Laboratories with project based workloads often have greater volatility in both the volume and mix of work than other lab types. The work content of later steps may only be clear after the preceding step is complete. This all adds to an inherently unpredictable workload, both for the overall lab and for individual personnel. But there are some core strategies that you can deploy to make project labs more productive.
Dedication of resources may seem like a good way to have “Subject Matter Experts” (SMEs) get through work quickly, but it gives rise to a costly productivity penalty. The antidote is to level the workload across the team (without compromising the important role of the SME!).
Leading an R&D organization is difficult. It involves assessing the environment and managing the work flow to support the process of turning innovative ideas into prosperous business results. On top of that, the environment in the life science industry is always evolving and leaders must have the ability to effectively change with the environment.
Working as a consultant for different pharmaceutical companies I have come across some interesting examples of how “walls” between departments and between companies affect operations. One complaint you often hear within the industry is that of poor communication between the Manufacturing Department (who manufacture the product) and the Quality Department (who Inspect, test and release the product). I came across one particularly poor example of this last year.
R&D labs are in the business of generating, analyzing, reviewing and validating data. Data rules the decisions on how projects move forward through the development phases.
Over the past few years, many of the leading Pharmaceutical companies have rolled out extensive programmes to the labs on their manufacturing sites. The better programmes (i.e. those based on the key ‘Real Lean’ principles of levelling, flow and standard work and properly structured and supported) have achieved very impressive results. Pharmaceutical R&D labs however, are significantly different than the Product and Raw Material testing labs found in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing so can Real Lean work in R&D Labs?
A critical component of improving any existing process is first measuring it! “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” (Bohmer, 2008) There are multiple tools for determining a process’ baseline, such as process mapping and spaghetti diagrams. Possibly, some of the more controversial tools are those used for work measurement and standards. There are four recognized methods for gathering information on the time it takes to perform a task (or set of tasks).
Faced with a need to increase laboratory testing capacity, Real Lean releases hidden capacity quickly and cost effectively.
Increased demand for lab capacity is a positive indicator of a growing business. Deciding upon the best option to increase capacity, however, never seems to be easy! In particular, when existing space, equipment and staffing capacity is thought to be maxed out, the next option tends to involve a space expansion (see the top row of graphic below) – a complex project with significant capital expenditure, which drags stakeholders from Engineering and Facilities, Finance and HR into the mix.
Real Lean is the term used by BSM to describe a specific methodology, one which enacts the actual core principles of lean and delivers real value stream optimisation, both financially and operationally, for its clients.
The effort to make the work and processes visible, in a work environment, is called visual management. In general, there are a couple of key items for any successful application of visual management.