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The case study, which is being presented this month at international conference Critical Chain 2023, demonstrates how the method can be used to drive efficiencies in pharmaceutical product development.

Simon Wallis, a project manager at GSK, came across critical chain project management while studying for a MSc in Industrial Project Management at the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering.

He quickly saw how it could be adapted to GSK’s product pipeline, moving new materials from Phase 3 (safety and effectiveness) trials, through to commercialisation and scale-up stages.

“GSK already has an extremely strong product pipeline, so we weren’t starting from a point of failure,” says Simon. “But the timelines in which we were required to deliver new products were becoming a challenge.

“Using the critical chain approach, we were able to simplify processes at key points, and also make the process of project delivery more transparent and collaborative. That meant we were able to take advantage of real practical opportunities to iron out problems that we were seeing on a day-to-day basis and really improve the whole project delivery process.”

The critical chain approach meant we were able to take advantage of real practical opportunities to iron out problems that we were seeing on a day-to-day basis and really improve the whole project delivery process.

Simon Wallis, MSc Industrial Project Management

Ian Heptinstall, who leads the MSc in Industrial Project Management at the University of Birmingham, said: “Our students learn how to go beyond today’s common practices in project management and to assess and critique new practices. Simon quickly saw the advantages and potential of the critical chain approach, and it’s very exciting to see this being employed to deliver real-world impact at GSK.”

The work is due to be presented at Critical Chain 2023, an international conference focusing on methodologies for addressing project management challenges. Critical chain is based on the ‘Theory of Constraints’, in which key pinch points within a project are identified and addressed.