Real-time project management
Saharsh Rao Davuluri, president of contract research at Neuland Laboratories
On-time execution of API project development is a challenge for manufacturers. Neuland Laboratories has designed its GuarD
project-management system around the principles of critical chain project management (CCPM), a concept developed by Eliyahu
Goldratt, a prominent management consultant, who introduced the theory of constraints business model. Unlike other project-management
systems, CCPM emphasizes flexible start dates and shared project resources. CCPM also uses buffers as a shared project resource
rather than an individual task resource, thus enabling the overall project to be completed on time without requiring the individual
tasks to be completed on time.
Process and organization.
Neuland is an API and contract manufacturer based in Hyderabad, India. Almost 80% of the company's products are sold into
the US and European markets, and these product must meet strict regulatory standards. In a typical year, Neuland scientists
complete 30–40 projects ranging from complete API development, production of starting materials, and development of alternate
processes for new molecular or chemical entities, as well as a variety of contract-manufacturing assignments for pharmaceutical
ingredients and peptides. Depending on their complexity, projects may require process chemistry, analytical chemistry, technology
transfer, production, developmental quality assurance, supply-chain management, regulatory affairs support, and project-management
Figure 1: (Neuland). A screenshot illustrating how a project’s progress can be tracked and how a user can participate directly
through the GuarD web portal. (FIGURE 1 (NEULAND) IS COURTESY OF THE AUTHOR)
Organizational framework and real-time monitoring.
Under GuarD's CCPM approach, each project is broken down into its basic tasks by a cross-functional team. The project has
a designated team leader, usually an experienced scientist from the process-chemistry department, and a project manager responsible
for managing timelines and communications. The team leader is the technical head of the project and responsible for overall
Once the project has been divided into the basic tasks and sub-tasks, the details are transferred to a Microsoft project software
template. This ensures that all the dependencies, resource requirements, and tentative start and end dates are recorded. The
project is not considered "live" until the cross-functional team signs off on the detailed project plan. The finalized project
document is uploaded to a web portal, and managers update respective tasks and sub-tasks as the project progresses. Managers
can make qualitative updates detailing how tasks are proceeding, or quantitative updates to help respective task managers
track how long a task will take to complete. Teams are encouraged to make at least one status update per day.
The ability to make both qualitative and quantitative updates in the GuarD project-management system is highly useful. Personnel
in downstream operations, and more importantly the client, get an accurate picture of progress upstream and can plan accordingly.
Neuland's customers also can track a project's progress and participate directly through the GuarD web portal.
A key advantage of the GuarD system is that its detail and interactive nature make it easier to promptly identify and manage
delays at any step, thereby facilitating on-time completion. For example, when the process-chemistry department requires more
time to complete their tasks, the project manager is immediately aware of the situation and can work with all task managers
to identify opportunities downstream to recover that time. Although it is important for the project manager to investigate
the reasons for the delay, the immediate focus is on finding ways to deliver a quality project on time. Solutions might include
running additional shifts or vessels or staggering batches. In most cases, customers are invited to join these discussions
and contribute to the solution based on their experience and priorities.
Neuland's project-management system helps its clients in several ways. It provides a platform of almost 100% transparency,
providing more insight than weekly calls or project reports. A smart phone app will soon allow customers to access their projects
real-time. It also enables higher on-time completion rates. Although the GuarD approach cannot promise 100% on-time completion,
it has enabled Neuland to make considerable progress towards this goal.
Customer trends: biopharmaceutical companies