Through rain or shine, Baxter's facilities worldwide work hard to maintain a steady level of production in order to supply patients with the life sustaining and saving therapies and products they need. Recently, the company's North Cove and Mountain Home facilities have shown a special level of dedication.
The entire Southeastern United States was recently blanketed with heavy snowfalls and ice storms, and Arkansas and North Carolina—where Baxter has plants in Mountain Home and Marion, respectively—were among the hardest hit states. The areas around these plants typically don't experience much snow, and the storm dumped as much as eight inches in some places.
The North Cove facility produces hundreds of different IV and peritoneal dialysis solutions, as well as empty containers and component parts for other Baxter facilities. The plant supplies finished goods used in 57 countries, and component parts to other manufacturing facilities in 27 countries.
During the last few months, the North Cove facility also has faced unprecedented demand in the U.S. for large volume parenteral products—in particular, Sodium Chloride 0.9% Injection, commonly known as saline IV solution. Saline is not only at the core of Baxter's legacy in healthcare, it is also one of the most widely used products in hospitals and other critical care settings.
In spite of the inclement weather and increased demand, the more than 2,100 employees in North Cove are achieving outstanding rates of production.
The team implemented emergency procedures as the snow fell and the ice formed, and employees showed flexibility and dedication to keep lines operating. Leadership teams stayed in the plant 24/7 during the storm, and Baxter provided free meals for employees there. Employee volunteers who could safely get to the plant worked extra shifts, and transportation was available from "rally points" around the plant to help in their safe transit.
"The plant has been operating at maximum capacity on a majority of our lines for some time," says Tim Lawrence, VP, Manufacturing and Supply Chain. "Throughout most of 2013 up to the present, we've been running at full capacity seven days a week. During this time, many of our folks on the IV lines have worked close to 90 percent of Saturdays in an effort to meet patient demand. The level of commitment has been truly outstanding."
The plant is focusing its resources on its most critical production lines. For product distribution, carriers have been pre-booked to ensure released product is immediately shipped. Baxter is also working closely with distributors to prioritize urgent deliveries.
Baxter's Mountain Home, Ark., facility also faced inclement weather not typical for the area, including three significant weather events since December. One of Baxter's largest plastics and device manufacturing plants, the 550,000 square-foot facility produces disposable medical products that are shipped to 28 Baxter plants in 20 countries and finished goods to 94 countries around the world. The Mountain Home facility supplies the North Cove plant with key components required by to produce saline IV solution.
Despite the rough conditions, the plant's approximately 900 employees have worked around the clock to keep up with demand to supply North Cove and other customers with product.
Employees who live far from the facility stayed in nearby hotel rooms to have easier access to work. Others were picked up at their homes by members of the management team and coworkers if they were unable to drive through the snowy roads. When the cafeteria staff became shorthanded during those weeks, management went behind the counter to flip burgers to ensure that all employees could get hot meals.
"We're all part of one Baxter team," says Glenn Burney, Baxter plant manager for the Mountain Home facility. "It's crucial that we continue to keep up the pace to supply our North Cove colleagues with the components they need to create these important products for patients. Our outstanding employees here have been going the extra mile to ensure that this happens."
Through it all, the Mountain Home facility's operations are scheduled to run 24/7—all at above 90% utilization—and it has been able to keep its commitments to its supply chain. Many employees have committed to working upcoming holidays, and additional staff and weekend shifts have been added to ensure that production continues at the right pace.
For the employees who put in the extra hours and hard work, it's worth it to know that in the end, patients get appropriate care because Baxter product is available to them.
"My daughter-in-law is a nurse, and I know that our product is a daily need," says Baxter sterilizer operator, Loretta P. Howell, who works at the North Cove facility. "The fact that I am involved in the making of that product makes me proud."