Bridging the gap between the QC lab and Operations

Published: 5-Apr-2024

Charles River purposely built their portfolio to bring you progressive products and services that deliver accurate, relevant, and reliable data to fuel confident decisions on product quality and contamination control

Today, most companies manage their expenses by reorganising production areas to speed up the flow of goods. They make investments in new efficient technology or software to optimise production, processes, and inventory management. A review of performance improvements tends to stay localised within departments, leaving a lot of potential opportunities to collaborate with other departments to improve overall processes. What if there was a still another technology, which costs a fraction of operations’ typical investments, that could bring more significant impact on production streamlining and overall company efficiencies? When looking at adopting technology to streamline your supply chain, there are opportunities that shouldn’t be overlooked in the quality control department. The quality team may be interested in modernising the lab but looks at the investment as a big expense and may not have visibility to the positive impact it will have on operations. These two departments use different metrics in evaluating investment opportunities. They need to talk with each other so they can mutually benefit from modernisation.

When supply chain management hears microbial testing, they immediately think “the QC lab is down the hall” but there is a technology for the microbiology lab that can impact operations streamlining processes and increasing flexibility. By modernising the quality control lab with rapid microbial detection technology, it will go a long way toward improving the quality control lab and operations’ efficiencies with many quantifiable benefits. With the mutual benefits between the two departments, investing in a rapid microbial detection technology could represent a new best practice for manufacturers.

In the QC microbiology lab, screening products for microbial contamination is necessary for assessment of finished product quality, ensuring the product is safe for release. However, what’s out of proportion is the time it takes to get results. Home and personal care manufacturers assess microbial quality with tests that require 3-7 days before results can be released. Rapid microbial detection technology is a more efficient process and provides a faster alternative with results in just 24 hours. This technology can be compatible with a broad range of product types, delivering quick, automated, and actionable results that will help fast track operational response and decision making for your product portfolio. Rapid microbial detection can increase the efficiency of your ready to release products days before a non-rapid test could, trimming days from the production process, and making your supply chain more responsive and agile.

There are multiple times within your production process where microbial testing should and could be done if your lab is using a rapid technology. You may not be doing in-process testing because of the time required for results. Your risk versus cost-based decision to not perform in process testing might be different if you could obtain those results in just 24 hours. The time versus risk calculation changes with a rapid microbial detection technology. This could be an opportunity to position your strategic testing to reduce risk and provide a more flexible process flow. This rapid approach can also improve utilisation of limited space and production capacity. Many facilities report limited space that is occupied with vessels holding work in process product awaiting microbial test results. With rapid results, you can turn over those vessels faster, increasing your throughput and freeing up capacity for additional production. Collectively these benefits result in a shorter and more predictable supply chain.

All manufacturing facilities have tight timelines, but some have higher stakes with potential exclusive products and low volume packaging, which would be at a significant loss if microbial contamination was found. The loss is extensive including increased waste of product and packaging, downtime required for decontamination of filling equipment, reduced space blocked for product quarantine, and an overall negative impact on your sustainability goals. With scheduled timelines missed, you are also risking product not reaching the shelf in time. By implementing rapid microbial detection technology in your manufacturing cycle, you can catch contamination earlier. You can release replacement lots faster and manufacturers can reduce the amount of goods wasted and increase their operational agility to recover faster. For example, using a rapid method, contamination is detected, investigated, and replacement product is released days faster than traditional methods. Using traditional methods, the operation is still in crisis mode and trying to investigate a contamination event that occurred a week and a half ago.  Any interruption like a microbial contamination event, will have an impact on your entire operations
including scheduling and production planning, raw material acquisition, and manufacturing capacity. It can be a challenge to move schedules forward to remake product in time to meet your customers’ supply requirements. Being able to detect microbial contamination fast is critical, timelines are very tight, and revenue is at risk. Being prepared and being able to react quickly can mitigate unnecessary cost and reduce time wasted.

Companies today are working to optimise their manufacturing facility and are taking steps to manage expenses. Evaluating a new technology often involves looking at the return on investment as well as considering productivity gains, automation potential, and higher throughput which can also contribute to the value assessment. Don’t just stop within your department walls; collaborate with your neighboring departments like quality control when looking for more opportunities to improve. Work with the quality department to help them understand their role and impact in optimising manufacturing. Your quality control lab may be interested in modernising but often do not have the budget for new capital equipment, where operations is accustomed to spending larger amounts on production equipment and software. By investing in a rapid microbial technology together, the impact could be significant to streamlining your operations and maximising productivity, all while increasing confidence in product disposition decisions.

How Can Charles River Laboratories Help You?

Charles River purposely built their portfolio to bring you progressive products and services that deliver accurate, relevant, and reliable data to fuel confident decisions on product quality and contamination control. Their unique combination of Celsis® rapid microbial detection and Accugenix® microbial identification keeps your manufacturing operations running efficiently and smoothly, lowers your cost to manufacture, and protects your reputation. Explore their portfolio of integrated services at

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