While hygiene influences the quality of manufacturing in every sector, perhaps no segment is as strict about cleanliness parameters as pharma manufacturing. Consistently achieved levels of cleaning in the shop floor and warehouse, coupled with impeccable personal hygiene of the workers, are integral to producing medications fit for humans to use.
Milan Patel, Joint Managing Director, Troikaa Pharmaceuticals Ltd spoke with Mohana M, Editor, Clean India Journal about how his company creates a work environment that fosters hygiene, pharma warehouse cleaning protocols, his take on India’s relationship with cleanliness and more.
Where do you find the emphasis on cleanliness lacking? Why is hygiene overlooked?
All pharmaceutical manufacturers as well as lay persons understand that we manufacture products that go inside the human body. So, apart from the cleanliness of the building, which has to be very stringent in requirements, the hygiene of the personnel is a very key requirement. How far it is being followed by them and how far you cultivate the culture of cleanliness depends on the management. It is a challenging, but not an impossible task.
The biggest challenge we are facing is that cleaning of infrastructure is not the only thing responsible for preventing product contamination. It is about personal hygiene as well. This is where a lot of counselling, monitoring and controls are required.
We need to provide facilities to help people enter the plant in a clean condition. But beyond this, there is continuous culture-building.
The concept of cleanliness for Indians is perhaps not as exacting as it should be. That thought process has to be changed; practices will follow. Even in everyone’s personal time, we need to change their perspective of what is and isn’t clean enough.
How are you motivating people to follow hygiene guidelines?
At Troikaa, we have created high-quality infrastructure in the change rooms, washrooms etc. almost like those at four-star or five-star facilities. Just by looking at this, at least some of the personnel realise that this is a different space they are entering.
We also hold a very detailed training and counselling process with audio-visuals and continuous hand-holding for the first few days after a new employee joins us. In this, we cover in what state they should be coming from home, what they should not do etc. For changeover, we have provided the best of facilities because they need to change from their street clothes.
We go on improving the facilities so it becomes easy to fix accountability when someone deviates from the protocol, whether it is while over-gowning or maintaining their own lockers.
When a company itself takes so much care in building hygiene infrastructure, it leads by example. If and when people consistently fail to adhere to guidelines, despite being provided the best of facilities, they are shifted to places with less critical operations.
It is not easy to convince a person that what they think is clean is actually dirty. We provide the best scientifically designed gowns for donning in a way that not a single part of the body is exposed to the atmosphere. But some people are careless and don’t realise the consequences. The way those gowns are disposed of by them in the evening can also be a hygiene challenge.
To change what someone has seen and done at home for twenty years is not easy. There has to be a paradigm shift when they start working at a pharma company. We have seen some success, but it will need a lot of effort from the management. Otherwise, it is very easy for even a pharma company to compromise not only on personal hygiene, but building hygiene too. That is why we have gone in for automation in as many areas as possible.
What are the new hygiene protocols in warehousing that you follow?
In the pharma industry, we believe that the level of cleanliness may drop a few notches below when the product comes to the warehouse. The cleaning requirements are not as stringent there, but if a company has an across-the-board philosophy of cleanliness, it should be maintained at warehouses too. But many people think warehouses are only meant to ship products out.
At Troikaa, we have state-of-the-art, clean warehouses with provisions for all activities separately provided. For example, the drinking water area is completely isolated from the main area. Cameras can identify anyone who has left any leftovers behind in the canteen.
We believe we need to work in a clean environment. For that, we need to provide the correct guidelines, the correct SOPs and the correct infrastructure.
According to you, what is the ideal warehouse layout?
Our central warehouse started off with 5,000-7,000 sq ft area 10-12 years ago. We kept adding to it, until we reached 25,000 sq ft. Since we kept adding parts, layouts were difficult to change and washrooms were insufficient. When we decided to upgrade, we laid down construction parameters with the facility developer. Our new warehouse has enough washrooms and a clean and bright canteen which is visible from wherever one is working. The layout is also tailored for the use of cleaning machines.
We use automated floor cleaning machines, which makes the process error-free. We explore the make and design of the cleaning products; we don’t just buy them off the shelf and start cleaning. And even if we outsource the cleaning manpower, the supervisory team will still have to be in-house.
How would you describe yourself as a person?
Entrepreneur. Creating opportunities. Creating wealth by creating a legacy. Providing a quality life for everyone associated with the organisation.
On the personal front, I believe in creating relationships that are based on genuine attachment or interest in each other. Such fruitful, long-lasting relationships can help business too.
How have your interests outside of work helped you do your job better?
I’m an avid reader. When we connect what we read with real-life incidents, we learn that what happens is not up to you, but how you respond is up to you. I started off with Deepak Chopra and Robin Sharma; I just finished a book about Ikigai.
Reading helps me gain a wider perspective and open-mindedness. We are a professionally managed company; in the next one-and-a-half years, everything will be run by Vice-Presidents and Presidents. I recently read a book called ‘The Art of Noticing’, which begins with the art of listening. Only a broader perspective will make one a genuine leader who drives the direction of the company without holding the steering wheel, because he listens to everyone.