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Supporting the business case for a major factory in Italy 

Decision Lab Case Study with GSK

Figuring out the optimal 

GSK was planning to build a new sterile manufacturing facility in Parma, Italy. Its Front-End Engineering & Design (FEED) team had to develop the design concept to support the business case. A key project requirement was to establish the optimal level of resources (equipment, personnel, utility) to satisfy a decade of forecasted commercial demands.   

Comprehensive, yet fast and flexible 

Product forecasting and demand fluctuations have always represented a big challenge for companies, especially during the design of a new manufacturing line or plant. Getting the right product mix, coordination and optimisation of resources such as machines, operators, materials, etc. are some of the challenges that GSK faces operationally. For us, the challenge was developing a model that captured all the required complexity while being fast enough and flexible enough to answer the business questions and allow a wide exploration and optimisation of the problem space. 

A sim model for the future production line  

The solution was to develop a simulation model for the planned new production line for biopharma sterile products. This accurate operational model would allow GSK to test the future production line and investigate its boundaries by evaluating several “what if” scenarios. It provides an understanding of the factors that impact production capacity and operating costs. It also gives specific answers to key questions: how many machines they should buy, what technology these machines will use, and what their operational regime (number of operators, ship patterns, etc.) should be? 

It’s all about the team effort 

We worked closely with GSK technical experts to develop the model, in a highly collaborative and fruitful relationship. It was a cross-functional learning exercise involving about thirty GSK contributors across several counties and disciplines. This approach helped the design and production teams gain a holistic view of the capacity and operation as we uncovered the process logic and operational metrics. It also offered a high level of engagement within GSK, aided knowledge transfer and built confidence in the model and the insights it provides. 

Preparing for the final layout to be built  

GSK is now entering the last phase of planning, and it looks very promising for the build to start next year. We are proud that modelling has helped support this. 

According to GSK, the top 4 benefits provided by the modelling activity are: 

  • Increased confidence in the amount of equipment required for the new production line 
  • Identifying reduction in overall capital investment costs by 20% 
  • The ability to evaluate over 200 different business scenarios in a short amount of time 
  • Faster approval timeline – the trust in the modelling outputs has smoothed the stage-gate approval of the concept and allowed it to move faster into the next project phase. 

As well as providing essential knowledge required for the design process of a new facility, our tool can deliver continued value to the project. In later equipment selection phases and beyond, more targeted scenario analysis can be performed. The model also can be extended to people and material flow for the final operational layout.