A gamut of learning opportunities opened up for Ms Melina Xu Yimin after she joined Baxter Bioscience Manufacturing SARL, Singapore Branch, in 2010.

Baxter Bioscience Singapore, currently in start-up phase, is the Woodlands-based manufacturing facility of Baxter International Inc — a global health-care company with expertise in medical devices, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology.

Ms Xu, 26, a Downstream Manufacturing Engineer, is part of a team that is involved with commissioning the start-up. When the facility is in full production, it will provide a consistent supply of therapy for the global haemophilia (a blood-clotting system disorder) community.

Ms Xu started off performing shift work to run the manufacturing processes. She is on site to troubleshoot and address any issues in a timely manner.

Initially on a secondment programme, she now works normal office hours on weekdays and her job has evolved to ensuring the business continuity of the manufacturing process.

Performing a planning role, she works with different stakeholders, ranging from internal departments to external contractors. Her job requires her to manage changes in a controlled way, drive improvements systematically and rectify any problems effectively.

Overseas training

Ms Xu, who graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2010 with a Bachelor of Chemical Engineering (specialising in Biomolecular Engineering) attended a six-month overseas training to the Baxter facility at Thousand Oaks, California, in the United States.

Says Ms Xu: “The six-month training programme, under the partnership of Baxter and EDB, was an eye opening experience where I gained insights of our business, the manufacturing process and a taste of a work-shift environment.”

The overseas training benefited her in more ways than she expected. As the facility was in the process of commissioning start-up activities, Ms Xu joined the team involved in the facility commissioning.

From validation activities of installation to operational and performance qualification, Ms Xu and her team have to ensure that the equipment eventually perform as they were designed to, to fulfil the manufacturing requirement.

 Cross-functional teamwork

“As I grow with the company, not only do I learn the technical skills, but there are also soft skills that I’ve developed along the way; learning to handle multiple projects, prioritise and focus on the important things as well as work in a cross-functional team,” says Ms Xu.

With her work dedicated to planning, she needs to balance production planning and getting the inputs of different departments in the process. This requires her to work on a good production plan which requires effective production planning and getting the consensus of different departments in terms of timeline and deliverables.

The sense of satisfaction she derives from ensuring a smooth process and the knowledge that many hands helped to make her mission possible with the end product successfully being delivered to hemophilia patients who need them, make it all worthwhile, according to Ms Xu.

“There are endless learning opportunities. And as I learn and apply the knowledge and skills, I can see the results translated into something very tangible — seeing successful production runs. I know that when the facility is ‘live’, each successful run means that we will be able to get this life saving product into the hands of a hemophilia patient,” she says.

Learn to prioritise

Working in an environment which practises an open culture, ideas for continuous improvement are always being thrown up.

“With the influx of all these good ideas, it is important to prioritise the resources for the suggestions and ensure that these changes are done systemically, as well as in timely fashion,” says Ms Xu who has learnt to multi-task and prioritise the work on hand.

After making a conscious choice to join the biopharmaceutical industry, Ms Xu interned at a pharmaceutical company and specialised in biochemistry during her undergraduate days and chanced upon this opportunity to join Baxter when applying for jobs. She has not looked back since.

To those interested in following her career path, she advises: “Plan ahead while you are in school. Industrial attachments are good ways to gain entry into this industry.”