Ensuring Quality While Scaling Up Production with Industry-Specific Software
Ever paint your living room or house and notice that the color is off a tad in some areas over time? I hope not. I remember my cousin the paint contractor telling me to buy paint cans with the same lot number so that my rooms or house will look the same and evenly wear over time. As consumers, I think we all assume that the paints, sealants, adhesives and other coating products we buy from our preferred suppliers, no matter what the lot numbers, will all have the same physical properties.
So, how do paint and coating manufacturers consistently maintain their high quality standards and fulfill their customer promises, especially when faced with a growing demand for their products?
Many chemical manufacturers today employ industry-specific manufacturing software applications that support their QC and QA initiatives by:
- leveraging predefined libraries of chemical-related quality templates;
- performing checklists and inspection plans, in addition to QC tests;
- executing quality tasks on the spot, via mobile devices;
- documenting all steps that lead to the continuous improvement of their operations; and
- providing visibility to actionable quality information.
In the following sections, I describe a number of “essential” quality-related functions that should be supported by your chemical manufacturing software.
Leverage Predefined Quality Templates and Workflows
One of the essential formulation functions found in chemical manufacturing applications is the calculation of organic weights, volatile volumes and other common physical property characteristics of chemical products. Similarly, QC test templates for VOC, viscosity, pH and other chemical properties are predefined in the application’s quality libraries. During software implementation, the target value, out-of-tolerance values, sample, retest and other control limit parameters for each existing QC test for a specified item or item group is defined. Predefined libraries allow manufacturers to standardize on the QC tests selected and embedded within intermediate and finished good formula specifications.
Intermediate and finished good QC tests, as well as customer-specific SOPs, are added to one’s formula specifications so that these instructions can be approved by management before the formulas are used in batch production jobs. Departments use the application’s multilevel workflows to control and expedite the specification approval process amongst the finance, quality and production managers.
Employ Checklists and Inspection Plans from Receiving through Shipping
To avoid rework and scrap in production, selected ingredients and raw materials should be up to standard, and all equipment at their optimal settings before initiating the batch production process. At the time of delivery, receiving staff check the cleanliness of a trailer, verify that all vendor delivery documents and product labels are in order, and most importantly, move sample item quantities to QA for vendor item inspections. Certain items, whether they be ingredients, intermediates or finished goods, can lose their potency or break down over time in storage, so it’s important to schedule stability/QC tests against this inventory before they are consumed in production or shipped to customers. In addition to inspecting on-hand inventory, facility managers schedule inspection tasks of the physical facility, including storage areas or specific locations to ensure their cleanliness or record their environmental conditions (e.g. temperature, humidity). Along the production line, production managers schedule equipment maintenance tasks and setting checks, such as capturing temperatures, RPMs and pressures. And in terms of order fulfillment, inspection plans for specific customer sales orders can be executed before customers’ finished goods are loaded and shipped.
Speed Operations with Mobile Devices
Hard copies of QC tests, checklists, inspection plans and SOPs are automatically triggered by calendar events or production stages. Look for chemical manufacturing applications that can incorporate barcodes into their generated lists so that you can take advantage of the tethered scanners at the quality workstations.
To further increase user productivity and accelerate business processes, run mobile applications that employ smart phones and tablets to execute quality tasks in receiving through WIP to shipping.
Auto Generate Industry-Required Documents and Labels
Certificate of Analysis (COA) documents is a required software feature, and having customizable templates that select key data fields and format the document allows companies to deliver COAs that meet their customer requirements.
GHS document generation (i.e. SDS reports and labels) is now being offered by a growing number of specialized third-party online providers. While the chemical manufacturing application maintains the item safety information in its product master database, the application passes all required item information to the third-party SDS provider, who in turn returns the items’ SDS files. Having all items’ SDS information accessible within the chemical manufacturing application’s database allows the system to auto generate SDS documentation upon triggered events or in response to user requests.
Follow System-Directed Best Practices
Ensuring that delivered materials meet one’s standards can significantly minimize issues encountered in production. Based upon a vendor inspection plan, a sample of the delivered inventory is moved into QA for testing, with the balance put away into storage. All inventory for this received lot, both the sample quantity and the on-hand inventory quantity, are automatically put on a “Hold” status, which will prevent batch production jobs from allocating it, until which time the lot is released.
To move from one batch production stage to the next, many manufacturers mandate that the captured QC data be reviewed by one individual and then signed off by another. Signatures and date timestamps are captured for the individuals who captured the data, who reviewed and approved the data, and who signed off on the QC test. Until this quality process is complete, the production staff typically cannot close a batch job. A make to stock operation is one situation where a batch production job is closed and its finished good inventory is put on hold until all QC tests are completed and passed.
Reworking a batch job formula by increasing the amount of certain ingredients or adding new ingredients may be performed to get a formula passed. It’s important to point out that the formula’s physical property target values must still be met when making these types of adjustments.
Steps to Continuous Improvement
All deviations in a batch production job are captured and reported in the batch production job reports, as well as analyzed by QA to determine if any procedural changes are required. Leading chemical manufacturing applications offer advanced QA transactions, such as adverse event, nonconformance and CAPA, to support one’s continuous improvement initiatives in production and quality.
With the chemical manufacturing application’s centralized quality database, users can identify issues with specific items, vendors and production line equipment. Prebuilt interactive quality dashboards and reports allow users to drill down into current and historical quality data and share this information with suppliers and customers. Not only can this information improve batch production yields, it can help manufacturers avoid unnecessary customer chargebacks, penalties and fines.
So, when the pressure is on to maintain your high quality standards when scaling up production, ensure your chemical manufacturing software has all the inbuilt quality features, from receiving through production to shipping, to avoid the downside of delivering substandard products to your customers.
As for me and my painting projects, I honestly do not want to go through all the effort again repainting the same areas every year or two, so to all of you paint and coating manufacturers – maintain your high quality standards – employ software made for chemical manufacturing.
For more information, visit http://www.batchmaster.com/batchmaster-erp-for-paints-coatings/.