Andrew Lowe: The change set to disrupt packaging and labelling

We discuss whether the industry is ready to think small, harness data and address packaging line dissatisfaction

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Pharma IQ

In Zurich this week, the pharmaceutical packaging and labelling industry came together for two days of insight and networking on; smart packaging, managing portfolio complexity, regional innovation, changing regulations and brand engagement. 

Andrew Lowe, VP of Capability Development at Be4Ward, chaired the event and spoke to Pharma IQ about some of the growing pressures in the industry and what we can do to succeed moving forward. 


Engineer for simplicity

Andrew believes that Rajesh Mishra, Associate Director of Packaging Development at Abbott, offered the best example of the true power of simplicity in his presentation on local market needs-based packaging innovation. 

As Andrew described it, Rajesh showed that it’s “not about really complicated, multi-million dollar solutions and smart packaging”. Instead, it’s about identifying a real need in a community and coming up with something truly suited to the market.

“It’s got to be something simple they understand. It’s got to be robust and repeatable in what may be a fairly challenging environment and it’s got to be really, really cheap”. 

Abbott’s cough medicine cap can be easily opened, secured and then locked to fill the correct dose within the cap. The medicine can then be administered without the need for additional cleaning. This simple innovation to the traditional bottle cap perfectly suits the needs of India’s complex market. 

READ MORE: We share the three active and intelligent packaging solutions GSK tipped to be future market leaders


Understand the power of data

Following the conference, Andrew said that “digitalization and the whole growth of digital product information is firmly on my mind now”. In theory, the perfect storm is brewing. As he puts it “the technology is maturing and the environment is getting ready… so things will happen”. 

However, one of the key hold-ups for the industry is that too many companies want to be a fast follower not an initiator for digital transformation.

The pharma industry remains more willing to adopt a wait and see approach than branch out with a new system or process.

With the race for innovation becoming more competitive and technology companies encroaching on the market, this slow to move approach could be a hindrance to future success.

In this changing market, being able to actively harness legacy data will be crucial. Andrew believes that a growing issue is not simply the availability of data; it is our inability to use data to increase our understanding. We have yet to harness the true potential of the data lake.

Andrew is concerned that without being able to effectively use data and branch into new systems, the pharmaceutical industry will miss out on the ability to make smarter decisions.


Be ready to speed up

If there is one thing set to truly disrupt packaging and labelling, it’s speed.

It is undeniable that things are getting faster and consumer expectations are rising. Andrew believes it will be a challenge for the industry to meet this change and move away from the way they’ve always worked. 

He was keen to point out that the mistake that is often made is trying to increase pace across all processes. Instead, he argues “we need to cope with being busier by being more efficient at what we do”. He believes that “we need to determine the things that need to be done quickly and the things that don’t”.

“We need to introduce more velocity not just more haste”

Too often, he has seen companies try to be faster by introducing more haste, instead of more velocity. This results in pockets of chaos where people are rushing around trying to make things happen. In this instance, Andrew believes that “people get burned out, mistakes happen and quality suffers”.

He offers the gold-standard example of a Formula 1 pit-stop, where the team can change the tires on a car in 2.4 seconds.

As Andrew explained, “you don’t see any haste, because they know exactly what they’re doing and exactly how to do it and they practice and practice and practice until they’re really good”. The team understand the core of what they want to achieve and they make strategic improvements to result in compound gains.

RELATED: Discover the three areas holding you back from packaging and labelling process excellence


Be aware of dissatisfaction

As Andrew shared, “with serialization, you’ve broken the paradigm. The current ways of working have been moved”. 

This has left many workers unhappy with new processes that add complications to a well-oiled machine or have changed the dynamics of their work flows. As Andrew explained, “in order to make people change, there’s got to be push factors and there’s got to be pull factors; they’ve got to want to get to a new state and be dissatisfied with the state they’re in”. 

Now that many companies have gone live with their serialization efforts, the problem they face is the growing number of dissatisfaction factors. 

Change will not last if care is not given to the dissatisfaction of workers on the ground

Andrew believes that a company that is adept at change will be able to channel this into a positive next step. But he thinks that “a company not adept at change will find over time that they drift back to their old ways of working”.

Many companies struggle with sticking with their change and while there is a compelling reason in this case to do so, if people want to be effective in this process they need to understand and address dissatisfaction on the ground. 


RELATED: Now that most companies are serialization compliant, we consider how you can start to drive business value beyond compliance in this upcoming webinar. Find out more and secure your place now!