Hospira Inc., a maker of pharmaceutical and medication delivery products, takes lean manufacturing both seriously and literally. Not only is the company dedicated to eliminating waste in all areas of production, but also it is attempting to reduce the 2.4 billion pounds of waste that hospitals themselves produce every year. Chris Begley, CEO of the Lake Forest, Ill.-based company, believes that manufacturers have a social and environmental responsibility to reduce waste in what they do, and in what they supply to their customers. To that end, Hospira recently developed and launched a new intravenous solution bag -- the VisIV -- which boasts a design that uses a type of multilayer film that eliminates the packaging overwrap. The result is a bag that produces 40% to 70% less waste than other flexible IV bags.
IW: Your new product is designed to reduce preventable medical errors, while helping decrease the amount of waste throughout hospitals. How does the reduction of waste within hospitals translate into a tangible benefit for Hospira?
Begley: Part of our vision is advancing wellness, and that means for our shareholders, our employees, our customers, and our communities. We believe that by advancing the wellness of a hospital -- our customer -- it has a direct relationship and spillover impact on Hospira's success. The more successful we can make our customers -- from a financial, economic, environmental, social responsibility standpoint -- that will rub off on us because they're ultimately the reason why we're here. If we don't have a customer that is thriving, we can't continue on.
IW: When Toyota launched its line of "green" automobiles, it not only got consumers to think of Toyota as being environmentally conscious but it also helped the company sell more cars. Do you anticipate that the total number of IV bags that you sell will increase for similar reasons?
Begley: That's a great analogy, and we actually have used that in some of our meetings. As I always tell the organization, being environmentally responsible is just the right thing to do. And you are correct. We believe that by doing the right thing, we'll ultimately benefit from a revenue standpoint because if you develop products that are right for the environment, right for society, right for the patient, and right for the health care worker, they'll be used more frequently than the competitive products.
Chris Begley, Hospira CEO
IW: You've figured out a way to reduce the total amount of waste for your customers, but how about internally? Have you been able to also reduce your own waste in the production of the VisIV?
Begley: We've been practicing Six Sigma and lean manufacturing at Hospira for a little over two years now. We have found both of them extremely beneficial to our manufacturing operation overall. They've made us more efficient and freed up floor space for us, which is one of the big benefits of lean manufacturing. As we developed VisIV, we used those same techniques. VisIV uses an almost entirely new manufacturing process, and one of the benefits of that process is the amount of film and material that we use is less. Besides getting rid of the overwrap, which takes waste out of the hospital waste stream, we're using less material because the bag itself is thinner, even though it incorporates the overwrap. So we're reducing waste from the overall waste stream, too.