For those of us with imperfect vision, a life without contact lenses might seem pretty unimaginable.
In 1987, Johnson & Johnson introduced the first mass-marketed disposable contact lens under the brand Acuvue—and the rest, as they say, is history.
Each and every day, Johnson & Johnson’s Visioncare plant in Limerick, Ireland, manufactures millions of Acuvue contact lenses for markets around the globe. And keeping everything running smoothly is plant manager Barry O’Sullivan.
Whether it’s troubleshooting day-to-day quality control issues or spearheading technological advancements for the latest Acuvue products, O’Sullivan’s job revolves around helping the plant, its nearly 1,000 employees and the community at large thrive.
It's been 30 years since those first lenses hit the market, so we decided to catch up with O'Sullivan, who has worked for Johnson & Johnson Visioncare for 15 years, to learn more about his job—and get a glimpse into where the business is headed.
My typical workday is …
The plant runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So my first focus in the morning is always on what happened overnight: Did we have any safety or quality issues? Was there any customer feedback? Are we well-resourced and addressing priorities? Are there any hot topics? For instance, we might get spot orders in which people need additional production for a sales promotion, so how do we organize for that?
The middle of the day is focused on internal projects in the plant and supporting the project team. The purpose of the plant, ultimately, is to help grow sales, and as the market leader in contact lenses, the primary way we do that is by bringing new products to market to address unmet needs.
My afternoon is typically spent on calls or video conferences with our colleagues and partners in Jacksonville, Florida, which is home to our Visioncare head office and a sister plant that houses most of our R&D functions.
I'm most excited about …
We’re always innovating and trying new things. We have a new product, 1-Day Acuvue Oasys® for Astigmatism, that will launch globally this year, which we just started shipping to our local distribution hub.
One of the particular advantages of this daily-wear lens is that it is extremely comfortable. The challenge always is to provide increased comfort at an affordable price, so that’s the innovation we’ve been working on: balancing that comfort, visual acuity and affordability equation as best we can.
I volunteer to chair a group aimed at helping grow employment in the region. We’re here for the long term—the factory’s been open for 20 years—and it’s critically important we have a pipeline of skills for the next 20.
I take pride in …
We’ve done a lot of work here in Limerick on environmental improvements. Contact lenses are ultimately a disposable product, so it’s very important to us that the environmental footprint in terms of CO2 emissions and water usage is minimized in their production. We have a lot of very innovative environmental work going on—and more planned.
The Visioncare plant is part of a community, and we need the community to be strong and vibrant to be able to produce a pipeline of skills and talent for our business to be successful. In turn, we also need to give back to the community. I volunteer to chair a regional group called the Mid-West Action Plan for Jobs, aimed at helping grow employment in the region. We’ve had a lot of success getting people back to work and helping attract new businesses to the area.
We’re a business that’s here for the long term—the factory’s been open for 20 years—and it’s critically important we have a pipeline of skills for the next 20 years.
My favorite part of the job is …
I love seeing people develop and progress over time—people who joined us in junior positions and grow into new roles. We’ve exported a lot of talent out of the plant into the wider Johnson & Johnson network, and a lot of people who started off with us now have senior roles in the company.
We give back by …
We have a cycling club at the plant that participates in a charity event every August called Campus Ireland Plant to Plant Cycle Challenge. It’s a two-day event that covers about 300 kilometers (186.4 miles), and over 150 people take part in it.
We typically raise between 40,000 and 50,000 euros ($43,000 to $54,000) through the race each year for the Children’s Medical & Research Foundation Crumlin in Dublin.
The word I live by …
Trust. We’re very clear on our purpose and it’s to continue to grow the Acuvue brand and earn customer trust every day. We do that by having consistent quality and customer service, bringing new products and innovations to the market, and by being the premium brand.
People trust the Johnson & Johnson brand, so our first priority is to maintain and protect that trust every day.