Simulating a sterilization processing department to evaluate block schedules and tray configurations


Industrial and Systems Engineering

Document Type


Publication Date



Discrete event simulation is a well-established tool for examining the effect of different operating room (OR) block schedules on various performance metrics within the OR suite and adjacent units. However, one unit that has rarely been studied is the sterilization processing department (SPD), which cleans and assembles reusable OR instruments. As part of a larger research study, we developed a series of OR block assignment models that sought to reduce the workload of the SPD and developed a tray optimization model to reduce the number of instruments on increasingly bloated instrument trays. While initial numerical experiments were promising, a comprehensive simulation model of the OR and SPD was needed to more thoroughly examine how potential changes to the block schedule and/or more efficient tray configurations could improve SPD processing times. In this article, we incorporate the SPD into an existing simulation model of an OR suite, which is the first of its kind, and examine the effect that different block schedules and tray configurations have on SPD processing times. Simulation results confirm earlier numerical computations. Furthermore, simulation results suggest that more efficient instrument tray configurations are a much better and more viable method for improving SPD processing time than reconfiguring block schedules.

Journal Title

Systems Engineering

Journal ISSN


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)