I’m part of the Radiometer team in Turku, Finland. At our site in Finland, we make reagents for our immunoassay tests—which hospitals, medical centers and labs around the world use to diagnose their patients. I work as a production planner, which means I take information from our Global Supply Chain team on what customers need, and turn that into a plan for the manufacturing of our reagents analytes, which are formed with test-specific components, chemical substances or mixtures added to cause reactions. We have nine different analytes, and on average we start a new analyte batch each day of the week. For our Troponin test, for example, which helps triage patients with chest pain, we might do two large batches per week, while a test like βhCG, used for early detection of pregnancy, might run once per month. It’s my job to fit all those production runs together, communicate that plan to the manufacturing teams and other stakeholders and then oversee the process and address any issues if they come up.
We use Daily Management, one of the Danaher Business System tools, to track the progress of each batch. At our daily management meetings we always start out focusing on on-site safety, because that’s very important to us, and then we look at quality and testing, manufacturing processes, inventory, maintenance and anything else we need to address to ensure proper testing and packing. I follow each process from beginning to delivery and help make sure everything goes smoothly.
I used to work in the furniture industry as an upholsterer, but after I started having problems with my elbow, I went back to school to be a laboratory technologist. I didn’t really know much about scientific work at first—I’d just seen all the equipment and white coats on TV and thought it looked cool! But I was interested in chemistry and biology; it drew me in. After I finished my studies, I got my first diagnostics job as a production worker in batch packing with a company called Innotrac Diagnostics, a company that Radiometer acquired a few years later. That was 16 years ago, and I’ve since worked on nearly every process we have here at the site in Turku—SA and analyte coating for substance testing, lab maintenance, solution manufacturing, tracer dispensing and quality control testing. I’m very interested in learning new things, and I’ve gradually gotten involved in more and more. I’ve also started training new employees; I like helping people and I know the processes, so it just comes naturally.
My journey to becoming a leader started when I became an assistant supervisor, first in packing and then in liquid quality control (LQC) manufacturing. I guess I did well because, after a couple of years, my manager asked if I was interested in being a supervisor. At first, I wasn’t sure. But then I thought, “Why not take the chance and challenge myself?” So I said yes, and started out with a small team, supervising a few processes as a team leader. Then, in 2018, I was named stream leader, which meant I was responsible for laboratory maintenance, solution manufacturing, coating, tracer dispensing and LQC manufacturing. And then last year, after about eight years as a supervisor, I moved into this role. Most of what I’m planning, I’ve worked on myself, so I understand it well, and I was excited to try something new. I’m still learning a lot, but I enjoy it.
It’s a very helpful, supportive culture. No one’s on their own. If you have a problem or question, you can ask someone for help and solve it together. And it’s flexible, as well, in terms of both when and where you work. I spend part of my week on-site at the manufacturing plant and then work from home two days per week.
We’re also very open-minded, both to different cultures—we have associates from lots of different backgrounds here—and to new ideas. It’s a two-way conversation; workers are listened to and we hold a lot of “kaizens”, which are like weeklong process improvement workshops that anyone can join. We recently did one around batch approval process, for example, to make our release process more efficient and reduce batches lead time. Whether you’re a leader or a quality specialist or a production worker, everyone has input.
Beyond our daily management meetings, I meet with the Global Supply Chain team a couple of times per week to make sure I’m up to date as customers’ timing and needs change—sometimes they need a product sooner or other priorities shift. I work closely with production managers and our technical service manager, as well as the senior operators from every process, all of whom help manage the information flow to the rest of the team. Some of those conversations are proactive and some are more reactive. If a supplier can’t deliver materials on time, for example, an operator might come to me to figure out what we should prioritize instead. Or we might have an equipment issue, or sometimes it’s staffing, as so many companies have faced during COVID-19.
I’ll go to Global Supply Chain if I need to talk through some options or get more information, and then I’ll adjust the plan so production can keep going. Because these are products being used for critical care, we want to make sure our customers always have what they need to help their patients. Whatever happens, we make sure we have strong quality but also try to solve things as quickly as possible.
We’re growing quickly—Radiometer in general, and our location in particular. We just bought the building we previously only used part of, so we are expanding our operations to a much larger scale. That means new lines, new equipment, new staff and all of the training and testing that entails. We actually just had a workshop for the new floor plan.
Continuing to keep up production while we’re building so much that’s new is challenging, but it’s worth it to see all our plans come true. It creates new opportunities for our associates to succeed; I love it when I see my former team members grow to new roles and be promoted, for example. And to know that it all helps our hospitals and medical centers and the people they serve—that’s wonderful. It’s inspiring.