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Libbs relies on Preactor for high performance during fast growth
June 2015
Currently a leading pharmaceutical supplier in Brazil, Libbs was founded in 1958 in the city of São Paulo. Fifty years in the market, marked by continuing expansion, granted the company a renowned position and the company’s history is imprinted with R&D culture. Early investment in active pharmaceuticals rendered Libbs self-sufficient on some of their main drug products. German regulatory agency BWG and Brazilian National Sanitary Surveillance (Anvisa) both certify Libbs’ manufacturing processes, enabling the company to export hormones to European countries.

Based on this principle of helping people live their lives to the fullest, Brazilian private equity-owned pharmaceutical manufacturer Libbs produces drugs that deliver more than their formula. They reflect attention to detail and everything a company may do to earn the customer’s trust.

Over 70 products, developed with strict scientific methodology, enables the company to reach people and meet their needs for oncology, genecology, central nervous system, dermatology, transplants and many more.

Libbs believes cohesion across multiple business units relies on a set of common corporate values shared by over 2400 employees, all in activity in a 48.508 thousand m² industrial site, at Embu das Artes, one administrative unit, at the city of São Paulo, and through their salesforce, present in 1175 cities in Brazil.

Everyone at Libbs is thought as an agent for innovation. In 2013, for example, the company announced its entry on the segment of biotechnology. For that, a whole new manufacturing unit was confirmed to be deployed in 2016, aimed at cancer and autoimmune diseases treatment medication.

Understanding that healthcare spans beyond drug manufacturing, Libbs is also engaged in social action, sponsoring educational, cultural and sport projects. All of them seek to develop quality of life of the community, always helping people overcome their limitations.

Seeking excellence in every detail, Libbs’ aspiration is to be the most renowned Brazilian pharmaceutical company in the world.

The Challenge
One of the greatest challenges to fast-growth companies such as Libbs is keeping up with prior standards of excellence. Ongoing investment in infrastructure modernization, increasing number of SKUs and growing demand bring forth new challenges to operations daily.

The first effect that becomes apparent is performance metrics declining. Following that, decision making becomes reactive and Planning activities lose ground to emergency situations. Priority shifts occur frequently, challenging company-wise global performance goals. Demand forecasting accuracy is also affected given the explosion of SKUs and scarce knowledge of their new markets. The amount of data to be handled also increases constantly and processes that used to be controlled by hand now require better tools. As a consequence of these phenomena, service level tends to decrease over time.

In addition to the global scalability concern, complicating factors inherent to pharmaceutical manufacturing processes hinder the possibility to rely on manual scheduling through extended periods. For example, short shelf life, strict slack times between formulation and packaging, operation simultaneousness, staff allocation for first batch inspection, quality control which is subject to scarce specialized equipment, and high variability of setup times on packaging.

Aware of such challenges and unwilling to accept poor performance due to rapid growth, Libbs went after robust solutions to their Production Planning and Control needs. Regulatory agency protocols require increasingly tighter process control and escalating information flow calls for automation. The company’s research for a consultancy specialized on these challenges led them to Accera, which in turn presented them with Preactor. Confident to have found a system powerful enough and flexible enough to meet their needs, in addition to a team of consultants that would help them access the most of  the tool, Libbs knew early on that it was following the right track.

The Solution
The Preactor configuration project began in 2011, initially encompassing advanced scheduling on a single facility located at Embu das Artes manufacturing complex. However, throughout the configuration process, the crew involved quickly grasped the range of benefits of Preactor and decided to extend the project to several other manufacturing sites. Such a leap required Preactor to work on its maximum potential through APS 500 systems, the state-of-art product at the time.

The system immediately adapted to the existing planning and control process. Extended visibility of goods flow soon called attention of upper-management, who brought Preactor upstream, as a strategic decision support tool. Currently, Libbs’ medium and long-term inventory policies boast greater insights in both capacity availability and operational synchronization.

Data integration, regarded as one of the main challenges in the project, was designed so that Preactor would be totally integrated with the company’s ERP. Employing a connector developed by Preactor itself through its subsidiary in India, the technology was boldly embraced by Libbs. That was the first implementation of the technology in Brazil and the Libbs’ IT team played a major role in establishing a connection that endures steadily to this day.

The recurrent scope of work adjustments and complex technical requirements did not stop the project from finishing on time, respecting the limit of 7 months initially agreed. Project increments ultimately led to a whole new APS configuration, this time focused on Planning. The dichotomy between Planning and Scheduling became clear as the original project unfolded. Relying on APS to handle both operational and tactical objectives proved an off-putting task. Within 30 days after the first configuration was deployed, the newer one went fully operational and aggregated analysis could then be made.

Results
Following the configuration, Libbs immediately identified a handful of benefits such as automation of their planning and scheduling process. That enabled quick responses to strategic manoeuvres regarding production and provided greater assurance and confidence in the rescheduling process.

Scheduling automation also simplified shop floor execution through straightforward reports that not only directed resource load, but also made it possible to establish pulled processes. Consequently, team productivity across the many areas (Marketing & Sales, Quality Control, Maintenance, Logistics, Production and primarily PPC) was increased and better use of human resources achieved.

Furthermore, material flow visibility and synchronism also enabled total average work-in-process reduction. Libbs previously acquired special containers to hold ever-growing inventory. Today, the company sells the remaining containers to organizations that have not yet reached the same performance levels.

Customization via exclusive scheduling routines helped the company reduce 10% of their total setup times and 33% of their manufacturing lead-time. Attention must be paid to the fact that those metrics consider the portfolio expansion Libbs underwent throughout the project.

"One of the main improvements brought by the system was greater confidence in the production scheduling process across the whole company. Currently, it is impossible to think of any production activity not guided by Preactor, restating the true meaning of MPC strategy, not simply a department that releases production schedules," comments Carlos Reis, Executive Manager of Operations at Libbs.

"Preactor helped us keep ninety eight percent (98%) service levels (products available at the moment of purchase). Such a level would hardly be kept if it was not the tool due to the complexity of Libbs processes and due to over 10% growth between 2011 and 2014," says Valmir Paz, PPC Coordinator for Libbs.

In addition, the new implementation improved long-term (5 years horizon) asset management, human resources allocation and decision making. Freedom to handle multiple scenarios at once, comparing different expectations about how sales volume and operational capacity will change in the future, proved to be an immeasurable analytical boost to the company.

By now, the company studies the implementation of a new configuration set on their pharmochemical business unit. This challenge is precisely what fuels Accera’s passion.