Orion receives Lean Prize 2016

As the cost pressures on pharmaceutical companies increase, Orion needs to constantly improve its efficiency to stay competitive. In 2016, the company began a group-wide Lean program, where the entire staff is involved in a culture of continuous improvement. Orion’s shift toward Lean culture received the Lean Prize 2016 from Lean Association of Finland.

Lean Association of Finland has awarded Orion with Lean Prize 2016. The award is given out yearly to a Finnish company that has successfully adopted Lean thinking in its operations.

At Lean Management 2017 event in Helsinki’s Finlandia Hall, the award was handed by the Head of Lean Association, Kalle Arsalo, toOrion’s Head of Business IM, Supply Chain and Corporate Business Support, Olli Voima, and Head of Salo Operations, Urpo Rautiainen.

The award committee commanded Orion for its wide-spread adoption of Lean thinking.

”Orion management has been highly committed to adopting Lean principles in the company culture. The approach has been result-oriented, comprehensive and encourages participation from employees. Major improvements have been made, for instance, in lead times, work safety, productivity and work satisfaction,” the award committee said.

”We’re proud of this award and it encourages us on our Lean journey. The work is by no means done, as Lean is not a project but a new kind of company culture, where we improve our work every day by small steps and large leaps,” said Virve Laitinen, SVP, Supply Chain, Orion.  

”Few Finnish public companies have taken such a comprehensive approach to Lean, where the whole company is involved in a cultural change. As Lean is first and foremost about creativity, an approach that involves the entire staff is commendable,” said Arsalo from Lean Association.

Improving competitiveness through Lean  

Lean thinking, which originally derives from the production philosophy of Japanese car manufacturer, Toyota, is a customer-focused approach to increasing efficiency. It aims at eliminating waste – non-value creating work – and developing a self-improving organization.

For Orion, the need for a new approach to company culture was related to the increasing cost pressures in the global pharma industry.

”The easy-to-find drug molecules have already been found, so the costs of pharma R&D are rising. In addition, increasing regulation increases costs. To stay competitive in these circumstances, we need to keep improving our own operations and be more and more efficient each day. We already had positive experiences from the first Lean projects implemented in our supply chain, so it was logical to try Lean as a company-wide approach,” Voima says.

At Orion, Lean culture encompasses the entire organization: not only plants and production but also offices and laboratories, leadership, research and expert work.  

”When all 3500 Orionees think of how to do things better today than yesterday, the improvement trend is much more powerful,” Voima stresses.

Great results at Salo plant

The Lean work at Orion is continuous and there are numerous on-going improvement projects in all of the operating countries. Positive results have been seen for instance in the packaging and logistics center in Salo, where productivity has risen by 50% in the past two years.

”As an example, we’ve been able to cut the lead times of changeovers by 30%,” says Orion’s Rautiainen.

The Salo plant has been one of Orion’s major investments in the past years. Orion has focused all of its own pharmaceutical production in Finland.