Merck, Wyeth are top Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Teams of the Year

MedalsSome advance notice, before our press release goes out: Merck's MPS team in Arecibo, Puerto Rico and Wyeth Consumer Health Care's "Excellence in Operations" team in Pearl River, N.Y. have tied for 2006 Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Team of the Year. Wyeth's teams in Aprilia, Italy won the silver award, and Wyeth's Contractor Performance Management (CPM) team in Pennsylvania, the bronze. Winning the special "Catalyst" award, for advancing the science behind drug manufacturing is Pfizer's CPAT team. "All of these teams have done admirable work. Each has made a genuine contribution within a framework of systematic change," said Gwendolyn Galsworth, an expert on workplace visuality, and a Baldrige and Shingo prize examiner who won a Shingo this year for her book, "The Visual Workplace." Winning teams face the same challenges that drug manufacturing teams everywhere face today. Each one of them shows how technology and business practices are redefining teams: Wyeth's CPM team and Pfizer's CPAT team are both "virtual" teams, with Pfizer's team mates based in the U.S., U.K. and Singapore. And, reflecting the increase in "outsourcing," Wyeth team's focus is on optimizing contractor performance. At first glance, one might consider rewarding teams for improved performance both trivial and obvious. After all, isn't "doing more with less" part of everyone's job today? Well, any of you who are familiar with Lean Manufacturing know that it is very difficult, at first, particularly in a highly regulated drug manufacturing environment. It requires flexibility and versatility, as well as a radical culture change. It also calls for inspiring leaders, who, in turn, bring out the leadership potential of those working on the front lines, on the plant floor and in the lab. The fact is that the drug industry, despite the high quality of its products, isn't evenTPS Ohno close to the automotive and aerospace industries in implementing "Toyota Production Systems" methods (established by Taichi Ohno, photo) to its manufacturing and drug development projects. Then, let's consider overseeing contractors: as more drug companies outsource, they monitor contractor performance, but how closely are they analyzing their quality and delivery records? Are they truly setting "right first time" standards, and establishing lean and quality guidelines for their contractors, then ensuring that these guidelines are met each and every time? We suspect the answer is no, and applaud Wyeth's team for taking on the initiatives. Pfizer's team also deserves praise for the ambitious scope of its program, which would greatly reduce the programming costs and headaches of implementing PAT projects at any pharmaceutical or biopharma company. Some observers have called the plan "too ambitious," but ambitious is good! By defining scopes and requirements, Pfizer's team definitely sets a benchmark for vendors and may lead to open connectivity for PAT, allowing it to be used in more projects, from R&D to manufacturing. Finally, a short note about this competition. We started it last year to recognize the people who are modernizing drug manufacturing. Some of these people are working on the plant floor, and, in the days when manufacturing was really a stepchild, their efforts were completely invisible. Now, as more companies begin to appreciate manufacturing as a strategic strength and a competitive advantage, they are starting to have a voice and to receive recognition. Still, it is important to have third-party recognition of the work and improvements that they are making, and to document pharma's progress in embracing Toyota's principles. We editors do not just select teams, but invite our editorial advisors and specialists who are intimately familiar with drug manufacturing and Lean and Six Sigma, to select the winners, based on metrics that their companies provide. As we improve the process behind this competition, we invite pharmaceutical companies, anywhere in the world, to nominate exceptional teams at their facilities for this award next year. -AMS