“We treat each unit of medicine like it’s the only one we’re making”
Meet Hikmat Adamu, a supervisor in Teva’s manufacturing facility in Runcorn, UK. With half a million units produced by her team every day, rigorous checks and balances are needed to ensure every single unit is sterile, secure, and safe for patient use. How is this achieved? ‘By treating each unit of medicine like it’s the only one we’re making,’ explains Hikmat.
We produce half a million units of medicine every day. My team can have up to three or four batches of medicine at various stages of production at any one time. It’s my job to have a complete overview of what is going on at each point to make sure operations are seamless. I might be supervising a batch leaving the warehouse one minute and weighing out raw materials at the dispensary the next. I am constantly making calls on what to prioritize so that our work is complete by the end of the twelve hour shift.
Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. We aim to keep the good stuff in the medicine, and the bad stuff out. This is done through sterilization and there are many layers to this process. Everything is focused on keeping human and environment-based contaminants such as germs and microbes out of the millions of units of medicines we produce each year.
Maintaining quality and safety is essential. I’m always aware that one contaminated product could change an entire family’s life forever. As I like to say to the team, ‘treat every unit of medicine like it’s the only one you’re making.’ If there is even a suggestion of contamination when the final product is tested, thousands of units go straight in the trash bin. We just can’t take the risk.
We’ve worked hard to keep essential medicines moving during the COVID19 pandemic whilst keeping our employees safe. As soon as the situation emerged, additional emergency measures were put in place at our facilities to prevent the transmission of the virus, like introducing one-way systems and ensuring all surfaces are cleaned every two hours. We’re observing social distancing on the production line and have access to personal protective equipment like respirators. Everyone has felt very reassured, particularly as we have a company doctor.
The production lines hardly ever stop. To meet our target of producing around 480 million units per year, it’s important that our machines run around the clock. To supplement this, two teams work in twelve-hour shifts, one during the day and one at night, to see a batch of medicine through the production cycle. The time goes so quickly, but I really enjoy the sense of achievement at the end of a shift when a batch is released from the warehouse.
I had no idea my job existed. Which is funny because I can’t image doing anything different. After not wanting to dissect a frog in college or work in a lab in university, my biomedical science degree led me to pharmaceuticals. After applying for a job in the packaging arm of this facility, I joined a graduate training program and the rest is history.
When was the last time you read the leaflet inside your medication box? There are a lot of checks to make sure a leaflet is present in each unit, as it has incredibly important information for the patient. If there is a chance a leaflet has not gone in, the box will be rejected.
My dad has influenced my leadership style. Dad has always encouraged me to explore the ‘why’ of what I am doing to find solutions. This is how I train my team to think. There is no room for guesswork so effective training is critical.
It’s a family affair. It sounds corny but I really believe that. Our team is structured so we complement each other’s strengths. We’re not afraid to hold each other to account. This honest approach to communication ensures we each play our part in overcoming challenges. If you find a problem, you fix it. That’s our culture.
The thought of making a difference to someone’s life keeps me motivated. While I will never meet or know the vast majority of patients who rely on the medicines we make, it humbles me to think of how our work here can be helping provide someone else, from anywhere in the world, with a better quality of life.
Amy works in the engineering department at Teva’s plant in Runcorn, UK. It’s her job to make sure that medicines come off the packaging line as quickly and smoothly as possible.