GSK looks to McLaren for help shifting to higher gear

Today's nominees for Odd Couple: GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Formula One racing experts McLaren. As strange as the combination might seem, the drugmaker has teamed up with McLaren in a bid to accelerate decision-making and fuel improvements in nitty-gritty operations such as inventory management and pricing.

At first, GSK will bring McLaren's technology, analytics and modeling capabilities to bear on its manufacturing and R&D. Consumer healthcare will also get McLaren-style treatment. Management at that unit will work with McLaren's "Mission Control"--which constantly analyzes a racing team's performance and tweaks strategies accordingly during a race--to develop a similar approach at GSK's London HQ, Reuters reports.

Plus, the two companies will develop a training center where employees can collaborate on projects--for example, streamlining GSK's manufacturing systems, which encompass 2,000 production lines in 80 facilities around the world. McLaren has "a unique system of modelling every working component within the car to provide intelligence that can predict potential fatigue and failure," GSK said in a statement. "[T]he application of McLaren's approach, technology and processes could lead to improvements in GSK's production line performance, reducing the number of breakdowns and improving cost and customer service."

GSK CEO Andrew Witty--pictured in the release standing by a race car with McLaren chair Ron Dennis--called the joint arrangement "another example of GSK looking outside its sector for inspiration and fresh perspectives on how we can achieve our strategic goals in an ever more challenging and fast-changing business environment."

The idea of applying racing strategies to the healthcare business isn't new. Management consultants have turned to pit-crew operations for ideas, and the medical journal Quality and Safety in Health Care last year looked at Formula One pit processes as a model for safety and quality-control in hospitals.

- get the release from GSK
- read the Reuters news