Lilly's views on automation

Among the speakers at the May 20 Packaging Automation Forum--held in Schaumburg, IL, and produced by Packaging World and Automation World magazines--was automation consultant Mark Hughes of Eli Lilly and Co. Insights he shared included these.

  • • As a global entity, part of what enhances our agility is common business processes. Can I talk to someone about how to make a product in Mexico that they're also making in Puerto Rico and Spain? To make such conversations possible, we've devoted considerable time to standardizing our business processes and then enabling those standard processes with technology.

  • • We currently have 60 packaging efforts that are either looking at changing our footprint to get greener, cleaner, or more recyclable.

  • • Historically, we used to buy the best machine to do whatever task we needed done. The best cartoner, labeler, case packer, palletizer and so on. But the machine that is considered "best" changes from site to site, so in 13 core sites, even where the exact same product is being packaged to the same specifications, we might have been doing it 13 different ways. This site-based delivery of solutions that are unique problem-solving exercises every single time no longer scales for us. We can't afford this model any longer. Cost pressures in the pharmaceutical industry are starting to look like cost pressures in other businesses. We are being forced to be much more efficient.

  • • The true cost of equipment we buy can only be known sometime after the installation. The initial purchase and installation is about 40% of the actual cost of an asset.

  • • With an installed asset base in automation and controls of almost $4 billion, it's not easy to buy the latest technology or upgrade all the equipment I have. It's certainly not feasible to do it in the timeframe we would like, so my plant floors will always be a collection of things that I'd rather not have.

  • • An integrated manufacturing strategy is what we're after. We don't want an automation strategy. We don't want an IT strategy. We don't want an equipment strategy. We need a strategy that combines all of those together.
More in Home