Lean Process Implementation Streamlines Glassware Service


A global Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company was experiencing a large number of complaints regarding its glassware. Customers were receiving items with chipped glass, incorrect lids, and leftover residues, all pointing to a significant issue stemming from the central glass-washing facilities. These areas were struggling in the absence of any quality assurance (QA) measures, cost controls, ordering tools, service level agreements (SLAs) for maintenance, and key performance indicators (KPIs) to define and track specific objectives.

The company knew where the problem was, but what could they do to address it efficiently and without adding too much strain on their current operations?


Avantor Services was brought in and implemented a Process Excellence Team to review the glass-handling processes at the facilities, with the aim to create a robust service that would supply the customer with leading quality standards. By utilizing Six Sigma’s DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and 5S (Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, Sustain) processes to streamline the service, VWR was able to introduce:

  • pH testing to highlight any incorrect use of detergents
  • Kanban visual workflows to reduce lead times and replace damaged glassware stock
  • Five quality-assurance checks to create a standard of excellence
  • Onsite interviews to capture the voice of the customer and identify key issues
  • Ordering package to support KPIs and further increase the level of service


Streamlining work patterns and implementing the Kanban method has reduced direct labor by 250 hours per year. Cross-functional training in pH testing, consumables, and stock-levels has strengthened a one-team approach that utilizes skill sets from different areas of excellence.

The implementation of Quality Control checks has reduced the number of defective glassware returned to the labs and significantly contributed to the reduction of hand injuries in the workplace. There have been no hand injury incidents to date, and the success of the project has instilled confidence and interest in expanding the service to other areas of the company.

Additionally, the switch to the correct detergent for the process has dramatically reduced the need to reprocess glass and eliminated machine downtime, further resulting in cost savings and an increased capacity.

VWRCATALYST reduced the amount of defective glassware and machine downtime, all while increasing the amount of baskets processed.