Examining Highly Skilled Resources versus Lower Cost Options

One large pharma’s decision earlier this year to eliminate 204 data operations jobs here in the US seemed a bit extreme even when considering the profit motive behind their decision. It really didn’t seem to be a good decision for them to place all their eggs in one basket. It also seemed unfortunate to lay off personnel that had probably been there for many years who carried out their work well.

The big pharma’s decision was neither right, nor wrong. Perhaps the move may improve the company’s profitability in the near-term future, but maybe not. I’ve personally seen how simple tasks can often get botched by low-cost labor. As a result, savings are often mitigated. Direct losses can be attributed to requiring more resources to make up for the lack of experience. There may also be an increase in rework. Repairs can take more time and tie up your best personnel rather than if the work were done properly from the start, not to mention that rework can turn out worse.

In general, an experienced workforce needs less supervision, produces better quality work, and does so in much less time.

There are also less tangible benefits to working with high-quality resources such as the reliability factor. There can be a loss of credibility when you can’t stand by your product or service. As the old saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”  

I grew up and worked in my father’s jewelry manufacturing business for more than ten years. The two industries, pharma and jewelry manufacturing, are not totally unrelated, in that both require highly-trained workers to do the job properly. In both industries, I have witnessed the unfavorable consequences of offshoring a company’s total production; whether it be 10,000 gold and diamond rings headed to large retail companies, or the statistically analyzed data sets that accompany a global drug submission for a large multi-national drug development company. I have also witnessed the relief that companies have when they bring their production back to the US. Often more complicated projects are kept local for reasons of control and access to a greater talent pool.

Like my father before me, I served in a multi-year diamond-setting apprenticeship. However, even after my apprenticeship was completed, my skill set continued to improve. My specialty eventually became setting large “Princess Cut” (square-shaped) solitaire diamonds; often worth tens of thousands of dollars. Setting Princess Cut diamonds can be tricky because the corners are very brittle and easy to fracture. Typically, the gemstone is the diamond setter’s liability if they break it. As a result, all precious jewelry that is produced here in the US that requires a high-level of craftsmanship is still made in Midtown Manhattan, where there is a large pool of skilled labor available.  

My father had his specialties as well. He was great at setting expensive emeralds, which are among the most fragile of all the gemstones. Although he taught me, we both perfected different techniques on our own that were more optimal for different situations. At times we impressed each other by things that one of us did better than the other. It takes many years to develop a set of techniques and mastery of anything, which may also depend on a person’s own talent. I recently heard a senior executive at a large pharmaceutical company say that his macros work, but they could have been written better. There are varying degrees of perfection, but perfection can only be achieved through experience.

I feel proud to be at DataCeutics, a US-based Functional Service Provider (FSP) that specializes in writing clinical SAS statistical programs for drug submissions because we have an excellent reputation for producing quality work. Everyone at DataCeutics has at the very least 10-years of experience. Our programmers can handle every aspect of clinical programming, address unexpected variables, and complete work with the utmost precision and accuracy no matter how complex the study-design. Typically, DataCeutics’ resources bring extra value to our clients’ organizations by going above and beyond the routine. As such, our staff can be counted on to develop programming workarounds and debugging complicated macro programs.

Only time will tell if the big Pharma’s decision to move all their data operations to India will improve the financial performance. However, according to Zeynep Ton, an adjunct associate professor of operations management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of The Good Jobs Strategy: How the Smartest Companies Invest in Employees to Lower Costs and Boost Profits, many industry-leading companies throughout the economy pay their employees more and foster a corporate culture of empowerment. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been a resurgence in recent years as American companies have found that moving jobs offshore was not a good approach for production that requires highly-skilled labor.

Lenny Gold is a Business Developer with DataCeutics.