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Pharmaceutical Manufacturing and Packing Sourcer

Leaning The Right Way

Daniel Nash, Process Specialist at London MAS, claims we can reduce waste in the pharmaceutical industry by learning the true value of lean manufacturing

Would it surprise you to learn that 95 per cent of the time taken from order receipt to despatch of goods adds no value to your product? It is estimated that in a typical manufacturing process anything from 0.05 to five per cent of the total time spent on production actually adds value.

Lean manufacturing is the title given to a range of simple yet effective techniques that aim to slash ‘non-value adding’ activity at little or no cost. The techniques are neither new nor technically complex and they are not expensive, but they punch above their weight. They are able to make dramatic improvements in productivity and reductions in lead-times very quickly. For example, average improvements in productivity in excess of 40 per cent and a reduction in leadtime of 60 per cent are not unusual from just one week of intense activity.

Companies wishing to go lean need to grasp four points in order to be successful:

  • A management team who understands and is committed to the process
  • A clear vision of why they must change
  • An ‘action centre’ approach to improvement
  • An initial project on which to ‘cut their teeth’

This article is intended as an introduction to some of the principles and tools that can be applied to pharmaceutical processes. The good news is that such change should not involve laying out large amounts of money on an expensive new plant. All it requires is full-blooded support from all members of staff from the shop floor to board level.

Let’s look at some of the characteristics of lean that are most relevant to the pharmaceutical and packaging industries. John Bicheno, in his ‘Lean Toolbox’, identifies 15 ‘themes’ of lean that distil the essence of the philosophy. The book is recommended to those who would like to take their investigation further, but some of these themes hold a special resonance.


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Daniel Nash is an engineering graduate with industrial experience in both the automotive supply and electronics industries. He has been successfully involved in programmes focused on process improvement, supply -chain development and market development. Daniel is a process specialsit for the London Manufacturing Advisory Service (LMAS). The Manufacturing Advisory Service is an initiative set up by the Department for Trade and Industry (DTI), and now comes under the remit of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (DBERR). Daniel is currently studying for an MSc in Technology Management.
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