Improving Medical Manufacturing Operations

By Jack Lan, Global Account Executive, InfinityQS
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Five ways medical device and pharma manufacturers can use technology to streamline compliance and speed time to market.


Fairfax, Virginia – The staff at InfinityQS International Inc. recommends five ways medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers can use enterprise quality systems, manufacturing intelligence platforms, and automated device integration to decrease recalls, reduce waste, and increase profitability. Together, these technologies speed time to market and streamline regulatory compliance procedures by improving the efficiency of manufacturing processes, using data to understand variability, standardizing facilities after mergers or acquisitions, and better aligning R&D and engineering.

InfinityQS has dedicated more than 25 years to helping manufacturers improve efficiency across operations and offers the following recommendations for the life sciences industry.

1. Be preventative, not just responsive.

Because of the sheer speed necessary to take a new pharmaceutical product or medical device from R&D to market, life sciences manufacturers have traditionally focused on production volume and developing comprehensive response plans in the event of a recall. With a quality culture and a manufacturing intelligence platform, engineers, quality professionals, and executives can all analyze data and look at the big picture to better understand the inherent variability in manufacturing processes. Operators can then make adjustments based on this insight to improve product quality, help prevent recalls and plan for continuous improvement. Cell- or suite-based production is ideal for compliance, however a holistic picture of the data collected in these cells helps drive innovation and risk mitigation.

2. Employ electronic acceptance sampling techniques.

Products in the life sciences industry are often ingested or implanted in the human body, making inspection critical. A 100% inspection would be expected for both incoming and final inspections, but that demands a lot of people, metrology, time, and paperwork. Instead, the use of Statistical Process Control (SPC) and acceptance sampling techniques – Lot Tolerance Percent Defective (LTPD), American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z1.4, ANSI Z1.9 or Zero Acceptance Number Sampling (c=0)—are statistically sound and proven methods to reduce inspection frequency while maintaining the highest level of quality.

3. Eliminate paper and manual processes.

The amount of paperwork required to support the development and production of a single product can be overwhelming. Inputting data into quality systems eliminates cumbersome binders and filing cabinets, while ensuring data is still easily accessible and understandable. By automating manufacturing processes and data input into a single, centralized repository, manufacturers can also increase accuracy and create definitive traceability for every product, component, and ingredient. Also, extending automation to incoming inspection with device integration will save both time and personnel hours, leading to additional cost savings and efficiencies.

4. Simplify regulatory compliance and validation.

The critical nature of pharmaceutical medications and medical devices elicits stringent safety regulations on both products and technology. Complying with laws from the Federal Drug Administration (FDA 21 CFR Part 11 and Part 820), the International Conference on Harmonisation of Technical Requirements for Registration of Pharmaceuticals for Human Use (ICH Q9, ICH Q10), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO 13485), or the European Commission's Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry (GMP Annex 20) is challenging and can cause delays in production. Utilizing a quality system to easily access necessary data will satisfy reporting requirements for each of these organizations. Additionally, software that provides validation assistance will further speed up the process.

5. Track and understand scrap and yields.

Life science organizations go into high-volume production soon after products are approved for public distribution. This quickly provides remedies for various medical ailments, but often results in high levels of scrap. Although manufacturers note scrap and yield numbers, many don’t track these numbers across an extended period and don’t understand why the numbers are so high. Manufacturing intelligence software powered by SPC monitors scrap and can trace it back to its root cause. Adjusting processes or packaging based on this analysis can decrease the amount of waste, mitigate costs, and ultimately increase profitability.   

Jack Lan, global account executive, InfinityQS, says, “Pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers deliver life-altering and often life-saving solutions for a growing number of malicious diseases, disorders, and physical afflictions. The use of technology to employ a holistic approach to product quality across the value stream can inevitably help ensure product safety and regulatory compliance, while increasing speed to market and corporate profitability. The result is a win-win situation for everyone, from supplier to consumer.”

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