Lean manufacturing lessons from Human Genome Sciences

The biggest challenge to adopting lean techniques is employees' belief that their manufacturing processes are "different and exempt. Employees will say, 'we don't fit in that type of lean concept,'" says Lisa Cozza, executive director at Human Genome Sciences ($HGSI), in Pharma IQ magazine.

The belief in the uniqueness of their situation leads to the most common elements required in any significant change to an existing operations process: "Buy-in from top to bottom is number one," Cozza said in the interview. "You have to have champions from top to bottom, so it grows organically."

She adds that workers on the floor need to be making suggestions while the most senior person responsible is showing active support.

A "cheerleading team" might evolve following the buy-in stage, she says. But when the time comes to actually make changes, and people realize the effects those changes will have on their jobs, the cheering often stops. "Resistance comes in and probably 70% of the programmes fail the first time through. Buy in at all levels early is critical to making these programmes stick," she says in the interview.

But when the program sticks, it can lead to cost savings and error reductions through inventory turns, process timing, capacity utilization and turnaround times to set just-in-time practices for process equipment.

- here's the interview