A race against time to install leading-edge technology

EunOck’s first task as a project manager was a huge challenge: construct Roche’s most advanced diagnostic system for South Korea’s largest commercial laboratory – and complete it in record time.

After completing a Master’s degree in bio-engineering at Kyunghee University, I began working at Roche Diagnostics Korea in 2010 as a sales representative. In 2012, I was transferred to the Workflow & IT team and chosen to lead a project for our top customer, EONE, as a project consultant.

EONE is South Korea’s largest commercial laboratory, serving dozens of hospitals and clinics. The lab screens 300,000 blood samples and performs 2.5 million other types of diagnostic tests every month. Physicians and patients depend on EONE for accurate and timely results.

With the demand for testing rising 10% every year, EONE’s existing diagnostic platforms were reaching their capacity limits. In the summer of 2012, staff members approached Roche about constructing a huge new laboratory in Incheon, about one hour away from their existing lab in the capital of Seoul.

EONE’s requirements included analytical diagnostic platforms which transport test samples automatically in closed tubes between multiple analytical and pre-analytical systems – speeding up the screening process and reducing the chance for human error.

At that time, no one at Roche Diagnostics Korea had ever installed analytical diagnostic platforms on this scale. In addition, EONE needed to complete the laboratory by the end of the Lunar New Year holiday on February 12, 2013, when millions of Koreans returned to work. That meant we had only eight months to complete a job that normally takes from one to two years.


Time to complete project instead of 12-24 months

My task was to bring together all the teams directly involved – installation, work flow and information technology, customer service – into one smoothly functioning operating unit and bridge any gaps to EONE’s needs. We also received invaluable support from Service, Finance, Logistics, Sales and Marketing, Communications and other colleagues throughout Roche Diagnostics Korea.

To mobilise everyone to meet these tough deadlines, I drew on the people and communication skills I had learned as a sales representative. I relied on checklists and project management software to stay on top of thousands of details and track progress as well as on the continuous commitment of everybody on the team. Our motto was ‘palli, palli’, a phrase used in Korea to mean ‘hurry, hurry’.

In Germany, Roche Diagnostics manufacturing teams were under pressure to deliver all of this high-tech equipment in record time. Our Chief Operating Officer, Roland Diggelmann, ensured that the project was a top priority. By December, the equipment had arrived, so we were able to assemble and test the new systems.

That was the most intense phase of the project because we only had a little more than two months to finish one of our largest projects ever. This task required presence on site around the clock for many of us. Complications ensued when the customer suddenly asked for additional capabilities, such as separating the data readouts for screening tests based on immunology from those based on chemistry. Our information technology team worked at top speed on the new requests.

I was at the Incheon site to coordinate the work. Because the biological samples we used to test the diagnostics systems arrived at 22:00, midnight and 02:00, we relied on energy drinks and coffee to get through the night. All of us were driven by the passion to succeed.

That commitment and the total support of all functions at Roche Diagnostics Korea helped us achieve this nearly impossible task.
Regular operation after two weeks only: the customer was very pleased by the rapid stabilisation of the processes, increased capacity and throughput of the new laboratory.

We finished the project on time. And after the go-live date, we needed only two weeks to stabilise the system and eliminate remaining bugs – the older system had taken six months to stabilise.

EONE was extremely pleased with the results. “Now we understand why Roche is the leader in this field,” they told us. With the new laboratory up and running, the staff could see an immediate difference. Capacity for testing increased by 19% and overall throughput speed rose by over 11%.


Increased testing capacity

News about EONE’s new laboratory spread fast, and representatives from other labs wanted to see it in action. I arranged schedules for visitors from Australia, China, India, Portugal, Poland and Egypt. It makes me proud that Roche Diagnostics Korea can share best practices with other countries.

Another leading laboratory in Korea, Seoul Clinical Laboratories, wants to partner with Roche in constructing a new diagnostics centre. We signed the contract in August 2014 and our customer needs the lab completed by the end of the Lunar New Year holiday in February 2015.

This was the largest laboratory Roche Diagnostics Korea ever installed.

I am leading this project as well. The experience gained from EONE should help us, but once again we have a large number of complex tasks in a very short timeframe.

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Tags: Diagnostics, South Korea