Top Plant 2012: Pfizer Global Supply


Many manufacturers, including leaders in the pharmaceutical industry, seek ways to make more product in less time with less effort. “We analyze batch processes to look for opportunities to move them along faster, or even for technology advances that we could implement to enable us to run more efficiently and effectively,” Cassiday said. “The way we apply Lean principles is a little different, depending on where you are. On the batch side of the plant, the demand exceeds our current capacity. We are challenged to try to unlock capacity in our equipment. To do that, we need to identify where the waste is, and that’s what Lean is all about.”

Experienced operators analyze batch processes to look for opportunities to move them along faster. Courtesy: Pfizer Global SupplyIdentifying waste requires breaking down the processes step by step. “The key for us is to work with the operators who run the processes,” said Cassiday, “and present them with the data in a way that makes it easy to see where an issue might be, and to ask them for their input for what we could do to run more effectively. This has been a major objective in that part of our plant for the last two years. And we’ve seen tremendous gains in our throughput.”

By implementing efficiency improvements, the Kalamazoo plant was able to free up capacity equivalent to two work centers. “That’s two workstations we don’t have to purchase because we found ways to optimize what we had,” Cassiday said. “It was all because we worked with the people who work with the equipment every day.”

Engaging, empowering employees

The efficiency improvement focus at the Kalamazoo facility entailed “teaching people how to fish.” Cassiday calls it area transformations. “Our operational excellence group facilitated multiweek sessions with the operators to teach them,” said Cassiday. “Instead of us analyzing equipment capabilities and waste, we taught them the basics of continuous improvement. It was all about getting them to do it themselves.

The operators worked through exercises to determine their strengths and discover opportunities for improvement—the results of which typically translate into cost, quality, and supply: the basics of manufacturing. For example, if operators know their yields, they can discover ways to improve them. It’s all about engaging the operators,” Cassiday said.

Ownership and empowerment can go a long way to help foster engagement. Employee engagement was one of the ideas behind the energy dashboard. “They see waste every day,” said Taylor. “We did an awareness campaign to make sure the energy dashboard tool touched as many people as possible, especially at the operator level, because they’re the ones with the energy savings ideas.”

Maintaining equipment, processes

Robotic sorting is another automated task performed in the Pfizer plant in Kalamazoo. Courtesy: Pfizer Global SupplyThe maintenance strategy at the Kalamazoo plant site is based on reliability principles and standard workflow processes. The program includes streamlined preventive and predictive maintenance activities, process safety management/mechanical integrity processes, lubrication, operator care, PM optimization, and root cause failure analysis processes.

A team of highly skilled journeyman-level technicians and certified specialty technicians support these programs and overall plant maintenance. The individual maintenance programs focus on equipment uptime, optimizing equipment PM and predictive maintenance requirements, implementing and expanding operator care procedures, and using reliability tools to analyze equipment deficiencies.

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