During the pandemic, desire to help and flexibility are also needed at a pharmaceutical company

In these exceptional circumstances people want to help out and go the extra mile. This is also the case at Orion. Many have volunteered to work overtime, and roles have been shifted in the most flexible manner. The importance of the work has gained new proportions.

It has been very busy at Orion. The company wants to do its bit to ensure drug availability and the functioning of society.  How will we get through these extraordinary times?

“By working together for a common goal. Employees are moved from teams and organisations to the areas where they are needed most,” says QC Manager Maija Blomquist from Raw materials, Gels, Ointments at Orion. Ville Mäkelä, Head of Operations, Tablets Manufacturing, says this is also true for his employees.

“This is the time to work overtime, help a colleague and prioritise tasks,” says Head of Operations Juho Hellman from Tablet Packaging Operations&Warehousing in Salo.

“We have not been forced to rise to this challenge – we are flexible of our own free will because we know how important our work is,” says Head of Operations Leena Mäkisalo from Injections, Inhalators.

Ensuring that the chain is unbroken

Orion reacted quickly to the new situation that emerged in March. The machines had to be put into operation full-time to help pharmacies meet the demand and provide help to ICU patients.

“Right away lots of people volunteered to work overtime even though we had not asked anyone to do so. We are trying to keep the machines operating as continuously as possible. People are working long hours, many have cancelled their holidays and people often come to work at short notice,” say the interviewees describing the attitude of Orion’s personnel.

Helping a friend and the Finnish President’s words about maintaining a physical distance but seeking mental proximity are now visible in our hectic days:

“This can be seen in our teamwork. Everyone has taken the rapid changes in their stride and people all around the organisation are suggesting improvements,” Hellman and Blomquist say.

People where they are needed most

Orion has sought to identify the individuals with the type of competence that is needed in securing drug availability in the exceptional circumstances.

Personnel have been moved from other teams and organisations to production, packaging and quality assurance.

“This requires thorough initiation. At first the training and initiation can even interfere with the busy work process, but everyone understands this and can to look beyond it,” Blomquist says.

Working at the workplace – without compromising safety

In order to keep production going, personnel must be kept healthy and safe. Orion has taken a number of protective measures to ensure that its employees can work with confidence. This work cannot be done at home.

Personal protection and hygiene requirements are everyday matters for Orion’s employees, as people in production wear face masks, protective clothing and gloves during any normal day. Social distancing is also easy in the spacious production facilities. During the pandemic, the same caution is also exercised outside the production airlocks, in the corridors, staff rooms and staff restaurants.

“Injection production staff have also received thorough hygiene training and are qualified hand washers. The microbiological department tests our hand washing skills regularly,” Mäkisalo says.

Throughout Orion, people are working from home if possible and unnecessary visits have been banned to protect the supply chain staff. Cleaning is even more thorough than before, meetings are conducted online and the number of people in staff restaurants has been restricted.

“People say that they feel safe coming to work. And even though we are busy, the atmosphere is calm and cheerful,” Mäkelä and Blomquist say.

Will there be enough medical products?

Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future in this global situation. But healthcare operators, Orion included, are doing everything in their power to secure drug availability.

“At Orion, the entire chain is involved in achieving this common goal: from Fermion’s active pharmaceutical ingredient manufacturing to Orion’s pharmaceutical production and via quality control and assurance to the packaging unit in Salo. Of course, we must not forget the purchasing organisation, where people are working hard to ensure the availability of materials and protective equipment for all of us,” Hellman says.


Text: Anni Turpeinen

April 28, 2020