manufacturingtechnologyinsights

Innovation Initiatives for Better Manufacturing Management

By Sharon Kaiser CIO and Director of IT, New England Biolabs, Inc.

Sharon Kaiser CIO and Director of IT, New England Biolabs, Inc.

The Digital Transformation

New England Biolabs (NEB) was founded in the mid-1970s and is one of the oldest biotech companies in the world. It was founded by scientists and is committed to developing innovative products for the life sciences industry. NEBers strive to provide the best quality products and the highest level of customer service. We take pride in the fact that our customer’s calls are answered by scientists who can intelligently discuss with them their research and how our products can be used. That product quality and that level of service is what provides the challenge. How can we increase our production in an efficient manner, while maintaining quality and while satisfying some of our customer’s requirements in regulated industries? How can we be there for our customers 24x7 and allow them to get information about our products, order our products and use our scientific tools anytime, anywhere and from any device. We have many technology initiatives in the works that are answering those questions. We are looking at software solutions, like electronic laboratory notebooks (eLN) and laboratory information management systems (LIMS) to help in the research and production areas. We are deploying our SAP ERP system to help plan and manage our production and manufacturing environments. And we are adding new functionality all the time to our CRM solution, Salesforce.com, to help us understand and connect more often and with value to our customers. Digital transformation is key as well as initiatives around SMAC–Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud. All are critical to allow us to get to the understanding of, and connection to, our customers.

"We are deploying our SAP ERP system to help plan and manage our production and manufacturing environments"

360 Degree View across an Organization

This is one area where we are making great strides in our Enterprise Architecture. We collect data points from our different systems and integrate this information in to our Salesforce CRM. Every visit, every communication and every order is now available for review and/or analytics – on a global basis.

Seamless Customer Integration

It is about getting the right product to the right consumer at the right time. Technology does play a huge role, but it isn’t the only thing needed, and may not be what will keep them coming back. Companies should provide a shopping experience on the consumer’s terms. It should be about personalizing touch points with customers and to be true collaborators, rather than just another company to buy from. We should be able to provide customers seamless, integrated and consistent methods to interact with our companies. Over time, we should be able to anticipate the customer’s needs as they progress from one channel need to another and as they work their problem to a solution. A true omni-channel approach to customer service.

In the Process to Build a Strategic Roadmap Ahead

NEB focuses on the science and that is what makes us great. The systems and the processes needed to produce, market and sell our products are getting there but we still have a way to go. I see many opportunities where technology can add value to NEB. My problem is what should be the priority and how much change can the company handle at one time. I am in the process of building a strategic roadmap that will give us a plan but it will take several years to execute.

Enhancing the Existing Program

NEB implemented a very innovative solution utilizing the IoT to help solve the problem of having our products available to researchers when and where they need it and at the same time, collect information about the use of our products and by whom. We were able to enhance our existing NEB freezer program by adding a tablet on the front of each freezer, allowing scientists to authentic themselves, view available products, open freezers and scan products for check-out. Every step of this process is automated and connected on the back-end to Salesforce where NEB can monitor the products being purchased, send automated purchase confirmation emails, and track new buying trends and interests of scientists in real time. Additionally, we connected the Salesforce1 Platform to our back end SAP system and automated inventory replenishment.

The Transforming IT Arena

In the past, IT was always considered a necessary expense to do business. When a scientist thought of IT, it was only when they needed something related to their phone or their PC. IT was more of a ticket taker back then and was not thought of as a business partner. I believe that has changed. As the company needs have changed, so too has the response from IT. The IT team spends a lot of time with their business colleagues and works with them to solve their problems and brainstorm ways to provide efficiencies. I spend a lot of time working with my peers to understand the business itself and have frequent discussions on how IT can support and enable their business goals. Some aspects of IT can be considered a commodity, but there is much more to it where technology can add business value and provide competitive advantages.

Key Initiative to Drive the Change

IT is one of the few departments that has a unique perspective in that we have visibility and impact across all departments, from one end of the company to the other. IT is playing a very major role to drive change in a key initiative to move our production planning and manufacturing to our ERP platform, SAP. Much of the business processes that happen today are done manually with Excel spreadsheets. A major value of this initiative is to relook at the processes and determine how to take advantage of not only automation, but efficiencies. This is transformational for NEB and will provide tremendous value in understanding our business processes and in managing our product costing, inventory and production capacity. All the things we need to do as a growing company.

Improved Security

Security is always a concern and is a frequent topic when I talk to vendors and my peers at other companies. There are hundreds of documents and many software solutions that provide information and protection in various ways. We at NEB are in a unique type of environment. Scientists work best when they collaborate with other scientists. I don’t want to inhibit research in any way, but I do want to provide an intelligent and thoughtful level of security at NEB. We do stay on top of security and consistently monitor for vulnerabilities. However, one of the best things I can do is make sure to provide frequent and consistent messaging to our employees. The more they understand how to protect themselves, the better off NEB will be. Let’s face it, I can install tight security barriers around NEB, but the biggest risk is always going to be one click away by an employee in an innocent looking email.

An Advice for Business Efficiency

The key thing for any CIO is to learn and understand the business itself. I often wonder how you can you be a good business partner if you don’t understand their problems. I would recommend to learn as much as you can as early as you can. In order to get a working knowledge of NEB’s products, I actually attended a two-week Molecular Biology ‘boot camp’ this past summer to learn the science behind our products. It was an amazing experience to actually use NEB products in true experiments. As a CIO, you also must become a master at anticipating needs of the business so you can suggest new solutions and ideas. In order to do that, a CIO must know what is going on across the company.

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