Project Management, Manufacturing and the COVID19 Vaccine

William Delaney

2020 has been an exceptional year of firsts: socially, politically and economically. A year that has created distance, angst and exasperation like none in living memory. The pandemic known as COVID19 was first brought to our attention in late 2019. But the distance – physically and mentally – from our reality made facing its future effects almost impossible for the average person.

In 2020 the world that we knew and loved changed dramatically. Within days, hours and even minutes every aspect of our day-to-day lives became impaired. Hospitals were suddenly overwhelmed with patients suffering from the illness, thousands were dying, governments were forced to enforce extreme measures such as lockdowns and travel bans. Companies were compelled to close their doors, many lost their jobs and those lucky enough to be able to work from home were inundated with work to cover the burden. The economy was crashing fast and to top it all off, people young and old were given rigid rules to social distance.

This probably all sounds like an over sensationalized scenario, you can almost only picture it in a horror or some sort of sci-fi alternate universe movie, but unfortunately that’s our living reality! But just like in every good movie, there is a glimmer of hope in the not-so-distant future. That, of course, is the vaccine.

As soon as the pandemic came to the forefront of our society, the vaccine race began. But unlike with other medical pursuits, everyone globally had a vested interest in finding a solution to battle and protect against COVID19. Pharmaceutical companies are pumping billions of dollars (even being aided financially by governments who are desperate for an answer) into finding a vaccine that will immunise humans against this silent killer.

The pharmaceutical industry is focused on the science and chemistry behind the vaccine, and everyone seems to have their eyes fixated on them. However, logically, without the engineering and manufacturing of skilled and specialist machinery the pharmaceutical sector would be unable to continue their vital work or at least do it at the scale that’s necessary from both a production and logistic perspective!

Engineer-to-order and specialist manufacturers catering to this industry are swamped with the number of orders they’re currently trying to handle, particularly those focused on vaccine-related machinery. Never has efficiency and scalability of output been more essential to the sector.

Executive teams, operations and even general staff are looking at the project manager/s to create new processes to ensure they can get the job done and cater to the orders at mass in a quality manner (everyone within the organization has vested interests financially and this time personally to speed things up!).

Project managers playing a key role in the production of such machinery are now relying more than ever on tools to help automate and communicate with teams, manage all the necessary tasks and report to stakeholders in a transparent and easy to understand way. Reporting and update requests have become a daily hindrance and an administrative nightmare within the sector.

Unlike before, most of the project managers within this field have increased the number of projects they were working on, from 3 – 4 per manager to 6 – 8: that’s a duplication in both the work and demand. For those trying to gain an overview of the “big picture” (all the current running projects) for the scheduling and acceptance of new orders based on resources and labour – not to mention costs – the need for a portfolio view within a tool has become fundamental in order for the business objectives to be met, quality to be maintained and efficiency to be managed.

Once the project has been accepted and assigned to an individual project manager, time is usually of the essence (especially with the vaccine in mind). Creating a detailed plan, in a simple to use tool, that will allow resources to be counted and all labour forces to be assigned is of the utmost importance. In such a high-pressure environment, identifying bottlenecks from the get-go is critical to the success of the project and the scaling of output. The plan also needs to be clear, conscious and the communication of requirements needs to be easily visualised. Net-plans give the ideal aesthetic in providing such clarity.

Of course, with most manufacturing companies working at capacity levels, and the pharmaceutical industry ever-adapting, change requests have become more frequent. Manufacturing as an industry has a reputation of being rigid in their processes, however, with this shockwave, many of the manufacturing companies partnered with the pharmaceutical industry need a change in thought and to become more agile in their way of working.

Many legacy tools within the industry are fixed to the traditional methods and are not innovative towards the agile environment needed. Right now, this specific industry needs a tool that can handle spur of the moment changes, that can utilize forward and backward planning when required, but most importantly, can update the plan as a whole based on the change and the impact it will have on its success automatically. Redefining projects from scratch is simply not sustainable within the current climate.

Project management at any level is about organisation, but at its core a project manager is a moderator in the communication of tasks required to meet the customer expectation between all the specialist labour involved. But moderation in any form works both ways, the project management tools used by these professionals needs to have communication at the forefront.
However, what’s even more crucial now, especially for these industries that are being inundated with work, is that externals such as freelance labourers or teams can be managed within the tool and communicated with directly, however, access to their visibility of the project can be at the project managers or company’s discretion. This is of high importance as many organisations are outsourcing tasks to meet the additional demands requested of them.

Specialist project management software such as has been engineered to cater to all of the pain points listed above and much more. This software was conceptualised by project experts, who worked closely with German software engineers to create a symbiotic tool that brings technology and project management methodologies and process together. The tool itself is being used within the specific niche of the manufacturing sector and as a result project professionals have seen growth in both efficiency and acceleration of output. The tool tackles everything from portfolio management and project planning /scheduling, to communication and transparency.

Right now, we all rely heavily on the manufacturing industry whether we know it or not. They’re playing an essential role in the war against the silent killer, COVID19 which we’ve all come to fear. We need to, as digital software, be part of the solution to this problem and that’s exactly what we’ve been trying to do here at Allex. Our ears have been to the ground, and our teams have been working tirelessly to make sure our product doesn’t just deliver but exceeds the expectations of these companies and essential professionals.