When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, pharmaceutical titan Pfizer, like many companies around the world, faced significant productivity, supply chain, and safety concerns. A key to its success in navigating the challenges brought about by global shutdowns was the development of the Pfizer Global Supply \u2013 Digital Operations Center (DOC) project.\n\nDOC is a patent-pending solution that acts as the cockpit for Pfizer operations, providing a shared view of end-to-end manufacturing and supply operational performance data. Data from DOC has helped Pfizer identify opportunities to reduce up to 10% of cycle-time in some manufacturing areas. It has been critical to Pfizer\u2019s ability to manufacture and supply the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine around the world. The project has earned Pfizer a CIO 100 Award in IT Excellence.\n\n\u201cThis solution has transformed how manufacturing colleagues collaborate and make decisions, providing tools to enable them to predict an issue before it happens and adjust in real time,\u201d says Lidia Fonseca, executive vice president and chief digital and technology officer at Pfizer. \u201cThe DOC allows teams to mine data to provide analysis on variations compared to previously estimate standard lead-times, enabling further improvement opportunities.\u201d\n\nAccelerating digital adoption\n\nPfizer was already undergoing digital transformation when the pandemic hit, but managing day-to-day operations grew significantly more challenging as lockdowns sent many on-site employees to work remotely. To ensure Pfizer colleagues around the globe stayed connected and to maintain critical supply continuity for patients reliant on Pfizer pharmaceuticals, Pfizer formed the DOC Rapid Deployment Program to accelerate DOC deployment across hundreds of manufacturing operations within weeks. Fonseca says the pandemic acted as a catalyst to accelerate Pfizer\u2019s digital adoption by five years.\n\nUntil then, planning and deploying a DOC in a manufacturing site took an average of two years. To accelerate the process under COVID-19, Pfizer moved to a new architecture and used agile development practices to identify and prioritize key improvements such as moving to the cloud, leveraging full containerization, and using scalable database technology. The company also added new administrative functions that enable employees to own configuration elements tied to their site.\n\nInstead of changing business processes to support the new digital solutions, Pfizer followed customer experience research and design principles to support the Pfizer Global Supply (PGS) team\u2019s Integrate Manufacturing Excellence (IMEx) Production System, Fonseca says.\n\n\u201cThe Digital and Manufacturing teams partnered on the requirements and then co-created the solution,\u201d Fonseca says. \u201cThe DOC solution team studied the user personas and created journey maps for each persona tied to the daily end-to-end processes. In the design process, we discovered that, for the solution to be successfully adopted, it could not take away ownership of the data from the people closest to the process.\u201d\n\nThe project not only replicated production system operations processes, it also augmented the full benefits of lean manufacturing by digitizing those processes and data sets, Fonseca says.\n\n\u201cBased on the process data that had been automatically collected, analyzed, and presented in an easy-to-understand format, it became easier to pick the highest value-add improvement projects,\u201d Fonseca says.\n\nThe DOC uses the standards created by IMEx to direct the daily activities performed by manufacturing colleagues at all levels of the organization, from the shop floor up.\n\nTypically, Pfizer\u2019s biggest challenge in rolling out new solutions is achieving buy-in from employees most affected by the change, Fonseca says. But this rollout was different. Instead, the demand for DOC from Pfizer\u2019s manufacturing operations team was extremely high, as it would enable them to continue their work while keeping only essential personnel on the shop floor. As a result, Fonseca says the biggest challenge was keeping up.\n\n\u201cThis demand required us to think differently with bold ideas to meet this urgent need as quickly as possible,\u201d she says. \u201cIt was amazing to see our manufacturing and digital teams partner closely to co-develop in innovative ways to scale deployments in record time.\u201d\n\nThe digital culture imperative\n\nPfizer began its digital transformation journey in 2019, determined to become a leaner, more science-driven and more patient-focused organization. As part of that transition, the plan was to implement a new operating model with industry-first digital solutions to support the strategy. Fonseca says the fact it had already begun this journey, and was changing its culture as a result, helped make the company as ready as it could be when the pandemic hit.\n\n\u201cWe also saw the benefits of working in parallel rather than sequentially to drive speed,\u201d Fonseca says. \u201cOur culture was instrumental in encouraging our employees to be courageous and think differently to accomplish what we previously would not have imagined possible.\u201d\n\nPfizer\u2019s digital transformation journey is ongoing. Fonseca says that she expects the company will come to look more like a biotech company in the future, but with the scale of Pfizer.\n\n\u201cAs part of this transformation, we have been focused on radically simplifying our ways of working to remove bureaucracy that tends to come with large organizations,\u201d she says. \u201cI think this is important for companies of any size who are looking to implement more digital adoption in new ways.\u201d\n\nFonseca says a key part of that simplification has been to infuse agile ways of working and horizontal thinking into the fabric of Pfizer\u2019s culture. She also notes that focusing on bringing people along on the journey by clearly communicating the company\u2019s digital strategy to inspire employees\u2019 support and participation has been key.