Operations managers in the Life Sciences know that maintaining quality is a journey rather than a destination—change is constant, resources limited, and compliance and regulatory risks are ever present. Sometimes, however, the journey feels more like running on a treadmill than achieving real momentum.
When we designed Qualer—our Enterprise Asset, Vendor, and Maintenance Management Platform, we talked to hundreds of facility, lab, and quality managers at Life Sciences organizations. Through these conversations we discovered the most successful companies took 5 key steps to ensure their journey progresses to new heights. Follow along with us to see what you can do to stop running in place and achieve measurable quality outcomes at your organization.
As the saying goes, you can't manage what you can't measure. So the first step of getting all of your equipment under control is to take a full inventory of all instruments, systems, and equipment to ensure they are all accurately identified, located, and defined.
Everyone has an asset list in one form or another, but a majority are only 90% accurate and 90% up to date. To upgrade your list to 100%, do a thorough physical inventory. Once this is complete create standard procedures for receiving, moving, and retiring assets at your organization. Getting your asset list 100% accurate and keeping it that way sets up the remaining steps for success.
Once you have accurate identification of your assets, it's time to create a maintenance plan for every one of them. A maintenance plan does three things: (1.) it lays out what types of service your assets require to operate in an accurate and controlled manner, (2.) it schedules when, and how often, these should be performed, and (3.) it identifies who will perform each maintenance task.
The "who" here could be an external vendor or an internal department—or both. Some assets will require complex multi-step plans (quarterly verifications followed by an annual calibration) while others only require a simple plan (repair by IT Dept. as needed). Use a system that handles the simple and the complex because every asset needs to have a plan.
Now that you have your assets defined and plans in place, shift your focus to executing the plans and capturing everything that occurs for each asset. Did a vendor just calibrate 36 centrifuges? Your maintenance management system should record this event for each asset and house the service reports and/or calibration certificates.
Let's be honest, there's a lot of data entry involved with keeping up with all of the moving pieces here. The best maintenance management systems allow you to share the burden with your vendors. These systems provide a portal for vendors to log in and attach their service records directly to your assets. You’re the customer here, so ask your vendors to step up and add their records to your system. This saves you time while ensuring full service records are kept and ready for your next audit.
Congratulations, your equipment is now 100% under control and you're ready to breeze through your next audit. But it's not time to relax. The best maintenance management systems free you from loads of busy work and firefighting, but they also open up new opportunities for strategic decision making.
So take your quality management to the next level: harness all of the data you're capturing to make better decisions. Is the new vendor you signed performing better than the last one? How are the off brand pipettes you ordered performing compared to more expensive alternatives? Are you choosing the right service intervals to minimize both failures and service costs? Quality truly is a journey. The best part of being in control is it empowers you to move forward, up your game, and take quality to new heights.
Achieving and maintaining a state of control is a team sport. It requires the collaboration of a diverse group of internal teams and external vendors. To keep everyone accountable, be sure your asset management solution is able to send proactive reminders to responsible parties and notify appropriate managers so everyone stays on task and on schedule.
Systems that aren't proactive aren't solutions, they are merely databases. You need a system that can leverage the asset details and maintenance plans you set up earlier to orchestrate the work and keep everyone marching in time. A proactive asset management system will alert you to the exceptions while managing the rules for you.
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