6 Ways Lean Six Sigma Can Improve Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

Kevin HIll shares how Lean Six Sigma can transform the productivity and efficiency of supply chains

Pharma IQ

Lean Six Sigma is a combination of two methods – Lean and Six Sigma. It helps in improving production processes, minimize waste and eliminate defects through reduction of variance. The goal is to cut wasted effort and costs, while improving the final product. Lean Six Sigma has become one of the pharmaceutical supply chain best practices.

Below are 6 ways that Lean Six Sigma can have an impact on the productivity of Pharmaceutical Supply Chain

1. Reduces Order Fulfillment Time

Most pharmaceutical products are sensitive to temperature, which leads to numerous warehouse problems. With logistical problems and shipping complexities, pharmaceutical order fulfillment can get quite complicated.

Six Sigma in pharmaceutical industry helps in identifying different areas that produce a lot of waste or have a high degree of variance. Once these areas are identified, you can improve order fulfilment process. You can implement system integration, automated shipping planning, automated picking, reduced paperwork and automated shipping verification.


2. Reduces and Eliminates Errors

Many points in the supply chain can benefit from a lean technique known as ‘Poka-Yoke’. It is a mistake-proofing procedure that prevents human errors by forcing the user to complete their tasks correctly.

For instance, you can use a software enabled drill that counts the number of holes drilled into a piece work. Tools like analytical balance help in measuring the pharmaceutical materials accurately. Accurate measurements will eventually minimize weighing errors.

Additionally, the 5S lean principle helps in creating an uncluttered, clean and safe workplace. This way workers will be less prone to making mistakes.


3. Creates a Responsive Supply Chain

It is important for the company’s supply chain to be dynamic, agile and have the capacity to respond quickly to changes in customer demand.

Once your company adapts to these requirements, you can take the important step of creating a supply chain that can respond to the customers’ needs in the right way.

Implement Six Sigma’s define phase to achieve this. It requires the company to measure progress made on the basis of what the customers consider to be Critical to Quality (CTQ)


4. Reduces Waste

The main objective of lean Six Sigma is to eliminate waste. It can be any activity which adds little to no value to the product.

Lean Sigma targets three main sources of waste:

  • Over-Production: Producing more and building a greater inventory than customer demand due to speculative forecasting. This results in high inventory costs.
  • Transportation: Moving materials unnecessarily or more than what is required causes increased cycle time and production costs. Lean focuses on eliminating unnecessary transportation.
  • Non-Value Added Processing: It refers to any kind of additional work that adds no value to the product due to poor production facility layout. Lean seeks to simplify the production and ensures that supply chain operates more efficiently.

An efficient supply chain helps in increasing the revenue, cut costs and gain advantage over the competitors.


5. Increases Revenue 

Companies using Lean Six Sigma to make their supply chains more efficient gain the ability to provide consistent service to their customers.

When you have happy customers, you get more pricing power, which results in higher revenues.


6. Implements the 5S Lean Method

The 5S lean method consists of Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain.

All these steps reduce errors that can affect the supply chain efficiency by providing a safe, clean and uncluttered workspace.

Applying lean Six Sigma in the pharmaceutical industry can effectively reduce waste and errors and improve product quality. Lean Six Sigma principles help the company’s supply chain by increasing revenue, giving you a competitive edge and improving employee morale.