GSK, Lundbeck reveal lean secrets, successes

At GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), lean methods traveled beyond the shop floor. Management needed to keep pace with manufacturing and was forced to switch to a daily cycle from its weekly tradition. Manufacturing issues were suddenly being addressed within 24 hours.

The change eliminated long-standing barriers between management, technicians and operating staff. "Everyone needs to understand the challenges that our industry is facing from a competitive viewpoint," said David Pulman, president for global manufacturing and supply, in IndustryWeek. "Discussions now include global pricing, government regulation and economic frameworks."

That's not the usual parley of pharma plant floors of the past. What is becoming normal is post-kaizen discussions on the use of lean techniques for future success, according to Christian Houborg, divisional director at Lundbeck. The Danish drugmaker spread lean techniques from shop floor to supply chain. Hands-on learning is critical to effect culture change. Consultants can get the ball rolling, but he said that the processes must be internalized.

Houborg has proof. Extensive training and many kaizen events led to time savings as high as 90% in some areas of the supply chain. Finished goods production had a doubling of volume without a staff or equipment increase. Indeed, the productivity boost was so great, Lundbeck took back in-house most of the finished goods work it had outsourced.

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