Tier Boards: Tightening Communication and Alignment in Pharmaceutical Manufacturing

Andreas Eschbach, CEO and Founder

Effective communication is essential for pharmaceutical manufacturers to maintain product quality, prevent production errors, ensure safety and compliance, and optimize operations. Technology can help pharma companies address communication barriers and improve alignment across functional areas and organizational tiers.

    The Alignment Challenge in Pharma

    Pharmaceutical manufacturing is a highly complex industry characterized often by 24/7 operation, complex production processes, and intense regulatory pressures. The typical pharma manufacturer operates on three or more shifts with multiple production lines and many interdependent departments and functional areas, including production operations, quality control, laboratory, process engineering, maintenance, and management. The organizational structure also tends to be highly hierarchal, with several layers of management between the shop floor and the top floor.

    These complexities create significant barriers to communication, collaboration and consensus building. Communication may break down along several dimensions in the organization.

    • Between shifts: New priorities, instructions, or observations may not be correctly transferred from one shift to another, creating continuity problems and quality or safety issues.
    • Across functional areas: Critical information stays siloed within teams, and departments can’t agree on priorities or cooperate for problem resolution.
    • Across organizational tiers: Management priorities don’t make their way down to the front lines, and ideas or issues from the production floor don’t reach the ears of management.
    Operator Pharma Industry
    Operator Pharma Industry

    These issues can have serious consequences for pharmaceutical manufacturers. When there are breakdowns in the communication chain, the different teams and tiers become misaligned. That can lead to a lack of trust and cooperation across teams or between management and operations. Missed communications also lead to errors, production delays, product quality problems, lost batches and regulatory compliance issues. In plants with poor cross-team and cross-tier communication:

    • Directives don’t make their way down to the frontline employees who must carry them out, or they don’t understand the reasons behind them and so fail to comply.
    • Management decisions are made without understanding the challenges and realities faced on the floor, resulting in unworkable directives or loss of trust.
    • Problems never find a proper resolution and go unsolved, or employees take matters into their own hands with a less-than-optimal workaround.
    • Great ideas that could lead to operational improvement or new business opportunities die on the vine.

    All these problems can be solved or minimized with better communication. By facilitating clear communication and improving transparency across the organization, pharma companies can ensure alignment across teams and shifts, mitigate risks and drive operational improvement.

    The Collaboration Dashboards for Pharma

    That’s why the Shiftconnector Tier CollaborationDashboard is a robust solution for pharmaceutical manufacturing teams. The dashboard works with the Shiftconnector® platform that integrates data from shift handovers, routine inspections, Continuous Improvement Processes (CIP) and Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) loss accounting to name a few—all specifically designed for 24/7 process industries.

    By breaking down communication silos, the dashboard facilitates collaboration across functional teams, shifts and organizational hierarchies for faster problem resolution, better alignment of priorities, and idea sharing to drive operational improvement. The Tier Collaboration Dashboard enables real-time access to data and information collected from across all teams and shifts. Visualization tools make it easy for everyone to monitor progress toward key performance indicators (KPIs), which can be set and configured by the organization.

    The Tier Collaboration Dashboard was designed to enable more productive discussion and problem-solving within and across tiers and better connect the top floor to the shop floor. Consider the typical hierarchal structure of a pharmaceutical manufacturer, which may have as many as five tiers. If you picture the organization as a pyramid, the C-suite is at the top, and frontline workers are at the bottom. 

    For an organization to function effectively, communication must be bidirectional:

    • Strategic priorities, policies and directives must cascade down across the tiers.
    • Issues, problems and ideas must also escalate up until they reach the appropriate level for resolution – sometimes all the way to the top.
    Pharma TIer Pyramid
    Pharma TIer Pyramid

    Shiftconnector Tier Collaboration Dashboard enables better communication both up and down the communication chain. It aligns everyone within the organization with a transparent view of the relevant KPIs, ensuring a collective effort toward achieving and exceeding targets. The Tier Collaboration Dashboard supports more efficient and productive tier meetings and automates information transfer between tiers.

    Real-time shared data and transparent communication are transformative for pharmaceutical manufacturers. In fact, one Shiftconnector customer reported that they reduced production non-conformities by 63% in one year. In addition, they also experienced considerable time savings for their supervisors and team leaders while increasing productivity across the organization.

    You can learn more about the Tier Collaboration Dashboard here.

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