Automation and Process Re-Engineering are Required to Achieve Six-Sigma Quality: Our 27-Year History of Continuous Improvement


This lecture reviews the progress of ARUP Laboratories over a 27 year period to improve the incidence of lost specimens. This effort culminated in reaching Six-Sigma quality, making ARUP the first US clinical lab to achieve this level for any metric, whether analytical or non-analytical. A combination of eight automation stages and 19 process improvement/ engineering control steps enabled this improvement.

Originally published on February 7, 2019

Lecture Presenter

Charles D. Hawker, PhD, MBA, FACSc, FAACC

Charles D. Hawker, PhD, MBA, FACSc, FAACC

Scientific Director, Automation and Special Projects (Retired)
ARUP Laboratories
Professor (Adjunct) of Pathology
University of Utah, School of Medicine

Dr. Charles Hawker has retired as Scientific Director for Automation and Special Projects at ARUP, where he was employed for 26 years. Dr. Hawker was also Professor (Adjunct) of Pathology in the University of Utah, School of Medicine. He is a past president of the Association of Clinical Scientists and the National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry (NACB). He has received numerous awards including the AACC’s highest award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine. He is the author or co-author of 46 reviewed published papers, 49 abstracts, and 16 invited reviews or book chapters including chapters on automation in three editions of the Tietz Textbook of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics and three editions of the Tietz Fundamentals of Clinical Chemistry and Molecular Diagnostics. At ARUP he has installed several major automation and robotic systems that have made ARUP one of the country’s most automated laboratories and the first US clinical laboratory to achieve Six Sigma quality in any metric.


After this presentation, participants will be able to:

  • Define various process improvement actions and describe how they impact non-analytic quality metrics.
  • Describe the role of automation in improving non-analytic quality.
  • List three activities to improve non-analytic quality in the participant’s own laboratory.

Sponsored by:

University of Utah School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, and ARUP Laboratories