Recently, I expressed my views how to improve and innovate processes by exploiting physical and chemical properties (Chemical Engineering, Vol. 119, No 4, April 2012 pgs. 63-66) of the raw materials that produce products that are use to produce different products.
Besides exploiting [chemical] properties there are other avenues that are available to us to improve technology and manufacturing methods. However, due to tradition and what we learn during our education and professional life, circumstances and company culture, either we overlook or do not consider situations that could simplify technology and manufacturing practices. No one is at fault as most of us are tradition bound and have not experienced creative destruction or exploited our “Steve Jobs” traits. I have seen many different interpretations of Steve Jobs traits. However, I liked the ’10 Traits of Steve Jobs That Can Make you a Better Street Photographer’ most as they encourage simplicity, imagination and creativity. Cases of creative destruction are well documented as business cases in literature.
Steve Jobs was a creative destructionist. He was able to accomplish what he wanted. Many pundits will question his methods but he changed the playing field for years to come. Multiple revolutions and most of us love Apple products. It is ironic that he stumbled at first, was ousted from the company he created - a humiliating experience - but he did not lose his vision for simplicity and innovation.
Going back to how, what and why innovation is possible in pharmaceuticals, chemicals and other related industries requires developers, engineers and scientists to be continuously thinking out of the box while living in the box. The tools and methods are available to us. They are around and in front of us. We are either intimidated or are afraid to say why we are doing what we are doing. Questioning what delivers profits can be considered counterproductive. However, better understanding of what we do catalyzes improvements.
I believe that challenging the status quo and “what if” exercise can be an important place to start simplification and innovation of every process. Following are two illustrations related to challenging the status quo of chemical reactions i.e. Active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) manufacturing. They can be extended to any formulation. This discussion is no reflection or criticism of any company or its people, practices or processes but examples of alternate possibilities that are simple, safe and environmentally friendly.