Innovation & imagination: 5 questions for Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Global Supply Chain Officer
There’s a reason why the company is consistently honored for its supply chain work. We look at what it really takes to keep the large-scale operation humming—and constantly evolving.
If your answer is no, then you haven’t met Kathy Wengel, Executive Vice President & Chief Global Supply Chain Officer, Johnson & Johnson, who has helped the company garner numerous accolades for its supply chain work, including being awarded the prestigious Salzberg Medallion from Syracuse University.
And Wengel herself is being honored this month by the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals with its 2019 Distinguished Service Award, and is also being inducted into the Supply Chain Hall of Fame.
We sat down with her to learn more about how she and her team are driving what it means to be supply chain innovative.
How are you innovating the manufacturing and production of the company’s broad portfolio of products?
Even with a supply chain the size of ours, we are constantly innovating by investing in our people and in technology to meet the needs of patients, consumers and customers. We produce everything from lifesaving medicines to artificial knees and hips to eye care products, mouthwash and baby shampoo. It may surprise you to know that we produce 80% of the world’s sutures, and nearly five billion contact lenses every year.
Most recently, we’ve enhanced our production of an HIV treatment by using an integrated quality process, using data provided by the machinery in our facility. This process collects and aggregates data in real time and then processes it using online multivariate analysis and machine learning. This enables us to make process corrections in real time so that we produce only acceptable product, enhance its quality, and improve speed and efficiency. This past January, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved our process, thus eliminating the need for off-line quality testing and allowing us to get an important medication to patients more quickly.
Clearly, delivering innovations like this—whether for a 3-D printed face mask or a personalized cancer therapy—requires us to stay hyper-connected to commercial and research & development teams, so together we can reimagine and change the way we work to meet market needs.
Johnson & Johnson Consumer has pledged to help tackle the problem of plastic waste. What are some examples of ways the company is working toward that goal?
I’m especially excited by this initiative—sustainability is playing an increasing role in driving our reputation as a good corporate citizen.
Since signing the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, we continue to develop strategies to support the 2025 goals, including those to reduce material use by decreasing packaging size, weight or thickness; using packaging materials with recycled content; designing for recyclability by selecting materials that are already widely recycled; and influencing recycling rates by investing in infrastructure and raising consumer and customer awareness.
We redesigned our Tylenol® product packaging to make the bottle easier for consumers to open, while also eliminating more than 40 tons of one-time-use plastic.
For example, we redesigned our Tylenol® product packaging to make the bottle easier for consumers to open, while also eliminating more than 40 tons of one-time-use plastic. And with our Le Petit Marseillais™ brand, we launched a first-of-its-kind shower gel concentrate that reduces packaging by an estimated 60% and water by an estimated 45%.
We also recognize that to truly address the plastic waste issue, we need to engage our consumers, customers and broader supply chain. We do this in numerous ways, including our Care To Recycle® Program, our inclusion of the How2Recycle® label on our products, and through ongoing investment in partnerships that advance recycling infrastructure, such as the Closed Loop Fund. We also joined The Materials Recovery for the Future project, a collaboration of leading companies in North America committed to advancing the understanding of how flexible plastic packaging can be effectively sorted for recovery.
How does Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to quality and safety manifest itself in the supply chain?
Quality and safety form the foundation of our reputation—they’re the reasons why people put their trust in us at some of the most vulnerable moments of their lives. You see this commitment in the first two sentences of Our Credo, where it says that, in meeting the needs of the patients, doctors and nurses, mothers and fathers, and all others who use our products and services, everything we do must be of high quality.
Each of our supply chain associates take this responsibility very seriously, as do all Johnson & Johnson leaders. Our global quality policy and standards cover the lifecycle of our products across all three of our business sectors, from research and development to the supply chain all the way through to the customer experience.
Safety is our top priority, from the safety and efficacy of our products to the safety and well-being of each of our employees around the world. Providing a safe and secure work environment, and empowering each of our associates to take action if they see a potential safety issue, is another tenet of Our Credo, and one of the ways we are able to reliably deliver life enhancing products to more than a billion people around the world every day.
What are some of the innovative ways the company is looking outside its own supply chain to improve processes?
We used to think that we had to solve every challenge ourselves. Over time, we’ve learned that we need to look outside of Johnson & Johnson, and even outside our industry, to find new ideas and ways of working to help us move faster and deliver better value to patients, consumers and customers.
After testing many different applications from other industries, we chose one and then scaled across our facilities. Now we’re seeing up to a 10% increase in machine up-time, and up to 30% improvement in predictive maintenance cost and staff efficiency.
We use a systematic approach for screening through small-scale testing of new processes and technologies across industries. We may start those tests early and learn while we test, generating data quickly to determine what works, as well as ensuring it works in our highly regulated environment. We also think up front about what it will take in terms of people and systems to scale broadly across the supply chain. How quickly can we do it? What’s the investment involved?
For example, we wanted to improve how we reduce down-time of our manufacturing lines using predictive maintenance—essentially using sensors to tell our mechanics the exact time when a line needs to be serviced, instead of relying on maintenance schedules. After testing many different applications from other industries, we chose one and then scaled across our facilities. Now we’re seeing up to a 10% increase in machine up-time, and up to 30% improvement in predictive maintenance cost and staff efficiency.
What are you most proud of from your over 30-year career at Johnson & Johnson?
There are many things to be proud of. Most recently, it’s how we’ve built a strong, interconnected supply chain to meet people’s needs and fuel growth for our company. It’s a never-ending journey, and we’re successful because of the daily dedication of more than 50,000 supply chain associates.
A related factor in our success is how we are building more diverse global teams across our organization. We see every time how results are dramatically improved when you put people with different experiences, different backgrounds and different perspectives together and give them a challenge to solve.
I have always made sure we form diverse teams, starting with my own leadership team, and our results are better because of it. I think this is an important reason why we are seeing more external recognition, including being ranked this year by Gartner as one of the top 10 supply chains in the world across all industries, and the top ranked healthcare company. And I’m extremely honored and humbled to have been named the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Service Award from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.
None of this is possible without strong, dynamic and diverse teams to tackle and solve the complex challenges that come at us in healthcare each day.