5 min read

Manufacturing Excellence is a Team Effort

5 min read

Pfizer’s manufacturing excellence story can be likened to the sport of crew rowing. Powered by a team of eight and coxswain calling cadence, with each perfectly timed stroke, the crew sweep their oars and propel their shell in a precise choreography toward the finish line. The challenges and goals of pharma organizations and what is referred to as Crew in the sport have parallels too obvious to miss: Both have to be agile, fast, remain competitively fit and sustain the stamina the organization needs to win the long race.

The idea is that when you focus individual strength and combine it with intelligence, training and communication you enable the team and the vessel to cross the finish line first. The potential power of the entire team is unlocked as each member of the crew works in harmony, adding their effort to the whole. When everyone buys in and commits to the system, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts and great things can be achieved.

Pharmaceutical manufacturing has become one of the most challenging and complex enterprises in commercial history. It’s really no sport, but it does require extreme athletic ability on the part of the organization to accomplish successfully. Manufacturing high-quality drugs safely and cost-effectively takes precise operational choreography, teamwork and a common, cultural understanding of how product quality and organizational results can and should be achieved. In other words it requires a precision operating system to achieve manufacturing excellence.

IMEx: An operational excellence system fit for pharma’s future

Leveraging a legacy of manufacturing innovation and excellence, in 2019 Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) began introducing IMEx (Integrated Manufacturing Excellence) to select operational and management teams across its global network of production facilities. Building on continuous improvement and other operational excellence initiatives, IMEx conceptualizes an operational excellence system fit for pharma’s future. IMEx executes a new and common way of working, and a lean agility-enabling organizational system that empowers critical decision-making from the shop floor to the executive suite.

How IMEx focuses the potential of Pfizer’s powerful teams

How does the team, working together, create harmony with a supply chain that isn’t entirely our own? It’s done by flipping traditional organizational approaches to manufacturing excellence from the top down to the bottom up.

As PGS began to define and implement IMEx, the challenge became how best to apply it to Pfizer CentreOne operations and translate the resulting manufacturing excellence into value for the organization, clients and their patients.

IMEx is instituting a better way of working and excellence across PGS by:

  • Standardizing work and defining the “one” best way of organizing operations for safety, efficiency, productivity and quality.
  • Integrating processes and teams that together drive higher performance
  • Installing an integrated system to deliver continuous improvement

Process Centric Teams drive decision making to the lowest possible levels

IMEx starts by forming Process Centric Teams (PCTs) each empowered to define goals and set targets. These teams should be called Pfizer Centric Teams because they are at the center of everything Pfizer CentreOne is capable of delivering to its customers and manufacturing partners.

Every PCT is tasked with executing standardized work guided by IMEx’s “one” best way continuous improvement strategy. Applying a balanced scorecard (Cost, Quality, Service, Time) each PCT measures and monitors its performance in a common, agreed-upon manner. Finally, leveraging IMEx’s continuous improvement toolbox each PCT identifies “sources of opportunity or loss” and use that information and data to further drive quality and all significant performance indicators for their area of work.

PCTs from operational levels drive outcomes tracking and escalation support down to PGS executive management, which in returns starts driving a goals cascade back up to the shop floor and serving IMEx’s larger goals of manufacturing and operational excellence.

Ultimately, IMEx’s unified-standardized ways of working drives team innovation and recognition while unleashing the power of integrated, coordinated teams. It also delivers the kind of sustained operational excellence, quality and cost control Pfizer CentreOne needs to serve pharma’s leading drug innovators and their patients’ needs best.

Delivering sustained, tangible results and value

Throughout 2020 PGS focused on deploying IMEx across all manufacturing assets globally. As the operating units and facilities started institutionalizing IMEx principles and “living” the guidance, the initiative gained real momentum. By 2021 IMEx was helping every level of the organization perform more efficiently and achieve the myriad operational goals needed to successfully deliver drug quality and safety to patients. To date PGS and Pfizer CentreOne has seen [SK3] strong progress across important metrics:

Key Metrics

The advantages and success of IMEx are shown clearly in increased speed to patients. That’s the focal point of what Pfizer does and a tool like IMEx is important because it supports that global goal.

Our excellence journey with IMEx sets our future course

At the close of 2020 the IMEx initiative is gaining true maturity throughout the organization and delivering sustain tangible results as well as customer value. As Pfizer CentreOne continues to refine IMEx to meet operational goals, the initiative is pivoting to an “expansionist” mindset to accomplish even more horizontal integration and extend the ability of PCTs to develop more effective agile and reliable operational outcomes.

What’s next for IMEx? For Pfizer CentreOne it means capitalizing on the momentum and gains of the program so far while drive its principles of excellence deeper into all aspects of PGS operations and capabilities.

To remain competitive as a CDMO is to sustain a continuous mastery of process design, control and efficiency. Empowered PCTs within Pfizer now have a better platform to deliver the technical advances and critical unit processes customers need from their CDMOs to innovate and reach patients faster. This of course extends to evolving digital technologies like artificial intelligence, machine learning and advanced analytical and expert systems to support operational efficiency and product quality. All of these technologies, and many more coming online now are the key to the future of pharmaceutical manufacturing. However, that promising future, the one that gets safe, effective medicines to patients faster and more affordably, will never be reached if the technology isn’t implemented well. With IMEx, Pfizer and Pfizer CentreOne has an operating excellence system more than fit to help pharma realize its future.