GSK's Witty: West can compete in manufacturing

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) CEO Andrew Witty (photo) has reaffirmed his belief that the West is fully capable of being competitive with the East in drug manufacturing. Witty appeared in Toronto recently to launch a plant expansion funded in part by $3.6 million from the government of Ontario.

"The West needs to realize that the future has to include manufacturing, and we ought to be challenging ourselves to demonstrate that Western sites can be absolutely the most efficient and innovative," he told The Globe and Mail.

"If you get process efficiency and capacity utilization right, then the most developed economies like Canada and the UK can compete with anybody in the world."

Witty said labor cost is a factor, and the product manufacturing target is the lowest cost at highest quality. "If you can run lean, efficient processes, and if you can run your plant to a high capacity, then you can tolerate relatively high labor costs," he said.

GSK has a second manufacturing facility in Quebec City, where it makes most of Canada's flu vaccine. And last April, given cost and process-efficiency improvements at a plant in Scotland, Witty decided to relocate a biomanufacturing operation to the facility from India. He said the ops team in Scotland outmaneuvered an imminent plant shutdown.

- see the interview