather than industrial or management engineering, then stay toward the management-type courses, such as strategic planning, human resources or maybe even marketing (though this is not as important in health care). If management engineering within hospitals is your goal, focus on process analysis, simulation and other methodologies for systems analytics. If you have a public health department or something similar, ask about taking some of their classes in health care finance, health care systems, planning and other intro classes. Having just finished a master’s degree, these kinds of classes should be a breeze for a good IE (Don’t tell them I said that!).
A: The number of trays you are trying to address at one time may be contributing to the complexity (assuming that the 900 current tray setups represent all types of surgical procedures).
Have you thought about breaking down or categorizing the types of trays by surgical specialty? That is, look at only the eye cases, ortho cases, general surgery cases, neuro cases, etc. My sense is that you would never be able to standardize ortho tray instruments with eye instruments. If you can do your analysis within subgroups, it may be more manageable. This would allow you to look for the common instruments for hip or knee cases versus all cases.Surgeon-to-surgeon variation for the same cases would become very obvious assuming you have some tray setups unique to each surgeon.
I would also recommend doing an 80/20 analysis on the frequency of trays being used. What types of cases or trays are being used most frequently? Perhaps you can limit your analysis to that subset to start with, as well.