Northern Ireland, UK-based Almac Clinical Technologies started implementing the lean six sigma methodology – a combination of lean manufacturing and the six sigma management strategy – in 2011, in a bid to improve productivity and quality of its IXRS systems services business.
Since then Almac has trained 20 employees - including 16 to green belt standard and three to black belt level – and has already started to reap the benefits of the approach according to spokesman Joe Bedford who told Outsourcing-pharma.com about the project.
“Building IVR/IWR systems for clients require strict adherence to processes and procedures that conform to regulatory mandates and client needs. Lean Six Sigma helps Almac take a systematic approach to improving productivity and documenting processes.”
“Almac’s clients will benefit if we can streamline our processes, as that will result in faster timelines, lower prices, and improved R&D productivity“ he continued, adding that – unlike six sigma which some argue can hamper innovation and flexibility – the lean approach is well suited to the work the firm’s clinical technologies unit does.
“Lean Six Sigma is ideally suited to the project-based work that our clients require, including our Clinical Teams which consist mainly of project managers who manage the project from signed contract through system build, launch, and maintenance of the system through study completion.”
Almac turned to external specialist – the Juran Institute – to help its employees develop the skills needed for the lean six sigma approach which was a more costly and involved process than other types of training.
“It is more expensive and takes much more time to train people in six sigma methodologies than it is to conduct typical employee training on individual technologies, services, or internal processes,” Bedford said, explaining that “Six Sigma training requires attending courses and training sessions outside of Almac, so there is added cost and time when compared to internal training.”
However, he added that despite the extra time and higher training costs Almac is convinced of the longer term benefits of ‘lean six sigma’ from a customer service standpoint and also in terms of internal company processes.
“In a regulated industry like the pharmaceutical industry, everything that suppliers do for sponsors in terms of providing services is strictly guided by stringent SOPs [standard operating procedures] that outline the steps of the process.