Vetter was founded in Germany in the 1950s, and innovation has always been one of its guiding principles. Since then, the company has come a long way, and its will to innovate and stay ahead of competition has paid off multiple times — besides its impressive growth, Vetter won the Contract Manufacturing Organization (CMO) Leadership Awards in all core categories in the last two years, with expertise, quality and reliability being among them.
Nowadays, there's hardly an industry facing expectations as high as the pharma industry. Products must be state-of-the-art, effective and readily available. They also must comply with strict health regulations. These standards apply not only to drug development companies, but also to contract manufacturers like Vetter — an international specialist in the fill and finish manufacturing of aseptically prefilled syringe systems, cartridges and vials.
For years, the company has recognized the huge potential of process optimization. Vetter has its own Process Excellence department, which serves as what Head of Process Excellence Samuel Kunze calls "internal consulting." Its main objective? Identifying and eliminating waste in the company's most relevant processes. However, this is easier said than done. Vetter first learned about Celonis, the market leader in process mining technology, through a proof of value (POV) within their strategic initiative, Vetter Excellence 2025. Kunze described the moment he first saw Celonis in action as an eye opener.
"Before Celonis, we couldn't do any in-depth analyses of our digital processes. We based many decisions on our gut feeling," Kunze said. "Furthermore, we didn't want to view our processes in isolation. We wanted to know how they, for instance purchase-to-pay and accounts payable, interact with each other." On top of that, Vetter uses Celonis to improve change control and deviation management processes, which employ Trackwise® as their main underlying software. Trackwise® is a quality management software (QMS) that many pharmaceutical companies use for strict quality and compliance management processes. In this case, the Vetter needed expressive key performance indicators (KPIs) that would allow for the optimization of its Trackwise® processes without compromising them at any time. The software always needs to be in action.
At the end of its journey, Vetter wants to leverage process mining and make Accounts Payable (AP), Accounts Receivable (AR), Order-to-Cash (O2C), Purchase-to-Pay (P2P) and its two Trackwise® processes — change control and deviation — fully transparent. The initial project phase consists of seven steps, starting with a kick-off meeting and ending with a consolidation workshop before a process enters the continuous optimization phase. The initial project phase can last up to 6 months: "Our processes are unique, that's why we need customized process insights and optimizations," Kunze said. "In addition, validation criteria are highly complex and strict in the pharma industry."
In many respects, applying process mining to Trackwise® was also unprecedented and unique. At the beginning, Vetter was facing lots of complexity — over 200 activities and over 1,200 status and field changes, culminating in more than 1,000,000 variants. To implement the two Trackwise® processes, Vetter decided to get INFOMOTION, a full-service provider for data solutions, on board.
"The main challenge was to harmonize the three process levels Trackwise® uses to analyze and visualize processes: main process, sub-process and sub-sub-process," Daniel Bläser, Consultant at INFOMOTION, explained. "Celonis developed a special analysis approach for the two processes." Kay Kasperkowitz, Lead Consultant at INFOMOTION, added: "We were honest with Vetter about the complexity of Trackwise®, but in the end, this joint project between INFOMOTION and Celonis delivered impressive results. As with Celonis, customer satisfaction is our top priority, and that's why we retain our customers."
Vetter hasn't finished its journey towards Process Excellence, but Kunze and his process excellence team have the results to show that they're heading in the right direction. Kunze noted that sometimes it took months to get relevant insights with common business intelligence tools before Celonis was implemented. "This has improved drastically. We can define performance indicators quickly and feed them back to our operating business," he said. It's no surprise that Vetter wants to gain even more than insights. For example, the business has achieved striking outcomes in its Accounts Payable processes — in the past, they realized only 80% of their potential cash discounts. Now, Vetter realizes 99% of cash discounts. The effort put into Trackwise® has also paid off: With Celonis, Vetter reduced the cycle time in its deviation process by 15%. Considering that 1,500 of 5,000 employees are involved in the Trackwise® process at Vetter, this is a breakthrough. And many will follow.
At Celonis events and meetings, Kunze enjoys sharing his insights and expertise with the process mining community: "What catches your attention first are 'low-hanging fruits.' Even when you think that you've fully optimized your process, Celonis identifies potentials that are easy to realize, but you could never find them without it." New perspectives open up new ideas for solutions. Holistic views create approaches that benefit not just single departments, but the company as a whole. "At the same time, the management has to back your initiative, and you need to incentivize your colleagues to use new tools."
Samuel Kunze is fully aware that achieving Process Excellence in an industry as demanding as pharmaceuticals is a marathon, not a sprint. However, he and his team have shown that, at Vetter, endurance is of no concern.