The importance of "getting better everyday": Interview with Catalent's Dina Kostakis (transcript)

Dina Kostakis

If you could see continuous improvement, what would it look like?

According to Dina Kostakis, you’d see a group of engaged people, who enjoy what they do, and make sure that each and everyday they’re responsible for getting better at doing it. Dina is General Manager at one of Catalent Pharma Solutions manufacturing sites based in St. Petersburg, Florida. Catalent manufactures drugs on behalf of pharmaceutical companies, and earlier this year, attendees to the PEX Week USA conference had the opportunity to tour the company’s St. Peterburg plant.

In this interview, Kostakis talks about what operational means at the facility and what it really takes to embed a culture of operational excellence.

This is a transcript of a video interview and has been edited for readability. To watch the original interview, click here.

Is this the ultimate operational excellence in action?

PEX Network: Could you tell us a little bit about your role and the facility that we’re visiting?

Dina Kostakis: I’m the general manager for one of the largest sites within the Catalent network. I’ve been there for a little over 11 years.

It is, again, by and large, one of the largest facilities; close to 500 employees. What we hope to do when you visit is to showcase what we have done with operational excellence.

PEX Network: What does that operational excellence actually look like at your facility?

Dina Kostakis: Operational excellence means being better at what you do every day. I think that came home to me this morning when I was listening to one of the speakers that said that they strive to be better every day. Not the best but to be a better organisation.

I think if you have that mentality in operational excellence, being better every day is the journey of continuous improvement. That’s really what it means to us.

PEX Network: What do you think have been some of the most important aspects of driving that message home and actually achieving that focus on operational excellence?

Dina Kostakis: Anytime that you are on the journey of operational excellence, you have to have a burning platform of why you’re doing what you’re going to do. Why are you embarking on that journey?

For us it started more than seven years ago, back in 2005. So what does it mean from the perspective of being on that journey for this long, and what does it take to get better every day?

You have to have a leadership and culture that embraces operational excellence. You have to have leaders, right from the top, that are engaged and on board. It needs to be clear that it’s important to them and their people; that they are doing it for the betterment of making life easier for the operations.

Operational excellence is not all about only cost reduction. It’s really culturally about the people as well as well as, obviously, a benefit to the business.

PEX Network: So how can operational excellence or process leaders actually drive that shift in culture that’s necessary to have that focus?

Dina Kostakis: The way you do it is by empowerment. The only people that know how we can remove waste out of the process are the people that are doing it every day. It’s about bringing them together and discussing where the opportunity is and listening to their voice.

That’s one of the most important aspects: listening to the voice of your customer. As a leadership team your customers, in addition to your external customers, are the people that work in that organisation. Listening to their voice, understanding their pinch points, and making sure you embrace their ideas and execute them is key.

The fact that they see that you listened and executed those ideas, that’s really what breeds more ideas to come forward.

PEX Network: So where are you going next with your programme?

Dina Kostakis: One of the things that we have looked at in the last couple of months is actually talking about continuous improvement, and improvements not in the process we have today, but also improving some of the technical aspects of the process we have.

Together, if you marry the two, between the process you have today and looking at how to enhance not only the process but the technology, that brings you into the next frontier where the next big breakthrough that you can have in improving your process.

Again, what is this all about? Business results and building a culture in a company that people are... embrace to come every day and do... makes their life that much easier.

PEX Network: My final question is about the site visit. What will we see at your facility?

Dina Kostakis: You’re going to see a group of individuals that work in the facility that are engaged, enjoy what they do, and understand the mission to what we do.

We service the healthcare arena, and we take that very seriously. It’s not about just getting a job done; every single employee has a mission that they work through.

The operators on the manufacturing floor are proud to show and talk about what they do, so, really, that’s going to come through, through the work that you will see we have done, and where we’re going into the future with our operational excellence in our organisation.