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Members of the Optical Lab Surface department at Kaiser Permanente Sunnyside Medical Center. The team reduced the frequency of scratches to eyeglass lenses during the preparation process.

Technicians Turned Detectives Conquer Swirl of Scratches

A Northwest team of optical lab techs saw a surge in scratches to eyeglass lenses they prepare for Kaiser Permanente members. The scratches are called "swirls." They can occur when high-speed machinery rubs the lenses in a circular motion to "grind" them to their proper width and curvature and polish them to crystal clarity. But no one could explain the sudden rise in broken lenses. After weeks of inquiry, the team uncovered the problem: wear and tear on machinery was leaving microscopic metal fragments in liquid used for lens polishing. So, they modified worker procedures and increased the frequency of machine maintenance. The result: They reduced swirls by 94% in the first 4 months of 2023. That success continues. The team reduced swirl damage from a monthly cost of $525 to $31 for a projected annual savings of $6,000.

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Here's What Worked

  • Expanding training of technicians to ensure everyone follows procedure
  • Looking closely to detect problems in preparing eyeglass lenses
  • Increasing maintenance of machine parts
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