Raw Materials / Consumables Laboratories – Understanding the Nuances and a Strategy to Ensure Best in Class Performance
Raw materials / consumables labs are integral to the smooth and stable operation of a production plant and as such they perform a very important function. The cardinal sin for an incoming materials laboratory is to cause a change in the production schedule due to a material not being released on time. While most plants will try to have some sort of fixed production schedule, production environments are inherently fluidic and dynamic in nature. This fluidity can negatively impact the lab; often leading to constant prioritization and re-prioritization cycles of materials to be tested in the laboratory. This means that a lot of unnecessary non value-add effort is expended on scheduling. The net effect of all of this is a pressurized environment where analysts feel that they are in constant firefighting mode.
One of the ways we can improve Batch Record Right First Time (RFT), and hence throughput time, is by improving the Batch Record design. By reengineering the document we can reduce the opportunities to make errors. Batch Record (BR) redesign is an important part of a Lean QA (Lean in Quality Assurance) project, because it not only addresses RFT and throughput time, but it also leads to a reduced review effort (and hence workload) for manufacturing and QA reviewers.
In operations where the short interval (e.g. daily or weekly) workload varies, the most common method of distributing the work is to share it equally between the available people. We call this method “available work through available people”. The consequence of this approach is that even low daily workloads expand to fill the day resulting in poor productivity. Carefully designed standard work can improve your department’s performance by consistently making the most out of people’s time.
BSM lead large, transformative change initiatives on sites across the world in the pharmaceutical and life sciences sectors. Management of such initiatives is not trivial and can indeed be quite difficult, but the benefits that can be realized constitute a marked improvement on the status quo. Over the past decade, BSM have developed detailed and structured methodologies to ensure that change is implemented smoothly and, most importantly, that it is sustained into the future.
Time in an operational environment can be classified as (1) processing time and (2) non-processing time. Focusing solely on making the processing time efficient is a significant cause of lost improvement opportunities. Standardising variable non-processing time activity (e.g. changeovers) can realise a surprisingly large improvement: a typical changeover standardisation program alone usually achieves 50%+ reduction in changeover times. This increases the time available for processing, but also increases yield and the productivity of resources.
Working as a consultant for different pharmaceutical companies I have come across some interesting examples of how “walls” between departments and between companies affect operations. One complaint you often hear within the industry is that of poor communication between the Manufacturing Department (who manufacture the product) and the Quality Department (who Inspect, test and release the product). I came across one particularly poor example of this last year.
Deviation and CAPA Management – Milestone Management for a Robust, Transparent and Efficient Process
It is an inescapable fact that deviations will occur at various points along the production cycle. An organization’s discrete approach to the management of such deviations will define how laborious and complicated the ensuing investigation and correction process is.
Real Time Review™ of Batch Records can be quite a departure from the current review process in most Life Science companies. It will typically mean migrating from the commonly found process in which you find multiple stages and levels of review, by several Manufacturing and QA personnel, to a quicker, more efficient review process.
Every Department (QC, QA, R&D, RA, Manufacturing, etc.) has its share of non-routine work that must be completed. This can include new instrument qualifications, method validations/transfers, SOP reviews, batch record updates, etc. It is easy for these tasks to get lost in the mix of all the other work. This is of course until there is a hard deadline or annual reviews are approaching! Then resources have to be dedicated to these non-routine projects to ensure that they are completed on time. While this is happening routine work is building up and once the project is cleared we have to set about dealing with the backlog.
Faced with a need to increase laboratory testing capacity, Real Lean releases hidden capacity quickly and cost effectively.
Increased demand for lab capacity is a positive indicator of a growing business. Deciding upon the best option to increase capacity, however, never seems to be easy! In particular, when existing space, equipment and staffing capacity is thought to be maxed out, the next option tends to involve a space expansion (see the top row of graphic below) – a complex project with significant capital expenditure, which drags stakeholders from Engineering and Facilities, Finance and HR into the mix.