Bausch & Lomb Design Engineer Keeps his Eye on Data Transfer

A few years ago Rob Stupplebeen was tasked with redesigning toric contact lenses (lenses for people with astigmatism). He was excited by the opportunity to design a lens that met patients needs and altered the company's process of design, by starting from the patient and working backwards, rather than starting with the technology and getting it to fit patients needs.

November 23, 2011

2 Min Read
Bausch & Lomb Design Engineer Keeps his Eye on Data Transfer

"We touch every single part of the company," says Stupplebeen of the engineering department, "including design, clinical research, quality control, and back—everything comes to our department." Stupplebeen and I had a frank conversation at the recent DSCC11 conference, hosted by Dassault Systemes, November 8–9 in Las Vegas.

Such back and forth is valuable. Data from the clinical group is used to adjust design parameters, for example. The requirements have to come from a cross functional team.

The trouble is that not all of these departments in Bausch & Lomb were speaking the same language.

Stupplebeen’s biggest pain point was that "the flow of data was neither organized nor standardized," he says. For example, if he asked for a set of data, those data would be delivered by e-mail.

The net effect was a process that took away from his job. “I’m happiest when I’m engineering— I don’t want to push paper,” Stupplebeen says, “I want everything automated.”

The sentiment is not unique to Stupplebeen, nor is Bausch & Lomb alone in facing data flow problems. But Stupplebeen took steps to standardize workflow and gain a base of knowledge for his toric lens design project.

Stupplebeen describes the meeting during which he was assigned the project. He says that the entirety of tech transfer was a single conversation with his boss who had designed the first version of the toric lens for Bausch & Lomb six years prior.

Stupplebeen says the department “had no history—no way to transfer institutional knowledge."

To address these problems, Stupplebeen first designed his own workflow. Then he decided, after gaining management support, that it was time to change the culture.

Bausch & Lomb is now in the process of instituting a product life cycle management (PLM) system that will enable better and more consistent communication.

The struggle continues, however, as even positive change yields growing pains. Every company struggles with entrenched legacy systems, fear of change. People fear a loss of control, even if giving up that control might mean better efficiency. And further, “people are passionate about the tools they use,” says Stupplebeen.

Stupplebeen’s advice is to take small steps. “Optimization is hard.” And the process is impossible, he says, without management buy in. “I scheduled a lunch with the CEO of the company to present the idea of PLM. I couldn't do this without his full backing.”

Heather Thompson

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