Our company is, like many in publishing, attempting to come to grips with newer media (although it's not really new anymore). There's just one problem with multimedia, in our case. Few things inspire more fear in pharma types than the prospect of being videotaped, or having some portion of a pharma facility----even the changing room--- videotaped. We were happy to have received approval recently to interview one leading pharma executive---approval that was granted weeks ahead, only to have him back out right before the scheduled slot (and then keep us waiting for 40 minutes). Our producer had travelled long and far to tape this nonevent. We pride ourselves on being impartial and fair, and critical when it's called for, but we're not deluded into thinking that we're more than a pharma industry trade magazine. You'd have thought we were the "60 Minutes" crew. His P.R. people insisted that he needed more rehearsals and preparation. An opportunity was lost, and not just by us. So we won't even discuss the idea of doing on-the-floor videotapes , like several of the IT and technology magazines do, of people working within pharma plants. We all know that industrial spies have gone undercover and videoed trade secrets at plants that have included Amgen's. Our plan? To videotape people on the shop floor, under extremely controlled circumstances, to give some insights into their jobs and how they were coping with QbD, PAT, Lean, Six Sigma and all the rest. We're not giving up. We all enjoy plant tours and interviews, but, so far, the only critical glimpses we have of life on the shop floor come from "insiders"...such as the blogger behind "Pharma Giles." I don't know whether he's continuing this blog, especially since he's no longer working in the pharma industry, but here is a note from his other blog, which shows that he's actually worked in plants and in what I'm guessing to be process development. He's critical of automation, but one can also interpret this as saying that pharma has failed to use automation fully... Here's hoping that more pharma types become a bit more open about communicating in new formats---or any formats--- (and, until that happens, that more insiders write about what goes on). ..."Who are all of these little men and why do they all look the same?" asked Charlie. "What little men?" replied Bonkas. Only then did he seem to realise to whom Charlie was referring, as if they had otherwise been invisible to him. "Oh, those. They're just the Process Technicians. Likeitorlumpits we call them". Charlie was a bit taken aback. "Isn't that the job you're going to be interviewing me for?" he asked. "I don't look anything like them and I'm much taller than four feet high". "Oh, give it a few months and you'll be just like one of them" replied Bonkas airily. "The job soon cuts you down to size. Can't have big folk with Big Ideas on the shop floor after all, can we? Our Big Ideas Person would get most upset and I'm sure you can appreciate what problems that would cause, can't you?" Charlie thought about this. "I'm not sure I want to be cut down to size", said Charlie after a while. "Not like that, anyway". Barry Bonkas looked surprised. "Don't you want to work here then?" he asked in a puzzled voice. "Wonderful salary, a secure job, lots of additional benefits and a month's paid holiday every year. What's so special about being tall and having your own identity compared to that? You'll soon get used to it. And if you don't, well"¦.that's why we call them the Likeitorlumpits. There's lots of folk out there who can replace you at the drop of a hat if you don't like the job"... ..."Barry Bonkas was chattering away, boasting about how much the building had cost (over a hundred and fifty million dollars!) and how they were constantly buying and testing new equipment to ensure that it remained "state of the art". Charlie wasn't really listening. He was fascinated by the Likeitorlumpits and the skilful way they were able to sustain an illusion of industry whilst actually expending very little physical effort. Bonkas started talking about how automation of the building had made operations more efficient. Charlie interrupted him. "Excuse me, Dr. Bonkas" he said, "but if computerisation of the equipment has made it more efficient, why are there so many Likeitorlumpits looking after it?" The question seemed to take Barry Bonkas by surprise. "Ah, well, er"¦"¦it's vital that optimal conditions for the manufacturing process are maintained throughout the process cycle. The computer controls are very sensitive to variation in conditions. The Likeitorlumpits ensure that conditions are maintained that are within the computer response parameters", replied Bonkas, although not with his previous air of authority. Charlie puzzled over the answer. "So what you're saying is that the computer will control the processes only if the Likeitorlumpits make sure that the processes can be controlled by the computer?" "Er, yes. Exactly" answered Bonkas, although he didn't seem too sure. "So why not get rid of the computers and just let the Likeitorlumpits run the processes?" asked Charlie. "You know, cut out the middle man. Or robot, in this case""¦ Bonkas frowned. "Because that wouldn't be Progress, would it?" he snapped. "We wouldn't have needed to spend a hundred and fifty million dollars, trebled the Pilot Plant headcount and employed lots of expensive contract and maintenance staff, if we were just going to carry on doing things the way we did five years ago. We wanted to have a State Of The Art Facility, just like our competitors have, and that's what we've got. Very good for Company Prestige, brand new State Of The Art Facilities are. Good to show Senior Management and other VIPs around. Helps us get Noticed. Let's us carry on funding Big Ideas. Have to keep up with New Technology, after all"¦" "So are you making more products now you have all this New Technology?" asked Charlie. "No," said Bonkas, "but that's not the point. Ask a lot of questions, don't you?" "I'm just interested", Charlie replied mildly. Bonkas looked at him strangely. "Good", he said after a few seconds. "Come on, I'll show you where we filter off our products from these mixing tanks".