Getting Better at Making Stuff - To achieve manufacturing excellence, biopharma companies must adopt four key operating principles. - BioPharm International


Getting Better at Making Stuff
To achieve manufacturing excellence, biopharma companies must adopt four key operating principles.

BioPharm International


A friend of mine joined a financial services company about 10 years ago because he was interested in becoming a stock broker. The head of the office hired John and explained the he would pay him a salary for six months as John learned the business and got some clients of his own. Thereafter John would need to generate his own fees from managed assets.

Like all new brokers, John entered the world of cold calling. The brokerage house knew that the name of the game with young brokers was for them to make lots of calls. That way, they would learn what worked and what didn't. So John and the other newbies were measured by the number of calls they made in a day. In the early days, John told me about how many calls he was making in a day. Ever supportive of my friends, I think I said something like, "Gosh, that's quite an existence you've carved out for yourself John."

My sarcasm aside, John learned how to do it. After a few months, he began bringing in significant investment dollars and developed a successful career as a broker. But not everyone was like John. After John had been there for four or five months, one of his co-workers was still coming by his desk and saying things like, "100 calls already this morning, man. Can you beat that?" The problem was, the guy had brought in very little money. He was still counting calls when the successful people were counting dollars.

This mistake also shows up in biotechnology. How are your metrics for closing nonconformance investigations? Are you getting really good at closing investigations quickly? How about those metrics on closing work orders? Are you getting better at processing unnecessary paperwork?

I've worked with organizations that ran Six Sigma projects to get better at something they didn't need to do. I've also worked with multiple clients that found a way to check for errors before the actual check so they didn't need to record an error but instead could just take the time to do it over again. Hurray!

If you're going to be among the best in the world at making stuff, be careful what you get good at. The more efficient we get at unnecessary, non-value adding activity, the easier it is to institutionalize. Once waste gets in that deep, your team begins describing it as "the way we've always done it." Worse, the unnecessary process grows like a vine through something that is actually required and then disentangling everything is nearly impossible.

Be careful what you get good at.


The biopharmaceutical industry is full of smart people. Being smart, however, is not enough. To be successful in manufacturing, companies must understand how to become good at "making stuff." To do so, they must understand and adopt the four key principles described here. If they follow those, operational excellence will come.

Chris Driscoll is the CEO of the Driscoll Consulting Group, 303.725.4473,

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