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Peeling the Layers Back for Industry 4.0

Justin Brennan, VP of operations at Medical Products Laboratories, discusses his upcoming session at IME East and gives tips on how to be successful in the medical device industry.

Katie Pfaff

May 23, 2023

4 Min Read
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Image Credit: Jamie Carroll via iStock/Getty Images

Justin Brennan, Vice President of Operations at Medical Products Laboratories, shares his approaches to innovation, carving out time for reflection, and acknowledging wins big and small in his work in production. He will speak at a session titled Demystifying Industry 4.0 for Small to Medium-Sized Business Through Design Thinking – A Leader’s Guide, at IME East.  The session will be held June 13 from 12:45 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Jacob K. Javitz Convention Center in New York. 

How long have you been in the industry and when did you first become interested?
Brennan: I've been in and out of pharma since college, when I did two co-ops at Merck. I remained very interested in the industry and decided to get back into it full time after exiting consulting.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?
Brennan: I take the "mind, body, and spirit triangle" approach. I make it a point to get to the gym daily during the week, keep my mind as sharp as I can, and spend purposeful time in reflection. While all three are never in perfect harmony, it's important to me that I actively fight for that balance.

What time do you start your day and why that time?
Brennan: I am not a morning person, but I aim to get up each day at 6:40 AM so I can catch up on emails before first shift starts. We don't run on third shift, so it affords me the ability to get up a little later than would typically be needed in a production environment.

Do you have any work mantras or approaches that guide or ground you throughout your day?
Brennan: My mantra coming into each day is to get one day better, every day. There's a lot that goes into this for me, and achieving it means that I address the fires that will inevitably arise throughout the day while carving out time to meaningfully focus on process improvement.

What have you learned about medtech/medical products that you did not know before going into the space?
Brennan: The biggest thing I've gained since really getting into this space is an appreciation for how much research, engineering, and overall effort goes into the packaging we open and use on a daily basis.

What motivates you each day, or what helps to motivate your teams daily?
Brennan: I like to take time to express gratitude to my team daily. Working in ops and maintenance is a lot like flying a commercial jet in my simple mind: people can easily forget how valuable the "basics" are and artificially index on the negatives. I've found that making the effort to thank my team for their proverbial takeoffs and landings creates a stronger, more meaningful connection, and it keeps us going as a team.

Do you take inspiration from any source for innovation? If so, what and how does it inspire you?
Brennan: There are two key things I like to remember: New technology is rarely ever truly a revolutionary change, and controlled, forward failure is okay.

What are you most excited about in the future of medical products?
Brennan: I'm excited to see how we can use technology to improve the first-pass quality of the products we make while reducing the time to release and ship.

What is one of the greatest challenges you are seeing in your work?
Brennan: GMP warehousing space feels like it's at a premium in the Northeast US right now for small-to-mid CMOs. It seems like everyone needs it, and not enough is available without a very high-cost barrier to entry.

What is the focus of your session, and why do you think it is an important topic?
Brennan: The focus of my session is the deployment of simple Industry 4.0 solutions in small-to-medium sized companies using design thinking. I think it's important for three main reasons: (1) Industry 4.0 can be demystified, simplified, and applied without million-plus dollar deployments; (2) people are drawn into the solution space via an empathetic, iterative approach with minimal ego; and (3) powerful solutions can be found when we focus on real end-user needs and the reduction of repetitive decisions.

What do you hope attendees will get out of the session?
Brennan: I hope that, if nothing else, attendees will feel motivated to take a chance on tackling one big issue through an open, collaborative approach. Find out all the reasons a good idea won't work and then go make it happen anyway.

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