Medical Devices Industry Case Study - Medtronic

Improving project delivery performance by developing strong project management capabilities for people at all levels of the organisation


Medtronic is a global leader in medical technology, services and solutions.  Medtronic has developed two manufacturing Sites in Tijuana, Mexico since their inception 21 years ago growing to over 5,500 staff employed through a series of factory transfers coming into Mexico and consolidations from Medtronic’s other Sites into Mexico.

My role is to introduce new products into the Medtronic Mexico Sites. My team focuses on bringing the new products to the manufacturing environment, either through new product development or through manufacturing transfers. The implications of bringing in new product, requires us to combine engineering and technical expertise with a strong competency in project management, portfolio management and program management.


The Achievement

Medtronic’s growth of its people’s project management capability has resulted in significant improvement in its project delivery predictability and performance to deliver real results for the business.


The Challenge

Two years ago, we were facing the highest quantity of projects that our Sites have ever seen in the 20 years that they've been in production with a total of 38 projects in the pipeline related to new product introduction, either through development with R&D or through a manufacturing transfer .  

Medtronic Mexico has a good track record in bringing in, commercializing and manufacturing products historically. However, there was no standard approach or project management structure to bringing these in. We relied on the experience of the best leader we could grab from somewhere who knew something around manufacturing transfers in project management.

So, the problem statement for us was to deliver these 38 projects with no strong competencies around project management. Systems, tools and processes were ad hoc with no formal structure around a PMO (Project Management Office) and no comprehension around project charters or standard project management methodologies, tools or information systems across the Sites to ensure best practices or consolidate lessons learned. There were no formal phase reviews or anything around the project. It was just grabbing the baton and running with a project until the finish line is reached. I think people can do that when there's not that many projects going on. However, once you hand people 38 batons to run with and take to the finish, the risks are pretty high that it's not going to be achievable.

There were critical financial drivers to improving our ability to deliver on our commitments here in the production environment. Projects not being completed on time and the resulting slippage in the transfer schedule can have a big financial impact in the millions and eating up resources in firefighting.

It was my role to create a new structure to manage this volume of 38 projects. I had to visualize the organization that we needed to deliver these projects with the existing minimum resources I had at that time. Consequently, the creation of a new structure with Program Managers and Project Leads to prioritize and work on these initiatives/ projects was the first key element.

In my strategy for the Mexico Sites, I have a total of eight program managers that are managing programs related to business decisions that bring in new product to contribute to the manufacturing and financial growth of the Site’s business. They needed formal training around program and project management. So Velopi fitted in like a ring to a finger and that is how my team got to know Velopi.


The Solution

I wanted to align the strategy that I was developing here in Mexico with the corporate initiative which centred around PMBOK. Velopi was training for Medtronic at different facilities within Medtronic e.g. Santa Rosa, Minneapolis, etc. I saw how leveraging this would enable me to get on that wagon quickly. So, I immediately signed up my team and myself to attend those training sessions which included the PMP® certification and we worked with Velopi as our consultant to train our Project Leaders in a standard Medtronic approach.

In now studying on top of their work, I was asking my team to take on more with one-week classes and studying across several months to get the certification. My strategy to on boarding them was first let me show you we can do this. So, I was the first to complete the training and certification and I showed them that it could be done. Every time a manager came to me to talk about some project management related issue that they did not understand, I'd show them my Certificate displayed in my office and they'd say, "Okay, I’ve got to get my study done". That did help motivate a lot of my managers.


The Results

Today, I am proud to say that my direct Team, including myself, have achieved seven PMP® certifications. Out of my eight program managers, six are certified and two are pending. Furthermore, 35% of my managers and leaders, including some of our engineers, requested and attended Velopi training. They came back not only certified but motivated to support my strategy in developing a strong competency around project management. It has been great how all this influence from the Velopi training really helped align everybody.

As a result of the training and certifications, we were enabled to formalize the organizational structure and PMO (Project Management Office). We used the typical type of a triangle for our strategy i.e. people, tools and process. We developed tools to help everyone adopt a standard Site approach to project management around the 10 knowledge areas in PMBOK e.g. with formats for project charters, communication plans, stakeholder management.

We set up a Project Management Information System (PPM) and implemented Project Portfolio Management using Microsoft Project as our online software system. We adopted a standard approach to work breakdown structures using WBS schedule Pro which also connects into Microsoft Project and into PPM. All our systems are integrated and talk to each other. So it's simple and quick to convert the WBS into a Gannt chart and upload into our PPM system.

We also introduced new procedures within our local procedures here at Medtronic to guide phase gate reviews within the NPI (new product introduction) process.

People are talking the same language. People are using the same standard approach, the same templates, the same information presentation. It doesn't matter if one is looking at Project A, B or C, you're quickly seeing the same key information points just with different details.

So, there has been a lot of work in the last two years. It’s an ongoing process of continuous improvement. I currently  have some changes for the Mexico NPI project introduction process based on what we learned in the last fiscal year.

I would say that we are in a much better position today because projects are easier to read, easy to interpret and easy to understand. The current risks have rapid risk responses. Mitigations are now included into a risk plan. Timelines are readable and understandable now with a baseline of where steps came from. We are better able to handle any remediations required around unexpected challenges associated with some projects.

Bottomline, we're going to have 30 of those 38 projects to be completed in the next seven quarters. Velopi both influenced and helped us in developing our organisation to scale and manage the achievement of this volume of projects. Velopi provided us with a lot of information and a set of tools, formats and process outline as a baseline which helped us create and tailor everything to our project needs in our business.

I found Velopi to be an excellent partner.  As CEO, Seamus himself responds to my emails and calls. I consider Seamus a personal mentor of myself and several of my managers. We have also brought Velopi over here to give a two-day session to the project managers and the general leadership. And there are plans to have two day or four-day training here with Velopi to help with some competencies around project management. As we build a strong competency within my group, we can lead and teach that within the Sites. So, the apprentice becomes the master at some point.


David Frez, Engineering & Portfolio Director, Medtronic, 2019