West Pharmaceutical Services, the leading global pharmaceutical packaging supplier, recently achieved the coveted international Investors in People Award at its plant in Stolberg in Germany, in Horsens in Denmark as well as in 3 operations in the UK. Mark Schaefer, Vice President Human Resources Europe and Asia Pacific, is very satisfied with the achievement. He shares his perspective of the Investors in People (IIP) Award process and its application as an excellent business improvement tool.
Throughout 2006, four of West Pharmaceutical Services’ plants were assessed against the IIP standard and had a report produced which highlighted their areas of good practice and areas where they needed to develop further. To compile these reports an independent, qualified expert from International Quality Centre Ltd (IQC) interviewed a sample of employees at each plant.
A common vision
Mark Schaefer explains the challenges they faced: "Initially we realised we had to develop a central HR strategy applicable in all plants. We needed to move away from old-fashioned HR where you spend 60 percent of your time on administration. The step we took was to focus more on business partnering and instead outsource a lot of the administration."
Another challenge was to get everybody onboard. West started with education, making sure that each person understood IIP and the journey the needed to take. It was important to get everyone – from the HR staff and works council to the union, managers and employees – involved. This resulted in the staff valuing what the Company wanted to achieve.
By establishing cross-functional teams at each plant, from the shop floor to finance and different shifts, the teams could communicate back to others in the organisation what was happening. This approach worked really well and West is now using the same tactics in other plants to be certified.
Improved management position and information
The plant in Stolberg, for example, with about 160 employees, was the first to go through the process. The plant produces metal and plastic packaging components, such as seals for vials of medicines and inoculations. Schaefer thinks that one of the advantages with an assessment by an external viewer was that it helped them pinpoint areas where they were good and where they needed to improve.
"From a business point of view it helped us to understand: where do we spend our money? In Stolberg in 2005 we spent a high six-figure amount on external training and there was no link back to show that this training achieved what we needed and if it contributed to the business. This was a big eye opener for the business. If we had spent the same amount on equipment then we would have produced a plan for it with a return on investment period."
One of the changes West made was to put management in a better position to steer the business and make sure that their training programs had a significant impact. This was achieved by creating a year’s training plan for each plant.
"This has turned out fantastic. There is a clear understanding of costs and a record of how we are going to measure the success of the training in terms of business need," Schaefer said.
A dedicated workforce
Another advantage of the IIP assessment according to Schaefer has been the whole idea of a broad involvement. The feedback so far is extremely positive.
"People feel part of the solution and consider that their training is taken more seriously. I keep saying to the engineers when we go to plants in China, we can build buildings, we can buy machines and get them running but unless we have a highly dedicated workforce it is not going to happen."
In terms of KPI’s, West’s business has improved. The number of lost workdays is reduced and the number of days without an accident has increased. Additionally, their output has improved.
"It is hard to establish a direct link from IIP to these improvements, but it has certainly contributed and helped us maintain other KPI’s at a high level," Schaefer said.
Schaefer is very satisfied with the IIP process and thinks it is an important tool to use.
"Rather than being a one-off I think you need to place IIP as part of a strategic framework. From an operational point of view early assessment is always better than trying to figure out yourself where the improvements are."
The international Investors in People Award comes at a time when West is expanding their production at plants in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. In all they employ over 2500 people and turnover close to $1 billion.
"We want to be best in class and IIP has really helped us to focus on it and sharpen our strategic approach in HR," Schaefer concluded.
For more information about taking an early approach to Investors in People or a translation of this article in German, please contact us .