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The pharma and aerospace industries share similarities whereas both are highly regulated, risk adverse and fast-paced markets. However, if there’s one thing that pharma companies can learn from the aerospace industry, it’s their approach to operations.
Coming from an aerospace and defense background, I’m well accustomed to working in highly regulated, risk adverse and fast-paced markets, and making the move into clinical trials has demonstrated definite parallels between the mission critical worlds of aero engines and the ‘get it right first time’ requirements in Life Sciences. With both sectors having a high level of customer focus and, at times, very demanding customers, there are considerable pressures to drive service excellence, especially in terms of product and service innovation, there are many lessons that businesses working in the clinical trials space can take from the aerospace industry.
One of the major areas where the aerospace field is creating a blueprint that can be replicated, is its approach to operations. Lean operating is in the aerospace sector’s DNA. While the pharmaceutical and clinical trials sectors focus more on inspecting overall quality, aerospace focuses on excellence and quality in the operating process, so that the end product or service is on point.
Specifically, Lean Six Sigma is achieving dramatic performance improvements for major players, such as Rolls Royce and Lockheed Martin, and the skills, methodology, and production process techniques associated with the approach demonstrate incredible potential for vendors in clinical trials. Lean Six Sigma is a managerial approach that combines Six Sigma methods and tools and the lean manufacturing/lean enterprise philosophy, which aims to eliminate waste of physical resources, time, effort and talent, while assuring quality in production and organizational processes.
In addition to helping to improve quality, looking to these principles can also improve compliance, productivity, costs, and speed – ultimately enabling companies to bring better products and services to market faster and more cost-effectively. By implementing traditional Lean Six Sigma, many companies will be able to bring about effective change in their organizations. Instead of relying on end-process testing, a shift towards predicting and eradicating errors may bring a much needed boost to operational efficiency within many companies.
With many sectors now turning to Lean approaches, and noticeable changes being achieved relatively quickly, implementation of similar methodologies within companies in the clinical trials space may bring a positive change, reducing waste (from a time and cost perspective), and driving improved service for customers.
Jamie Moss, Chief Operating Officer, CRF Health