Bringing the Outside In – When a Pharma Factory is Needed in the Future Part 2

This article was originally published in the March April issue of Pharmaceutical Engineering® magazine. Catch up on this series by reading:

"When a factory is needed in the future, what could it look like, and how should we think and work differently to build it?"
Roger Connor
Roger Connor
President Global Manufacturing Supply

This is a question that Roger Connor, President, Global Manufacturing Supply, GlaxoSmithKline, considers frequently. I had the privilege of meeting him during the ISPE 2017 Annual Meeting & Expo. This is an abridged and edited version of our conversation.

What is it that they bring to the table, in terms of values and traits, that bodes well for the future and future hiring?

They come in to the sector with a real hunger for continuous improvement. They believe that everyone has a responsibility to create value every day, whether it is to make a product safer or make it cheaper. I love that infectious desire to improve.

When managing a global operation, do you look at it as a whole or as a series of necessarily diverse parts that address distinct needs across geographies? Is a holistic vision possible?

I look at both. There are elements, I believe, in an organization our size that need to be looked at holistically. For example, you want everyone to buy into your mission and goals as a global company. And everybody needs to understand the important role they personally play.

On the other hand, within our global manufacturing organization (I have more than 70 factories and 30,000 employees), we have quite specific skills, competencies, and disciplines that are essential to our operating environment. Our people need to engage fully with these. They also need to feel they can influence their immediate work area to make things better. And you have to let that happen.

So it’s a mixture: You set some very clear global rules and standards, and then, within that framework, let the positive aspects of local culture shine through.

In a complex operational environment, how do you make compliance easier for employees?

We ensure compliance through our training, our procedures, our oversight, and our process design. All these things add up to creating a compliance-based culture. But we have to make it easier for people to do the right thing every time. That starts with simplifying our SOPs (standard operating procedures). They can be complex, not visual enough. I want them to be incredibly intuitive for our operators, so there’s no room for misinterpretation or omissions. Equipment design and technology can also help here. We need to hardwire the right way of working into our machinery to reduce the scope for operator error.

What is needed for sustainable manufacturing to become embedded in an organization’s overall culture and management?

I think this goes back to a continuous improvement culture and really asking yourself each day, whether as a leader or an individual: "What have I learned? And tomorrow, what will I do better?"

We have tried and, I think, have successfully created a "production system" environment at GSK, a defined way for our teams to operate, inspired by the automotive industry. We’re in year six of fostering that production system mindset across the organization. I think sustainable manufacturing depends on creating this environment—one where teams manage their own performance, solve problems together, and learn from their mistakes. You need standard ways of working—for leaders and operators—to make this work. The result is a very powerful dynamic that delivers sustained performance improvement.

It’s a long-term process.

It’s a gradual process. It’s easy to issue instructions and standards. You can do that in weeks. But to inspire people—head and heart—they need to understand and buy into the vision and what you want them to do. This starts with identifying the "change agents" within your facilities—influential individuals who get it and can bring people with them.

What are the benefits for patients?

First, the quality of the product continues to improve. Second, patients can rely on you to keep your products in supply. The third is competitiveness: You drive the cost of goods down for your products and they become more affordable.

Patient benefit is a big motivator for me and the people in my organization. We talk a lot about the person at the end of our supply chain.

The ISPE Annual Meeting & Expo brings together key international thought leaders for our biggest event of the year. Register for four days of world-class education, as we explore our 2018 theme: Vision to Reality: Delivering Next Generation Therapies. 

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