TRANSCRIPT: Interview with Celia Banks, Pfizer Worldwide

Celia Banks, Continuous Improvement Lead for Pfizer Worldwide R&D Business Technology explains how the pharmaceutical giant is viewing developments in Lean and Green thinking.

PEXNetwork: Can you tell us a little bit about the background to the improvement culture at Pfizer?

C Banks: I’ll explain this, as we’re speaking about a company of some 80,000 employees worldwide - continuous improvement started out as a grass roots effort that existed in islands of sub organisations within Pfizer. It was only in the manufacturing side that the concept and associated efforts were virally transmitted as a single effort within all of manufacturing. I think that may have been because that effort was headed by a senior leader, Nat Ricciardi, who was the Senior Vice President of the Pfizer Global Manufacturing. It may also have been because of the fact that in manufacturing processes, they’re generally tied to product output, whereas in non-manufacturing the processes for improvement involve a variety of human and system processes that are transactional in nature.

Recently, the combination of CI and operational excellence efforts have converged into a single communication thread of CI in Pfizer, so I guess that means that CI has been successful in gaining a single voice within the larger global organisation. Our operational applications of CI they may require us to adopt one-off approaches, but in doing this we still communicate the results as part of the larger CI framework.

PEXNetwork: To put some of that information into the context of the environmental considerations we’re talking about, organisations around the world have seen a lot of pressure recently to take environmental and social responsibility into account when they’re looking at their operations. One new standard has been introduced from ISO to help organisations live up to new responsibilities around social responsibility. What influence has the ISO26000 and other environmental legislation had on your continuous improvement operation?

C Banks: We adhere to a number of governmental and regulatory compliance constraints that already have embedded in them requirements about how we do business in various countries in terms that leverage social awareness about the needs of communities. So that part of ISO26000 is not new to us. For example, I understand that Pfizer has committed an estimated $200 million over five years through its programmes and partnerships to help the United Nations address global health priorities. The piece that is exciting about ISO26000 is the focus on sustainability, aka conservation of energy, and to see the details formalised to impact organisations as a standard is a promising evolution.

PEXNetwork: How important would you say than Lean and Green initiatives are right now to your improvement plans and why? And are they becoming more important with time, do you think?

C Banks: Right now, we are putting the horse in front of the cart so as to better lead Lean Green efforts. We have a sprinkling of Green initiatives as part of CI where they impact hard cost savings and energy consumption. However, we need to be doing more and I know that will come as part of our overall CI maturity.

PEXNetwork: Have you had any key achievements so far with Lean and Green initiatives?

C Banks: We do not yet have a formalised programme. The efforts are being reported out by individual units. I know within my unit we are participating in what started out as a site-specific undertaking, but it became part of a global effort around the use of certain types of lighting in conferencing areas.

PEXNetwork: There are often challenges around gaining commitment to Lean improvement projects. What have these been for you and do you think it’s more or less difficult to gain commitment if you have Green objectives involved?

C Banks: An example of a difficulty we ran into had to do with sponsorship. In the case of evaluating conference room lighting, we did not know if facilities management were the right folks to sponsor or how we could ensure improvements were made as we were not the owners of the process being changed. So, in essence, there were two hurdles – sponsorship and process ownership.


PEXNetwork: Do you find having Green objectives changes the dynamics of your own Lean leadership role?

C Banks: Not yet. It is a work in progress as I believe the more accepting our organisation becomes of CI as part of the culture, the next logical step will be to align CI efforts with initiatives like corporate social responsibility.

PEXNetwork: Do you see Lean and Green initiatives influencing your work with suppliers and customers?

C Banks:This will be a good Black Belt project undertaking to create that system of evaluation that speaks for all of Pfizer when conducting business with vendors for certain kinds of products and services.

PEXNetwork: Do you think linking Lean methodologies with Green thinking will enable Pfizer R&D to gain greater results from improvement efforts?

C Banks: It’s too soon to answer this as the data formulation is in its infancy.

PEXNetwork: Are the ways in which you have linked Lean and Green at Pfizer unique to your industry, or would you say that there are wider lessons to be learnt here?

C Banks: No. You see, I am impressed with the way in which CI is having a viral impact in the larger Pfizer organisation, and I envision there will be similarity in the adoption of formalised Lean and Green initiatives.

PEXNetwork: Finally, could you tease us with a quick vision of what the future of Lean looks like at Pfizer R&D?

C Banks: I’ve alluded to that in my responses thus far: that is, as Pfizer matures its CI programme, corporate social responsibility will offer natural progression for Lean initiatives.

Hear the original podcast here.


Please note that we do all we can to ensure accuracy within the translation to word of audio interviews but that errors may still understandably occur in some cases. If you believe that a serious inaccuracy has been made within the text, please contact +44 (0) 207 368 9425 or email