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Pfizer: Changing Patients’ Lives Through Digital Transformation

In one facility alone, digital transformation enabled the manufacture of 3 million more doses of a product than what was planned for in 2019.

Cropped shot of a senior man sitting alone in his kitchen and taking pills

Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) produces more than 23 billion doses of medicine every year across its network of 42 global manufacturing sites.

Those global operations set out on a new journey in 2016 when the president of PGS sought to make a great organization even better. The goal? To support the Pfizer purpose of “breakthroughs that change patients’ lives” by transforming operations into a seamless, data-driven insight engine that drives world-class performance.

But this would be no simple task. PGS manufacturing facilities, representing a heritage of more than 30 legacy pharmaceutical companies, had a diverse ecosystem of systems and datasets, as well as differing process and equipment standards. Insights were difficult to ascertain. And changing the range of solutions used at the operational technologies (OT) layer would be a complex, multi-year effort.

A blank-slate approach

When developing its digital transformation strategy, PGS took the time to understand its business challenges and the technology landscape across the industry.

“We said, OK, if we could take a blank slate and start over, what would this look like if we started today and we didn’t constrain ourselves to what we’ve been doing?” said Mike Tomasco, vice president, digital manufacturing, Pfizer.

This approach, combined with strong executive sponsorship, helped the organization craft a vision that was all-encompassing and a strategy that was focused on delivering value.

Meanwhile, as this work was happening, a PGS operational excellence group was in the midst of an initiative focused on migrating PGS operations to a lean manufacturing mindset.

“When we got together, it was very quick for all of us to notice these things were complementary to one another and they enabled each other,” Tomasco said. “The idea of creating a new organizational structure for how you want your plant to run, or new processes and codifying how standard work is done, could be greatly enhanced through digital capabilities.”
Successes to date

While its digital transformation journey continues, PGS has documented major improvements to-date in areas like cycle time, manufacturing throughput and yield, and right-first-time quality. At just one manufacturing site, the digital transformation program has been credited with enabling the manufacture of 3 million additional doses of one product above what was planned for in 2019.

Something that’s helped drive the success of the program has been a willingness to explore new ideas and possibilities.

“Every time someone comes to me with a wild idea, it’s typically a, ‘Yes, go try that,’” Tomasco said. “And oftentimes they don’t understand why we didn’t have a committee to try to decide that.”

And while the team moved quickly in instances like deploying remote-collaboration tools, it also proved that “digital” doesn’t always need to mean “fast.”

“You’ve got to methodically plan this out and think, in three years, how am I going to benefit from this?” Tomasco said. “And that’s where we’re at now. We’ve been plotting out those foundational layers. And the ability and the rate and pace of what we can do now is now going up exponentially, because we’ve taken the time to build that foundation.”

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