Staffing for success: Building a proper serialization team

Serialization requires input both at the planning stage and during execution from multiple departments as well as external trading partners.

Internal team members should include someone representing the following departments within the organization:

• Engineering
• Operations
• Scheduling
• Validation
• Label/Package Design
• Sourcing
• Information Technology
• Quality
• Supply Chain/Logistics
• Regulatory/Legal
• Client Services

Key areas where cross-functional involvement is critical are at the high-level design phase of planning where all the different pieces of your solution are defined, and at interfaces between different functions, organizations, and systems.

Touchpoints that did not exist in the traditional packaging paradigm extend beyond the packaging line, crossing over to other functional areas. For example, packaging engineers may not be aware of the added risks or may assume that they are someone else’s problem, including, but not limited to, IT. 

Conversely, IT and network groups often don’t realize the impact of imposing IT policies and requirements down to the packaging line. It’s critical that the two talk, from the beginning.

IT should not be operating in a silo, while plant floor engineers are acquiring new equipment without total visibility into the strategy and plan.

No one department should hand down edicts to the other, or internal politics will be a major roadblock.

Packaging and IT alone do not constitute a team! If your team has fewer than five people, chances are you are not properly staffed to take on serialization as a company-wide initiative, and you could wind up with a stunted or incomplete solution. Teams may be structured with a smaller, tactical core team and a larger, full team. The core team may meet much more frequently than the full team and may be able to call for ad hoc meetings of the full team when issues are encountered.

It is vitally important to form a senior cross-functional governance team to steer, make decisions, and champion the implementation of your serialization strategy across the entire organization.

Experienced consultants stress the importance of total team buy-in from the beginning.  Everyone wants to rush through the planning process to get going.  You have to take your time up front with requirements, training, design, and layout.  Invariably, it is not the technology that will fail; people not fully invested may inadvertently sabotage the project.

It is also critical to establish an information-sharing platform. Not only for the pilot team, but also for future teams as the plan is rolled out.

While it may appear to make sense, at first, to put IT or Regulatory in charge, experts argue they should not lead the project. Instead, having the right executive leadership from the business organization is vital.

The cross-functional team, with core members from each department affected (some of whom may not be used to working with each other) should take ownership of tasks and timelines, but be encouraged to be flexible and think outside the box so they can identify potential problems early on. An independent, experienced subject-matter expert can help to ensure that issues that may fall between functional areas are addressed and can provide valuable lessons learned.

Clear lines of communication and regular meetings are imperative.

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