Eli Lilly may be new to using Six Sigma but they put so much research into the methodology before deployment you would have thought it was a new drug. And in fact Six Sigma is the drug to which 200 Black Belts are currently addicted. Once you start up the hellacious hills of hypotheses and down the slippery slopes of statistics towards the marvelous mecca of metrics, it’s hard to stop.

A recent article by Jeff Swiatek in The Indianapolis Star revealed the secrets of Six Sigma at Lilly. Here is the overview:

  • Six Sigma savings goal: two to three percent of annual revenue.
  • Black Belt count goal: one percent of employee population or around 400 Black Belts. (They will reach this goal in 2006 when 200 more employees are trained in the “good stuff”: Six Sigma.)
  • 60 projects completed of the several hundred launched.

Project Examples

“Making the Lilly Cares drug discount program for low- income patients easier to use. One change: reducing by half the number of questions a patient must answer on the application.

“Decreasing by about 40 percent the time Lilly sales representatives in Mexico, Canada, Brazil and Japan spent on administrative tasks. A similar project is aimed at the U.S. sales force.”

The Indianapolis Star

The 2004 Annual Report speaks very highly of Six Sigma and suggests that the company will use the money saved to do more for their customers such as funding clinical trials or broadening their reach so more people can benefit from their products.

“This year, we will launch a corporate-wide effort to identify and pursue further productivity gains, using the well-established toolkit of the Six Sigma process. We will apply these tools across our operations, looking for every opportunity to cut waste, reduce variability, shorten cycle times and boost efficiency. The dollars gained can be harvested to deliver more—to fund a clinical trial that supports a new indication, or a new market research effort to bring our solutions to more patients who may be helped by them.”

2004 Annual Report

Lilly’s deployment of Six Sigma will be one to watch. Their decision to go with Six Sigma was based on years of research from the Six Sigma efforts of a dozen other companies. The financial benefit to the company and shareholders is one thing, but the application of Six Sigma in the pharmaceutical industry has a greater potential to make the world a healthier place.

Articles and Links

Lilly Breaks Out the Black Belts, Indystar.com, October 10, 2005

Elizabeth H. Klimes, Vice President. Six Sigma, Lilly Website

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