Value proposition - Making the impossible possible
Is it possible to lower production costs while increasing quality and supply assurance in a contract bioprocessing environment?
The answer is yes, but it's success depends on new operating principles that bypass compartmented approaches to traditional pharmaceutical manufacturing.
A case in point is the Pfizer plant in Strängnäs, Sweden, a flexible multi-product production facility that focuses on growth hormone production and contract bioprocessing services.
Shifting thinking from resource utilization to process flow
Through a Pfizer initiative called the "Value proposition" we have implemented a cross functional work team approach at our Swedish plant that constantly seeks to optimize the flow of products through the whole manufacturing process.
Our earlier, resource-focused work model was designed to optimize utilization of people, equipment, and procedures in compartmentalized functions. While that approach was familiar and comfortable, our metrics showed that time and resources used to manage function-to-function transitions could be better used for value creation.
For example, under the resource-based model the QC lab might run a specific analytical method once every two weeks. This can lead to many secondary needs like planning prioritization and complex information management. In the new flow-oriented environment, the same QC analysis is performed in real time. The secondary needs disappear, freeing up time for QC activities that create additional value and enabling product to flow continuously.
The flow model views any non-value-producing activity, such as time between processing steps or unnecessary secondary tasks, as waste. It maximizes time spent on activities that create value, including lowering costs, increasing quality, and securing supply. Employees spend more time on continuous improvements and preventative maintenance. Actively engaging quality assurance experts with the daily workflow helps minimize the risk of batch failure, rework, and equipment failure, while creating a stronger quality culture.
Making Believers of Employees and Management
Engagement of all employees has been critical to the transformation. Employees at the Strängnäs site participate in workshops to learn the principles of the flow-oriented model and adapt them to their work flow in cross-functional teams. The first workshop led to a 50% reduction in project lead times, and the facility is working toward the goal of releasing batches immediately after the last production step. In 2013, the transformation led to the implementation of over 5,000 individual improvements, more than 24 per employee.
At the same time, a new type of leadership is required to achieve full value from the model. The key idea is to trust the ability of all employees to identify waste and create solutions for improvement.
Caption: In the flow model, secondary procedures and wasted time are eliminated to free up capacity.
About the Author:
Jesper Eriksson, Ph.D., is an Operation Excellence Specialist at Pfizer's Strängnäs, Sweden bioprocessing facility. Dr. Eriksson holds Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification.