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Introducing Continuous Improvement in an R&D Facility: Action research in the pharmaceutical industry
Linköping University, Department of Management and Engineering, Quality Technology and Management. Linköping University, The Institute of Technology.
2014 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

Continuous Improvement processes are commonly used by many organizations facing competitive pressure. By implementing continuous incremental changes, it allows optimizing resources while maintaining flexibility. However, it requires significant resources and involvement from all levels of management, as well as field workers. Continuous Improvement is based on the study of processes and the identification of recurrent problems; therefore it is particularly adapted to manufacturing activities and other repetitive processes. R&D (Research and Development) activities are less repetitive and tend to be iterative, which make them more difficult to study. Yet these activities represent a strong competitive asset and an early mistake or misunderstanding might have a significant cost.

The objective of this project was to study the deployment of Continuous Improvement for R&D processes through a literature review and a case study in the pharmaceutical industry. Action research has been the research method that has been employed; the particularity of this method is that the researcher participates actively to the studied change.

It resulted in the identification of some characteristics that have to be taken into account in the deployment of improvement activities. First the culture is based on problem-solving, which increase the efficiency of data study and analytical method whilst formalization tools are less efficient, as well as performance indicators related to improvement activities. Besides, the need of customers (both internal and external) is difficult to define and is subject to evolution; this issue tends to be aggravated by a lack of communication. Moreover, development projects being unique and highly iterative, it is recommended to study processes at a more conceptual level, although no specific mapping tool seems particularly adapted. Finally, beside the study of general processes, the study of each individual project (project reviews) allows individual and collective learning.

This project also propose a tool allowing the study of information flows between activities and teams in order to reduce mismatch between need and reality (and thus communication issues). This tool relies on the use of local SIPOC diagrams to represent activities and the mapping of flows between each of them.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. , 84 p.
Keyword [en]
Continuous Improvement, Research & Development, Process Mapping, Organisational Culture, Organisational Learning, Pharmaceutical Industry
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-110882ISRN: LIU-IEI-TEK-A—14/02079—SEOAI: diva2:749894
External cooperation
Pharmaceutical company
Subject / course
Quality Technology
Available from: 2014-09-26 Created: 2014-09-25 Last updated: 2014-09-26Bibliographically approved

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