Improving processes with a clear view

When intensive care units have to switch from providing post-operative care to artificial respiration, that not only has consequences for the equipment and nursing care. It also affects the demand for medical products and drugs, especially when it has to be done in a very short space of time and on a large scale. That was the case during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, when surgeries had to be cancelled and beds freed up for ventilation, resulting in the need for different drugs. But what does that have to do with Data Analytics & Science? Jens Strohmenger and Pascal Vogt from Advanced Manufacturing Analytics & Performance Projects (AMAPP) at Fresenius Kabi explain.

Before we look back at the intense period in 2020 – what does AMAPP do?

Jens Strohmenger: In a nutshell? We help to make production faster and more efficient. In more detail: We are part of the Manufacturing IT department, which in turn belongs to the Pharmaceuticals & Devices division – in other words, we work in the area of product development and production. We build data structures and reporting systems that enable us to analyze processes and improve them. We play an important role in the digitalization of the company as a whole.

And why was that so sought-after, especially in the early days of the pandemic?

Pascal Vogt: The coronavirus had a direct impact on our production and the associated processes, including purchasing, warehousing, logistics, etc.: Countless planned operations had to be postponed, which had a strong impact on demand for our product portfolio. Instead, more people needed artificial respiration, which requires other drugs, of course, such as anesthetics for artificial respiration. Demand for these drugs and their primary products soared worldwide. At the same time, freight routes had to be reorganized due to transport restrictions.

Jens Strohmenger: We had to turn our schedules upside down, practically overnight, as each country tried to replenish their stocks to be prepared. As a company, we quickly needed transparency – on our stocks, on the development of sales on a daily basis, on how many products were being produced and how to guarantee a fair distribution of these drugs worldwide.

How did your team contribute to resolving the situation?

Jens Strohmenger: We analyzed and prepared data from SAP systems so that management could make decisions based on facts and figures. A new aspect was that the information had to be available at very short notice in order to respond as fast as possible. In addition, we not only had to establish what stocks we had in store, but also to get an idea of the volumes currently en route on container ships, for example. We then developed a solution in a very short period of time that enabled us to get this information with a daily update and virtually at the touch of a button.

Without our dashboards, we would have had to scan long lists – as was previously the case – to find out how things stood in terms of stocks and capacity. It is practically impossible to do this quickly. And the best thing is that the pandemic greatly accelerated the topic of Data Analytics & Science in our company and showed that creating the team was a good idea. We can now use the knowledge we have gained to optimize our inventory and improve production planning in the future.

"Without our dashboards, we would have had to scan long lists – as was previously the case – to find out how things stood in terms of stocks and capacity."

Talking about the team, tell us more about it!

Pascal Vogt: At the moment, there are ten of us in the team allocated to four topics: purchasing and inventory, quality management, indirect production (such as logistics, support, etc.) and production itself. We divided up these areas to enable us to enhance our knowledge in the different fields. We all have different backgrounds, from business information technology to the real estate industry, which gives us varied perspectives on the topics we work on.

"We all have different backgrounds, from business information technology to the real estate industry, which gives us varied perspectives on the topics we work on."

What is your background?

Pascal Vogt: I studied electrical engineering, then I decided to switch to IT administration and trained as an IT specialist. After that, I worked as an SAP consultant for a few years with a focus on controlling and finance, which brought me to Fresenius.

Jens Strohmenger: I have a background in chemistry: After an apprenticeship as a laboratory chemist, I studied chemical engineering, which I followed up with a postgraduate degree in international business relations. I started working in controlling, which is how I got to Fresenius. Among others, I was head of controlling at our plant in the Netherlands, where I helped to introduce SAP. I did the same at a Kabi plant in Brazil. After that, I took over as leader of AMAPP.

What kind of colleagues are you looking for to join your team?

Jens Strohmenger: As Pascal already said, we all have very different backgrounds, which is great! What we all have in common is a good quantitative understanding. Colleagues should be able to derive processes from the data. They have to put up with not knowing in the morning what the day will bring, and that sometimes their work will end up in the garbage. Because some of the solutions we develop are great, but if they don’t result in savings, they won’t be implemented. You have to cope with disappointments like that. It’s good if new colleagues like coffee and sushi, and a dark sense of humor also helps!

Pascal Vogt: We have also had students and postgraduates working in the team for the last few years, which has two advantages: It allows us to benefit from their know-how and gives us a pool of potential new employees, which we urgently need.

How is your work organized, and why should someone join you?

Jens Strohmenger: Our most important task is to digitalize the company, and to do that, you have to try out new things. My job is to make sure that the team has the freedom to do this. For example, every two weeks we have “lecture time”, where someone from the team prepares a topic and explains it to the others. Sometimes we form task forces that can spend a bit more time on a topic. We are also in close contact with Fresenius’s subsidiaries, which gives us lots of incentives for new topics.

We work on a wide variety of tasks in the team and have plenty of scope to try out new things. We have flat hierarchies and can often make decisions unbureaucratically. The international environment is attractive, and you can move to a completely different area, both geographically and content-wise, if you want. Fresenius is an exciting company, and its products have a purpose and help people.

Thank you for talking with us!