Household Products Best Factory sponsored by IBC Technical Services; Best Factory in the North East sponsored by CIGNA Employee Benefits.
Three factories fought a closely contested battle for this year's Factory of the Year award. Ryobi Aluminium Casting and Glaxo Manufacturing Services both threatened to pip Design to Distribution at the post. This was a remarkable achievement on Glaxo's part, in view of the relative infancy of its improvement programme and the nature of the industry in which it operates. Pharmaceutical groups tend to be financially cosseted. Of the 50 most profitable businesses in the world, no fewer than 19 are in pharmaceuticals. Relying on their R and D strengths - and a measure of patent protection - for their competitive edge, they seldom enjoy a high reputation for manufacturing prowess. Ian McCubbin, manufacturing manager of the Glaxo factory at Barnard Castle, County Durham, has long accepted that it's not always easy, in these circumstances, to get employee commitment to world-class manufacturing. 'It makes it difficult to say to people that you've got your backs to the wall.' The Barnard Castle factory is one of six Glaxo Manufacturing Services locations that produce the group's pharmaceutical products for distribution around the world. Dating from 1986, the cephalosporin plant is the newest on the 50-year-old site, and its sparkling buildings and process equipment indicate a high level of capital investment.
In spite of the clinical appearance, however, it is essentially a packaging plant, one that works at very high volumes and in ultra-sterile conditions. Its function is to take in the chemical cephalosporin from a sister factory, process this so that it is physically suitable for the form in which it is to be dispensed, and pack and package it as required - as tablets, syrups, drops, etc, in vials, capsules, bottles, sachets.