You Already Asked Me That!

I recently saw an interesting discussion about the use of consultants. One question that came up was why they seem to ask the same question in slightly different ways or the same question to different functional groups in an organization. Emerson’s Michalle Adkins, a senior consultant on the Life Sciences industry team offered these perspectives.

Michalle noted that there really is a method to the “madness”—they are not just crazy consultants. There are a few reasons for this repetition. First, the consultants need to make sure that they are using a consistent vocabulary—the same acronyms or words with the same definitions.

For example, what one company calls a deviation another calls an atypical event while yet another calls the same thing a discrepancy. This is particularly important across different manufacturers and across industries. However, it is also important even within the same company.

This leads us the second reason for this repetitive questioning technique—not everyone at a plant knows exactly what everyone else does. You might be surprised at the number of times that the consultants get different answers to the same question because one group made certain assumptions about what another group does.

Michalle has even heard people say, “I had no idea that you did that.” When you work with consultants, remember that they are not necessarily absent minded when they ask the same question multiple times or in slightly different ways. They have found this to be an effective communication technique and way to get everyone on the same page with respect to vocabulary and vernacular.

Fluidized Bed Reactor

Click to enlarge

At the recent Emerson Exchange conference in Anaheim, Michalle presented Bye-Bye Manual Measurement: Improving Product Quality on a Fluid Bed Dryer Using PAT (Process Analytical Technology). We highlighted elements of this story in an earlier post, Avoiding Moisture Variability in Fluidized Bed Dryer Operations.

I bring this up because there are many practical considerations when executing a project like this with the pharmaceutical manufacturer, consultants, and project team. For this project, an operational excellence approach was required to get project members involved in evaluating the current state and planned future state. A pilot of the PAT method was used for the drying process to gather data to predict the full-scale benefits.

Tools used to align communications and vocabulary among stakeholders included brainstorming, and benefits & ROI analysis spreadsheets. Other tools that have been used in similar types of projects have also included value stream maps and Ishikawa/Fishbone diagrams.

Throughout the project justification process including benefits assessment, solution architecting, potential implementation strategies, and regulatory impact assessments there are opportunities to ask questions to get everyone on the same page and in sync with the terminology to be used throughout the lifecycle of the project and ongoing operations.

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