Commercialization: Part Art, Part Science and 100% According to Our New Product Process

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We don’t name our customers publicly, but there are many for whom we’ve been developing and manufacturing products for nearly 20 years.

Sometimes it’s a concept that a customer brings to us that they want us to develop. Other times, we make a proactive demonstration to a prospect or customer, pitching a concept that we can bring to life—or commercialize—on their behalf.

When we commercialize a product, it’s an enterprise-wide effort; every single department is involved. It’s an all-hands-on-deck endeavor, and our commercialization team oversee the New Product Process (NPP) to ensure sure all departments and the customer have what they need to meet all the milestones on the path to launching a new product.

Give me a big-picture overview of the NPP.
It starts with the R&D and innovation team. They get started developing the concept. The commercialization team will get involved at this phase from an operational standpoint. For example, if a particular project needs specialized equipment or materials, we will need to get involved with that from the very beginning.

Once the customer approves the concept, our whole team has to approve it. All the department heads get together as a team to look at the project on the whole from their unique angle. From the formula to the volume, batching, sourcing, to the labels, storage and format… we get together and build a commercialization timeline around all those factors.

Do the customers/prospects have a similar process in place? If so, how does that impact Leahy’s process?
Some of the bigger customers have their own processes that we have to build into ours. We have our (NPP) checklist, but for those customers, we can build in their key steps. When they have their own process it can be great if they are consistent, but that’s not always the case and it can sometimes be challenging.

How do you avoid running into that?
Sometimes we can’t, and when that happens we adjust to make things word. We work with our customers to gain mutual understanding, telling them how the process has worked best for us in the past. We also want to understand what is truly important to them and will work their benchmarks into our process but our experience in our other facilities help us guide the way to shared success.

What is the most exciting part of the timeline for you?
I really like the beginning stages when we first get the product formula. I like getting everyone in the room and problem-solving. We arrive in that room with a date by which the customer wants the project complete and we sort of work backwards from that date. I love that I get to work with every department as well as the customer. I like hearing their ideas and helping them come to life.

Biggest challenge?
Timelines. A lot of customers have really tight timelines. We have to make sure we meet all the milestones where we should be hitting them, but that’s one of our strengths. We are nimble and flexible and have done this enough that we can anticipate problems and work together to solve them. It also means having some difficult conversations as well. Sometimes there are critical steps that cannot be skipped or adjusted and that can be difficult to deal with.

Why are we able to be nimble?
We don’t have silos here – We have open communication and dialogue. So, our logistics team, for example, right from the start “No I cannot do this, but if we do xyz, we will be able to deliver.” In a bigger organization, you have these silos where the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing. Our culture of accountability, as well as being in-office, allows our team to pop in at someone’s desk and just ask “Hey, where are we at with this?” Those frequent updates happen more easily when you’re in the office together and you respect what each team member is trying to do. Nobody is trying to hide anything or scramble. We are transparent about addressing an issue and can all work together to solve it. It is always a team effort so there’s less opportunity for mistakes and missed deadlines.

BC First Run

How long does it take to commercialize a product?
Ideally, we have 8-12 weeks to commercialize a product, which is significantly shorter than most companies, where it’s usually at least 14-16 weeks. Because of our strong culture and we have strong partners at every level of the process and it allows commercialize in a shorter amount of time.

What happens if a customer wants something faster than we can handle?
If a customer wants a turnaround in less than 8 weeks, sometimes we can pull it off, but it’s not something we can guarantee. Raw materials and packaging takes time and we run a schedule to maximize our capacity, which means we are looking into the future. There’s nothing worse than having to call a customer a week before trial and say ‘hey we don’t have everything ready. We have to push you out.’

What’s your favorite part of your job?
It is really cool to see the products and projects you’ve been working on in the marketplace. Even though we can’t go out and say “Hey we made that” it’s really awesome when I see a commercial showcasing a product we brought to life. We took this from nothing– just an idea– to a commercialized product.

What was it like prior to creating the NPP?
It’s hard to remember what we did before the NPP because it’s such an important part of our success now. It was just every department just doing their own thing, and that created a lot of inefficiencies. It wasn’t that we didn’t work together, but there was a lot of miscommunications. We’d get to the run, and we’d show up and packaging might not be there for example. And then we’d be asking all these questions about how that slipped through the cracks. Well, now we know before the run if that’s in danger of happening and adjust timelines and expectations if we can’t solve the problem.

At Leahy-IFP, we are committed to making a more fruitful life for everyone. Our Commercialization NPP is an example of our belief in setting up processes to ensure quality. We strive to always maintain the highest levels of quality and safety and to deliver the best products and customer experiences.

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