Pharmaceutical industry struggling to get lean results

RP news wires, Noria Corporation
Tags: lean manufacturing

Despite its huge popularity in the automotive and high-tech industries, lean manufacturing hasn't experienced the same high success rate in the pharmaceuticals industry, where complex process manufacturing processes are used. This is according to the results of a recent survey of more than 1,500 pharmaceutical manufacturers conducted by Invistics, a developer of manufacturing performance optimization solutions for complex, asset-intensive industries.


The recently conducted 2006 survey showed that while more than half of the respondents said their companies have implemented lean, Six Sigma or Operational Excellence, less than half of those lean initiatives have produced satisfactory results. This is due to the fundamental complexities of the pharmaceutical manufacturing process, which produce challenges not found in simple high-volume manufacturing plants that can dedicate production equipment to specific product lines, such as automobiles and computers.


These findings are in alignment with a recent statement from AMR Analyst Colin Masson. In a recent report, he wrote, "The process industry lags in the adoption of lean practices across the board primarily because the lean techniques popularized by the Toyota Production System (TPS) can be difficult to implement in the shared equipment, high product mix, and highly volatile demand scenarios they face." ("Demand-Driven Manufacturing: The (Potential) Rise of Lean," Colin Masson, AMR Research, June 8, 2006).


According to Invistics president and CEO Scott Geller, "Many companies in industries that traditionally haven't applied lean and Six Sigma are now trying to benefit from these techniques and they are learning that it is not as straightforward as they expected it to be. The good news is that new approaches helping to ensure sustained success are emerging, along with software solutions that apply Lean principles to the reality of shared equipment and product proliferation found in complex batch processes and packaging options."

Invistics MachSix software enables pharmaceutical makers to hit increasingly aggressive inventory and cycle time targets, while achieving maximum throughput and extremely high service levels. Based on proven techniques like lean manufacturing and Six Sigma, Invistics' MachSix methodology and software extend traditional lean manufacturing via next generation flow techniques like CONWIP to help plant managers identify and control variability in products, processes and demand by pinpointing immediate problems and generating scenarios for continuous improvement.

For one of Bristol-Myers Squibb's manufacturing facilities that applies lean methodologies, deploying Invistics MachSix software and focusing on team-building produced dramatic results. Cycle times were slashed by 80 percent, work-in-progress (WIP) was reduced by 75 percent, inventory turns increased fivefold, employee productivity doubled (output per employee hour) since the 1990s, and first-pass quality rose to 95 percent in the last three years despite a significant increase in product variability.

As a thought-leading provider of lean manufacturing software solutions, Invistics has a clear view of the challenges pharmaceutical, consumer packaged goods and other batch process manufacturers face when implementing Lean practices on the factory floor. The company has developed a white paper to help process manufacturing executives and plant managers improve performance and profit margins by applying Lean techniques modified for complex, highly variable and asset-intensive environments.

The paper, entitled "Processing Lean: Modifying Traditional Techniques for Complex Environments," can be downloaded free at

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