Miscommunication among members of any workforce can lead to significant problems. When that workforce is situated in a pharmaceutical manufacturing environment, communication problems could be costly, in terms of lost time, wasted product and damaged reputation.
Outsourcing-Pharma (OSP) recently spoke with Andreas Eschbach (AE), founder and CEO of Eschbach North America, about how plant managers might better connect their shifts and lead to improved communication among staffers.
OSP: Could you please tell us a little about Eschbach—who you are, what you do, key capabilities and what sets you apart from the competition?
AE: Eschbach is the software vendor behind Shiftconnector. For more than 15 years, we have served well-known clients like Roche, Sanofi and Bayer.
Shiftconnector is a plant process management (PPM) solution, which helps pharmaceutical and process manufacturing shift workers and their managers to track compliance, ensure safety and improve performance. This provides a trackable, single source of information for communication between front-line personnel and managers to ensure smoother operations.
OSP: How has manufacturing in general been impacted by the pandemic?
AE: We all experienced how vulnerable human communication is and how much we rely on face-to-face communication, especially in manufacturing. Consider engineers and suite managers walking through production units or entering control rooms; after COVID they all had to learn how to use digital communication, especially to reduce shift-to-shift contamination and to enable remote work.
OSP: What are some impacts that might be unique to pharmaceutical manufacturing?
AE: We all heard about “essential workers” and “essential goods” throughout this pandemic; te shutdown of several meat factories across the US, for example, was all over the news. But, when it comes to surviving post-COVID food is a commodity, that can be replaced by other suppliers or even other types of nutrition.
This is a completely different situation when it comes to pharmaceutical production of medicines. Especially when we talk about medications for patients with life-threatening diseases.
In many cases, patients are adjusted to certain drugs by their therapists for weeks. These can only survive if the exact same drugs continue to be produced, uninterrupted.
This challenge entails an enormous social responsibility, for all working in this industry and for those who make decisions.
OSP: How are managers working to conquer or minimize the challenges created by COVID-19?
AE: In general, all operations and site managers have to balance the risks. Imagine that they must balance between patients' demands, risk of COVID exposure for their workers and process safety risks, as is the case with API production using hazardous substances.
To balance these risks you need to have a close communication with your teams. This communication is in general an additional layer of protection, but even more so in times of crisis, because your operation is more resilient if you learn and adapt fast.
There the shift handover communication becomes an even more vulnerable point in your 24/7 operation.
Unfortunately, throughout the pandemic thousands of additional Excel files, PPTs and Word files have been newly created to help connect shop floor personnel. However this is the exact problem that creates scattered information, which is a burden during the 15-minute shift handover procedure.