Lonza's Digital Journey
From spreadsheet to Batch Release Dashboard in just six weeks
The healthcare manufacturer Lonza needed to improve their batch release process. In just six weeks, a dedicated team of specialists from NNIT was able to design and implement a solution which provides a better overview for all stakeholders and reduces Lonza’s daily batch release management tasks from several hours to a few minutes.
When we at NNIT say “we make a mark”, it means that we look at more than just the technical solutions. We also employ our understanding of business processes and industry specific needs to enable our customers to improve their business. Proximity to the customer and insights into their specific industry is key to our ability to make a difference. A recent project with our long-term customer Lonza is a stellar example of this.
As a preferred global partner to the pharma, biotech and nutrition industry, Lonza works to enable the production of innovative medicines. And when delivery of a new product required a significant ramp up of production, Lonza was ready to meet the challenge.
A complex process
But in order to meet the increased production demands, Lonza would have to accelerate and improve their process to review and release batches of completed products. And with the critical production increase already scheduled, it had to happen fast. Lonza brought this dilemma to the attention of NNIT, who already had a well-established partnership with Lonza as an outsourcing partner for their digital infrastructure.
The batch release process was the type of complex process common in organizations where people collaborate and coordinate information across different IT systems. Managing batch releases kept many people busy spending time in meetings, digging through e-mails, referencing different systems, and asking questions like “are these numbers updated?” and “what is the status of this task?”.
A problem of scalability
Until recently, the teams at Lonza compiled information from various sources in an Excel spreadsheet to provide visibility on the status of batches in production. However, it was simply not feasible to scale up the volume of manual input from multiple teams, external stakeholders and different systems such as Lonza’s LIMS and batch release system.
The Lonza staff already spent around two hours a day managing the batch release process. And the production ramp up would increase that by a factor of fifteen, which would require the team to repeat the same manual process up to 120 times per day. It was clear that the tools for supporting this process had to be upgraded.
Applying the right solution
Initially, Lonza asked NNIT to improve the process by implementing special automation and alert functions to the Excel spreadsheet that was central to the coordination. But while these requested upgrades were relatively easy to apply, this solution did not sufficiently address all of the underlying needs. The Excel spreadsheet could only bring in limited external data and would simply not cope with the production at full volume.
In order to dig deeper and deliver a solution that would provide the necessary support, NNIT assembled a small, highly specialized team which not only had the right digital skill set and experience with pharma production but was also able to look at the problem with fresh eyes.
New uses for well-known technologies
Working closely with key stakeholders from Lonza, the NNIT team members realized that they could use well-known technologies to develop a full Batch Release Dashboard for Lonza.
Using tools such as SharePoint and Power BI, it was possible to automate much of the data capture, create a user-friendly portal for manual input and build a dashboard which both presented an overview of all batches and allowed the Lonza team to drill down into specific details.
Keenly aware of the looming deadline, the NNIT team worked swiftly and was able to release a working prototype just six weeks after the initial briefing.
The key to success
Several factors contributed to the success of Lonza’s Batch Release Dashboard:
- Focus on solving the real problem
While the initial scope was to upgrade the existing Excel spreadsheet, the team took time to understand the real pain points for the users and the impact of the impending production scale-up. This led to the “lightbulb moment” where everyone could see and agree that a new direction was needed.
A license to innovate
Once the real core of the issue was identified, the conversation changed. Rather than looking at each batch in detail, the new solution should enable Lonza to manage batch releases by exception, focusing only on instances that deviated from the normal parameters. This required NNIT’s specialists to utilize technology in new and previously untested ways.
An agile approach
Throughout the project, the team of NNIT specialists worked in close collaboration with the key stakeholders from Lonza, often meeting online 2-3 times per day to discuss new features and updates. Despite being extremely busy preparing for the production ramp up, the Lonza staff prioritized participating in the process, as it was clear that it was a critical mission. In addition, Lonza’s top management was kept closely in the loop from beginning to end.
- The right team for the job
Working on a digital project for life sciences companies requires a broad understanding of a multitude of pharma-specific terms and processes in addition to the relevant digital skills. While the Lonza team gave the project top priority, it was still vital that senior NNIT team members had the required experience and insights to bridge knowledge gaps when Lonza staff was unavailable.
Results and perspectives
In the end, NNIT was able to provide Lonza with an easy-to-use and low-cost system which improved their batch release process immediately upon launch.
With the Batch Release Dashboard, Lonza can:
Ensure a complete overview of batch release data in real time
Dive deep into details for each specific batch
Enable teams to collaborate in new ways
Secure accountability for all internal and external contributors
Create full transparency for all senior stakeholders
Achieve enhanced functionality through integrated LMS and Deviations management
Reduce daily batch release management tasks from 30 hours to 30 minutes (based on current volume)