Ability to Execute

PTI hires management vet Tony Mitchell to lead operations and growth

By Steven E. Kuehn, Editor-in-Chief

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Pharma Tech Industries (PTI) is identified as the largest pharmaceutical contract manufacturer and packager of powder products in the world. The closely held private company has been serving the supply chain needs of global pharmaceutical and personal care companies for more than 40 years. Recently, PTI hired management veteran Anthony Mitchell to lead operations, naming him President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) and set him to the task of leading the company’s strategic growth and expansion into new product areas and emerging markets. 

According to PTI, in addition to helping set the company’s growth plans, Mitchell “will be charged with fostering skill set growth amidst the company’s workforce,” a job that, says the company, “is especially challenging” given PTI’s varied production environments. Certainly challenging, and a task requiring leadership if Mitchell is to keep his new team a winner. “It’s an honor to be joined with the winning team,” says Mitchell. “To me, leadership is that intangible art of accomplishing the impossible and being able to replicate it over and over and over again. We’ve accomplished a significant amount of that at Pharma Tech.”

With more than 25 years experience, the last 13 spent with Morrison Management Specialists, it’s clear Mitchell understands the DNA of highly complex manufacturing environments. To Mitchell’s mind, success in such environments really gets done by people: “There’s a quote out there that says, ‘Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders’ and I think that is a value critical to sustained growth and continued prosperity with our clients. We have to produce more leaders at Pharma Tech.” Mitchell explains that it’s imperative then to hire the right folks to complement the team. “When you’re recruiting people the difficulty is to not settle on someone that just can do,” Mitchell says. “You have to be strategically selective; you can’t just hire or promote the first person that meets the position’s requirements, you have the right person that matches your culture and your team.”

PTI recently broadened its onsite testing capabilities at its Royston, Ga., facility by finishing a new analytical laboratory for both Rx and OTC drugs. It’s also making a multi-million dollar investment to expand its Union, Mo., plant adding some 60,000 square feet to produce more ingestible powders. Like Mitchell’s hire, PTI’s facility enhancements are intended to serve growth and deliver more capacity, process throughput and quality at a competitive price to its customers. “Even though I’ve been in the industry a short time,” notes Mitchell, “what I’ve quickly gathered is that at the top of the list of needs for our clients are quality, excellent service and cost. And if we can deliver those three at a high level, then that builds the trust that everyone needs in a partner.”

Mitchell explains that whether it’s the CMO business or some other business, they all strive for what we as consumers demand in any medicine we take, and that’s quality. “So in my experience,” says Mitchell, “if you can consistently deliver quality on a long-term basis, at a high level, then your clients are going to beat their way to your door because that’s hard to deliver, all day, everyday on a long-term basis.”

Mitchell points out that PTI has attained its prominent market position developing and delivering effective solutions that help its customers meet their business goals. “Once you do that within one space your clients start to ask you what can you do in other spaces that are tangential to them,” says Mitchell. “We have very strong relationships. We have clients that right now are coming to us saying, ‘This is what we want PTI to do, how can we do it? How can we accomplish it?’” Mitchell says that because PTI has such an amazing group of people, the company is able to deliver on those R&D and development inquiries and then execute on what customers are hoping to accomplish.

But in Mitchell’s view, being responsive is only part of the equation and that to succeed a CMO needs to anticipate opportunities, especially if it involves integrating more efficient or emerging technologies into its process capabilities. Sometimes a CMO needs to get out in front of technologies and that means taking a bit of a speculative leap — his philosophy: “If you want to speculate on a technology, go buy the machine. Start to work with it, figure it out and then demonstrate that capability so that when a customer is looking to you for something innovative, you can back that up with facts and operational experience.”

As a veteran operations executive, Mitchell understands that a company’s manufacturing acumen is supported by continuous improvement and that often involves ongoing investment in production and information technologies in order to deliver on customer expectations. “Right now we’re investing in technology that will make life easier for us internally, especially managing the quality environment. Being able to invest in technology so that we can satisfy all the quality demands and stay ahead of the curve is critical. We’re quite proud of the technology landscape that we have, but we’re not settling there. We’re investing in it as we speak, and we’re looking to continue to take technology to the next level.”

As mentioned, PTI is a closely held private company and Mitchell agrees that gives the firm a bit more agility. “The beauty of being a midsize company is that you have more latitude to experiment and able to try different solutions, ones that are not as cost prohibitive as they would be for a multi-billion dollar organization with significant legacy systems.”

Certainly the ability of CMOs to stay ahead of the curve technically is important to be successful both as a business and for its customers. But to deliver on its customers’ vision, says Mitchell, “comes back to that trust.”

Mitchell says that the true imperative, the secret sauce to CMO success, is the ability to execute. “In this business it’s becoming apparent that talk is cheap, but people are more interested in ‘are you going to be able to execute, and are you going to be able to satisfy quality demands,’ and that’s important when you’re going through the transfer process. “The beauty of it is, I’m leading a winning team, one that’s been able to deliver on that reputation.”

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