Real Lean Transformation

Breaking Barriers in Pharma – How Lean processes help Information flow between Departments

Working as a consultant for different pharmaceutical companies I have come across some interesting examples of how “walls” between departments and between companies affect operations. One complaint you often hear within the industry is that of poor communication between the Manufacturing Department (who manufacture the product) and the Quality Department (who Inspect, test and release the product). I came across one particularly poor example of this last year.

As manufactured product arrived to the Quality Department, Quality personnel would manually type all of the product information into their own separate Laboratory Information Management System – “LIMS”, even though this information already exists in the Manufacturing ERP system. This is clearly non value add, duplication of effort. It also slows down the overall throughput time as testing and inspection cannot begin until this information is in the Quality Departments “LIMS” IT system.

Thankfully this is becoming less and less common as companies strive to get their different IT systems talking to each other. It is now much more common for the Quality Department to simply scan a product barcode and immediately have all the information automatically populate in their IT system directly from the Manufacturing ERP system.

I have also come across some good examples of breaking down walls in the supply chain between companies. Most pharma companies will purchase their raw ingredients from supplier companies, for example Calcium Carbonate is a common raw material used in most tablet manufacturing processes. However the ingredients must be tested to ensure that they measure up to a certain quality standard and are pure enough to be used in pharmaceutical manufacturing. But due to walls between supplier and customer companies, all too often this results in the ingredients being tested twice – once by the supplier and again by the customer.

However many companies are now partnering with their suppliers and accepting raw materials based on the suppliers certificate of analysis – i.e. the testing is performed once at the supplier’s site and their results are accepted by the customer. This cuts huge cost and time out of the supply chain for the end customer. It can often take weeks to complete this testing so eliminating it immediately reduces the overall through put time for the supply chain. Furthermore it reduces costs as now less people are required to test the materials.

I believe that there are opportunities for further improvement in this area though. As yet I have not seen supplier and customer IT systems directly communicate with each other. All supplier results are sent to the customer (usually in paper form) and reviewed by the customer against their own specifications. Cleary the next step here would be to have the supplier results automatically populate in the customers ERP system which would automatically flag or reject when the results do not meet specification. This could even be done before the supplier ships the Ingredient, thereby eliminating returns and further decreasing costs.

At BSM we’ve developed true Real Lean solutions in almost every Life Science environment. Talk to us and we’ll help you to deliver real improvements in your department’s performance.

This blog post was written by Andrew Harte, Director of North American Operations at BSM. If you would like further information on Integrating Processes in Pharma please send an e-mail to Andrew Harte