Six Sigma and its uses in the Pharmaceutical industry

The pharmaceutical industry and the Six Sigma Methodology are two things that are not commonly thought of together. Here’s a little look into how this business improvement process could make a huge impact in the pharmaceutical industry.

Research and development

The research and development process is the most important process in pharmaceutical companies and forms a major part of costs. The Six Sigma concept is desirable in this scenario to understand the critical processes to new drug development and to research and streamline existing ones. It is important to have these objectives to reduce drug failures, effect maximum utilization of resources, and increase productivity and optimum utilization of staff and other resources.

Cycle times                                                                                                                          

Increased cycle times are major factors affecting the timely manufacture, supply and launch new drugs. The earlier companies can take advantage of this market situation ultimately means the difference between success and failure of the product. Value stream mapping and process modelling concepts of Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma can help in reducing cycle times and operational costs, in addition to increasing the efficiency of processes as well as staff.


Effectiveness in sales is the successful closure of the sales process. This means that the aim is improving the conversion of the prospects into sales, providing them with services of value and rapidly increasing order volumes. Salespeople plan activities based on data and with Six Sigma being a data-based methodology for decision making and control, undertaking the sales process improvement can bring about the effectiveness of sales process-related activities for pharmaceutical companies.


The defect or failure rate is probably the highest in pharmaceutical companies because drug discovery and development is still a grey science, wherein even small variations can have a huge impact on the final outcome. If standardized tools, techniques, processes are not used, it will become quite difficult for pharmaceutical companies to develop the desired drug or other clinical products. Six Sigma and Lean concepts such as DFSS (Design for Six Sigma) can help because they make use of time-tested scientific and statistical tools that automatically reduce the probability of human as well as process errors.


The efficiency of the sales process is highly important in bringing about good results for organizations. It is often found that the existing systems are taken and diagnosed with variability and non-value-added activities, which leads to misinterpreting the problems facing sales operations. It may be assumed that bringing about a change in the compensation and quotas for each salesperson would be enough to bring about improvement in the sales results. To make the sales process efficient, the proper study of the Six Sigma approach and the product mix is required. Six Sigma also offers more rigorous tools such as sales force effectiveness to improve the sales efforts.

In these ways, the pharmaceutical companies can get benefitted by Six Sigma methodologies. The Six Sigma and Lean approach to the pharmaceutical industry has possibilities for implementation. Though not the easiest, its implementation can definitely reduce costs, process errors and product defects.