What it Takes to Build an Award Winning Approach to Process Excellence

Lucy James

Catalent Pharma Solutions, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Optus share their thoughts on their award wins at PEX Week USA 2016

The PEX Network has been recognizing exceptional performance in process excellence since 2004. Over the years, we’ve seen categories come and go, we’ve enjoyed the arrival of the Awards infographics gallery, and we’ve heard “the winner is Singtel” more than a few times. This year’s PEX Awards were of outstanding pedigree so we spoke to three of our 2016 winners to find out what it takes to be a PEX Award winner and what difference it made when they got ‘back to the office’.

Sridhar Krishnan, Vice President, Global Operations, Catalent Pharma Solutions is the winner of Program Director of the Year 2016 and 2015. Sridhar is the first person in twelve years to win the same Award back-to-back.

Rick Hepp, Executive Director of Operational Excellence, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) is the winner of Best Project Contributing to Customer Excellence, and he received an Honorary Mention in the Best Technology-Enabled Process Improvement Project category. Rick has coordinated Bristol-Myers Squibb entries globally for the past couple of years and has seen the company’s PEX journey reflected in their success at the Awards.

Michelle Hay, Customer Experience Director (Products, Marketing, CE Capability), Optus is winner in the Best Business Transformation Project category, plus Honorary Mention in the Best Project Contributing to Customer Excellence category. Optus are part of the Singtel Group – recurrent winners in the PEX Awards for many years.

When talking about the success factors behind their win, Rick, Sridhar and Michelle all highlighted the same key points: they were conclusive that having a clear vision, delivering to the company strategy and keeping the customer at the centre, is what made their work stand out.

Success Factor #1: Clear Vision

“You need the right story about where you started and where you’re heading,” said Rick, “then it’s about how well engaged is the leadership with that vision. Then how are the employees engaged.” The critical point for Rick was establishing a clear and easily communicable vision for process, a vision that the team could then measure themselves against. In the case of the Manati team at BMS – this winner’s of Best Project Contributing to Customer Excellence - this turned out to be a vision they could “blow past”.

Optus and Catalent were equally firm about the importance of a clear vision as the beginning point for process programs and operations that succeed.

Success Factor #2: Company-Wide Benefit

Not only is the process vision important; ensuring that the vision and the delivery from process ties directly to business outcomes is critical. Sridhar says that his achievements at Catalent are due to the obvious links between the continuous improvement work and the growth of the business. It is those links that has ensured his support from senior management.

At BMS, Rick’s work fits with a company culture that emphasizes the behaviors of “accountability, speed, innovation and passion”. In his experience, a well defined company strategy and behaviors help to give process a specific direction in which to drive.

The Optus company vision has a similar cadence to that at BMS. Optus, a telecommunications company,  aspires to become “the most loved, recommended, and innovative service brand in Australia.” As Michelle describes, it’s a vision that really engages employees and makes them think differently about their work. Talking about the reasons her projects stood out, she said that, “the judges liked the clear tie-back that the projects had to the company strategy and whilst they both focused on driving better customer experience outcomes, they also provided strong financial benefits”.

Success Factor #3: Customer Centricity Wins

BMS, Optus and Catalent have very different operations but their process teams all have the same focus - a focus on the customer. Sridhar explains how “creating value for customer and making that very visible” is core to his approach. Likewise the Manati winning project that saw the launch of a new pharmaceutical product stripped back from months to hours, was achieved because “the customer is at the centre”. Rick details: “even in the manufacturing parts of the business (not just sales and marketing) they want to make improvements for the customer.”

The commonalities between the Awards winners provide a snapshot of process best practice: have a clear vision, deliver directly on the company strategy, and keep the customer at the centre.

Benchmarking and learning from the best are part of the PEX Week experience, and being recognized in front of a large group of peers is a big accomplishment, but what happened when our winners got back to their offices after PEX Week? How did winning a PEX Award make a difference for them?

Reconfirmation You’re On The Right Track

The biggest benefit that Rick, Sridhar and Michelle described is the encouragement, the reassurance, the reconfirmation that their process teams have from being PEX winners. Michelle was representing three project teams at PEX Week and had the pleasure of communicating their win back to them, she said that, “the win reinforces to the teams that they’re heading in the right direction”. Words repeated by Sridhar, “everyone feels that they are going in the right direction and is energised to keep going.”

Support And Buy-In From Other Business Units

Cross-functional support and buy-in are two of the major challenges that process professionals face as they roll out projects and programmes. The PEX Awards have helped with overcoming that at BMS, Catalent and Optus.

The story of the Manati launch was shared widely within BMS and Rick describes that the project really “crushed” silos as it progressed, even involving their suppliers. Rick specifically highlighted one of their project team members, “not a process guy”, who is now so committed to process “he’s made OPEX the way he works”.

The Optus project teams also included non-process individuals that are included in the project teams as subject matter experts, and Michelle is pleased that “those who had the opportunity to contribute to the project in this capacity could also share the news of the win back within their business units”.

Sridhar explained that at Catalent “belief has increased alignment in cross-functions and business units. There is increased interest in what my teams are doing and more interest to engage with our PEX programs. We are aligning our roadmap of objectives, people are more curious about how they can represent their business units in my type of work.” These are the scenarios that process professionals have been tirelessly aiming for.

Internal Recognition

A PEX Award win makes perfect internal PR material. The successes were shared widely within all three organizations, quickly raising the profile of the process teams and process work even further. Michelle: “there was company wide promotion about the Award win and that increased confidence within the business that our projects are delivering great results that are of international standard.” And for Sridhar the internal communications resulted in another triumph because the article about his win “got the most ‘likes’ of any internal article ever”.

The Benefit Of Global Benchmarking

According to our winners, the PEX Awards and PEX Week provide the unique opportunity to benchmark globally: the international element sets the PEX Awards apart from other recognition that they have received. Michelle explains, “now we’ve got an understanding that our work is a global standard and also how our methodology compares outside of the organization.” Rick expands, “because PEX is an international organization it gives recognition from the outside – in. How do you know if you’re benchmarking well? An international organization like PEX can do that. And that’s really empowering feedback to our sites.” In fact at BMS their process journey is experiencing such highs that Rick is no longer satisfied with being a leader in bio-pharmaceutical, he is now aiming to benchmark outside of their vertical because he wants to be “a leader across industries”.

Echoing Rick’s comment, Sridhar continues to see there are higher levels of synergies in driving step function improvements within the network by bringing together what he calls Value Engineering (Technology teams), Industrial Engineering (classic Lean Six Sigma) and Traditional Engineering (Infrastructure, Facilities, Program Management) under one umbrella.  That’s a goal that Sridhar is championing by continuing to expand his role to show that “continuous improvement is not a destination and is a never ending journey.” There is always another level to aim for.


Is there anything more tangible that changed for any of our winners? Sridhar talks about a “trust in building capability or blank cheque”, Rick’s teams have subsequently completed an additional three launches and are moving on to ten more production sites. Very satisfying results to achieve.

Doing the right work and doing the work right delivers results but when the work is acknowledged and applauded, especially externally, especially internationally, it accelerates the impact that you can have on the business. Rick: “we are building on the momentum… we’ve been cultivating for three years and now we are seeing dramatic impact.”

Find out more about submitting your own program or project for a PEX award by monitoring our website at http://www.processexcellencenetwork.com/awards. Submissions and nominations for the 2017 awards will open in May 2016 with more details released on the website in the coming weeks.