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Supporting the Business Case for a Major Factory in Italy 

Decision Lab Case Study with GSK


GSK was planning to build a new sterile manufacturing facility, and needed a tool for the design optimisation and supporting the business case for this multi-million-pound investment. 


Capturing the complex processes that required input from more than 30 experts, and developing this in a short timeframe within a technology that was fast and accurate enough to explore the problem and optimise the solution for different scenarios. 


A dynamic simulation model that provides meaningful insights into the future production line. It allows the optimisation of equipment, personnel and utility resources to meet the forecasted commercial demand over the next decade. Page Break 

Optimising a future facility to proof its value  

GSK was planning to build a new sterile manufacturing facility in 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.   

Managing to be comprehensive, 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 of 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? 

A real 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. 

We’ve laid the foundation for the future 

GSK is now entering the construction phase. We are proud that modelling has helped support this. 

According to GSK, the top 3 benefits provided by the modelling activity are: 

  • 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. 
  • Increased confidence in the amount of equipment required for the new production line ultimately led to a reduction in CAPEX by 20% 
  • The ability to evaluate over 200 different business scenarios in a short amount of time 

Our tool can deliver continued value to the project so that in the future it will be possible to further evaluate capacity requirements as a function of the demand forecast variability. The model also can be extended to people and material flow for the final operational layout.