How Merck’s Karin Shanahan is helping New Jersey get back to work

As Merck’s SVP of Global Biologics & Sterile Operations, Karin Shanahan keeps our manufacturing plants running smoothly so we can make important medicines and vaccines. And she is now helping Merck – and other New Jersey companies – return to optimal operations by providing supply management and manufacturing guidance as part of an effort to restart New Jersey’s economy after the COVID-19 shutdown. 

Her guidance comes as part of her role with the Supply Chain Advisory Board at Rutgers University. The Board’s mission is to help Rutgers develop talent that meets supply chain needs across many industries, and it has been tapped to provide counsel to Governor Phil Murphy’s NJ Restart and Recovery Commission, co-led by Ken Frazier, Chairman & CEO, Merck. 

“Being engaged in something that is moving to action brings a certain degree of satisfaction,” said Karin. “I’m glad Governor Murphy is consulting a number of voices and engaging industry. We can give real-life, real-time information that helps restart the state in a meaningful way.”

The NJ Restart and Recovery Commission brings together some of the best minds to address economic, public health, workforce and transportation issues, helping companies position themselves for both the economy of today and the future.

For example, while pharmaceutical companies, including our own, have continued to manufacture products, we’ve been doing so with significantly reduced staff and now need to solve the challenge of safely expanding the number of people on site. The Supply Chain Advisory Board will play a critical role in offering insight and solutions for how to best do that.

The Supply Chain Advisory Board’s members exchange ideas based on what is working in their own companies so they can learn from each other, innovate and share what they have developed with the Commission. Some of their best practices will help maintain social distancing, like single-direction traffic flows and staggered shift starts, and others reduce surface contamination, like fewer cafeteria services, touchless timecard stamping and increased cleaning. Education is key to the success of new initiatives, such as team structures that limit the amount of people who are in contact with each other, as we’ve already implemented in Rahway, N.J.  

“We are working hard to help everyone understand that it’s not going to be the same as what they are used to,” Karin said. 

The Supply Chain Advisory Board is taking the long view – looking at what the next two years look like for on-site team members. Karin is hoping some of the lessons learned in this time carry on even longer. 

“The way people have pulled together – I hope that is not forgotten. We are in this together, and we will get out of it together,” she said. “We are actively and openly reaching out to others to learn and share. Hopefully, the goodwill and common goals formed through this linger longer than the social distancing.”