Conversation with Walter De Matteo, Head of Quality Control04 November 2021
Like the nervous system of a complex organism, the Quality Control department in IBSA is a capillary apparatus that interacts with several departments and that has had to evolve rapidly to adapt to the needs of a fast-growing, international company.
We spoke to Walter De Matteo, Head of Quality Control at IBSA Group, about his professional experience, his achievements and the evolution of his role.
How has your career at IBSA started?
I started working in IBSA 21 years ago, initially in the microbiological area of the company, in quality control. After several years in that role, in 2014 I became Head of Quality Control. During these years, I have witnessed the great transformation of the company, I have seen it evolve, become more articulated and complex and at the same time more solid and structured. To give an idea of the extent of the transformation: when I started, I was the 180th employee, whereas today there are more than 1600 of us worldwide!
How does the work of Quality Control translate into practice?
Our activities revolve around the product and how it is made: we take care of the environmental conditions in which it is processed, the quality of the ingredients it is made of, and the final analysis before it is put on the market. Every piece of information in the manufacturing process is useful to us; every analytical data is evaluated; this happens hundreds of times every day. Indeed, a deep knowledge of the product in all its facets and parameters allows us to have the situation under control, which is essentially the basis of our work. Quality Control at IBSA also means dealing with process validation, following up on product stability studies, as well as verifying that products are safe and effective. So we participate massively in the early stages of the life-cycle. We also deal with the qualification of our suppliers of active ingredients and packaging materials.
How does Quality Control engage with the rest of the “IBSA world”?
Quality Control is a very capillary department that works closely with various other departments, particularly Regulatory, Quality Assurance, Production and Technical Services. We are talking about continuous exchanges of information, which take place several times a day between dozens of people in my team and the above-mentioned departments: a close interconnection that works like a nervous system! Also very important is the relationship with the subsidiaries, which has taken on a new dimension in recent years, as there is now a new group awareness. We have always had production sites outside Switzerland, which have always maintained - and still maintain - an excellent degree of autonomy in managing activities. However, today the corporate dimension is more strongly felt, and all production sites show a greater sense of belonging.
Quality is one of IBSA's four pillars, but the other three pillars - People, Innovation and Responsibility - are no less important in your department's daily activities...
Definitely. I would start with the concept of Responsibility. We know how crucial it is to release products onto the market that fully meet the required quality standards. We produce drugs for chronic therapies, such as thyroid hormones, where even the slightest error in dosage can lead to serious consequences in terms of patient compliance. Another example is products for burn victims: providing them with an unsuitable drug could drastically affect their health. We are well aware of this: in our department the sense of responsibility is a key point, both on an individual level and as a corporate value.
Of course, Innovation is also a very important pillar. We are working hard on this, to streamline processes and drastically reduce the margin for error. The introduction of information technology is revolutionising the way we work in quality control laboratories too, and this is all very positive, although the 'revolution' must include the ability to adapt to new developments.
Last but not least: the Person, who in IBSA is not only the final user of the product but the starting point of the whole process.
What are the next challenges for Quality Control?
A challenge I feel particularly close to is to enhance the activities at a Group level: standardising, creating cohesion and spreading a model of approach to the subject through the sharing of group company policies will allow us to work in an even more optimised and uniform way.
The other topic is innovation. We are working on new methods and technologies to make control operations, data management and analytical methods leaner and more efficient. So many challenges, a great deal of work, but also a lot of enthusiasm!