For over 75 years, Alcon has been propelled by continuous innovation. It is evident not only in our products but also our technological capabilities and manufacturing operations.
We sat down with two Vision Care (VC) manufacturing leaders: Chris Olson, the recently retired Head of Global Manufacturing and Technical Operations (MTO), VC, and Michelle Dixon, who is following in his footsteps as the Vice President of MTO, VC.
Retired Head of Global MTO, VC
Vice President of MTO, VC
Thank you for sitting down with us. You both have been integral to our VC manufacturing business for many years. How would you describe its evolution?
Chris: When I joined in the 1980s, production processes were still largely manual, producing only tens of thousands of contact lenses daily. We knew we had to transform the industry – to find ways of effectively producing lenses in higher quantities while maintaining quality. After years of inventing, we have impressive automated processes that allow us to make millions of lenses daily. It’s been a pleasure to see first-hand this incredible evolution.
Michelle: I agree. We must remain at the forefront of technology – to create mechanical solutions to chemical complexities – which is why Alcon’s contact lens manufacturing platforms are just as innovative as our products. In fact, often, it is the manufacturing process that differentiates our products. As Alcon develops proprietary contact lens materials and designs, we have continuously improved and created manufacturing platforms to reliably produce them.
Throughout these evolutions, what have you found is unique about Alcon manufacturing?
Michelle: One thing I find unique is that the General Managers in all of our contact lens manufacturing plants have both deep technical expertise and are boots-on-the-ground leaders. They are involved with every aspect of their operation, and their leadership shows up every day in how well they manage their sites!
Chris: I echo that – it’s our people and the knowledge they bring from around the world that make us unique. There’s an especially strong relationship between teams to grow and develop. Manufacturing is tied at the hip to Alcon Research and Development (R&D) – we are always in communication, have each other’s backs and work together to bring brilliant innovation.
How does Alcon’s tireless drive for innovation extend into manufacturing?
Michelle: Alcon has always been guided by innovation. It’s what sets us apart – the people, the initiative and the drive. Manufacturing success requires continuous improvement. So, we constantly evaluate and improve our operations and machines and make them even more efficient.
Chris: Exactly. The contact lens material designed by R&D scientists rely on manufacturing to scale up and bring this new chemistry and lens material to the masses. Looking back at my career, our manufacturing plants, and the committment to quality and safety, has truly inspired me.
So, what does the future of Alcon manufacturing look like?
Chris: First off, we have more investment in our manufacturing operations than ever before. That commitment has led to state-of-the-art facilities around the globe, and the creation of the most cutting-edge platform yet: the DSM-Flex. We always strived for a single platform that could produce any of our contact lenses, from monthly replacement lenses to daily disposables. So, rather than a dedicated manufacturing line producing a single lens, we now have a flexible manufacturing platform for multiple lenses. I hold my head high to know what our teams have developed. Although retiring is like leaving a family, I know Alcon will continue to strive and become even better as I leave it in Michelle’s qualified, capable hands.
Michelle: Thank you, Chris. I’ve had the honor of working and learning from great leaders like you throughout my time at Alcon, and I have ambitious plans for the future. For example, our sites continue to improve our digital and automated capabilities, we have gathered meaningful data that will allow us to deliver more consistently and and more efficiently. Plus, through our investment in DSM-Flex, our manufacturing capacity has never been better. We have the manufacturing capabilities that really set us up for success for years to come.