If you’ve been following Part 1 and Part 2 of our series, The Three Stages of Quality Management for Cannabis Companies, you’ll recall we’ve made more than a few football references, so as we wrap up our series, we thought — why stop now?
Monitor and Improve
Russell Wilson, quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, just signed a five-year contract that will make him the highest paid player in the NFL. What does Russell Wilson have to do with cannabis quality assurance? By anyone’s measure, Russell Wilson exemplifies quality. Much of his success is due to hard work, dedication and the ability to quickly assess the situation and adjust his strategy to the realities on the field. Russell Wilson is committed to quality management.
By now you have a QM plan in place, and you’ve determined how to execute that plan, building quality control processes into your business operations. The final step is to lay the foundation for ongoing, consistent quality by determining how your production processes can prevent errors before they occur and work to improve quality over time. This is where Russell Wilson comes back into the game, as his hallmark traits of hard work, commitment and continual improvement are three critical components of your cannabis QM approach.
Focus on the Process: Cannabis Quality Assurance
Quality assurance (QA) is the maintenance of a desired level of quality in a product (or service) primarily through the prevention of mistakes and defects during every stage of production and delivery. If that sounds a lot like quality control (QC), which we covered in our last post, that’s because QA and QC are similar — with the net difference being that QA is focused on the process, and QC is focused on the product. Put more simply, while QC makes sure the product meets levels and standards set by the company, QA makes sure production is doing the right things the right way. The focus is on fine tuning your processes to prevent errors in the future. The sooner you can catch mistakes, the better.
Like all business operations that need to be managed, cannabis companies need to be able to measure QA efforts by getting the data into systems that can track progress and analyze results. Enterprise level software can help gather and analyze data from varied business units to maximize its use for effective decision-making and tracking.
Here’s where a four-step management method, referred to as a PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Adjust) comes into play:
- Plan: Establish objectives and processes to deliver the results you want.
- Do: Execute the plan.
- Check: Analyze the data you’re collecting.
- Adjust: Improve parts of the process that aren’t working optimally.
Create the Culture: Continual Quality Improvement
Along with embedding QC and QA processes into your cannabis operation, it’s vital to create a culture of continual improvement. The QC and QA data you are collecting during the course of business can serve as the source for your efforts to help identify trends and commonalities. Be certain to evaluate processes frequently and seek input from your team. And communicate that overall quality is the responsibility of every employee.
No QC or QA process is perfect, and even factors outside of your direct control, such as defects in third-party components of a finished good, can prompt a dreaded recall event. However, with strong cannabis quality assurance processes in place, recall teams can better identify areas of fault, quarantine products of issue, notify affected buyers and take the necessary steps to ensure all issues are able to be addressed and improved, preventing further problems.
Keys to an Overall Quality Management System
The keys to an effective cannabis QM system lie in the business golden triangle: People, Processes and Technology.
- Invest in training at all levels of the organization.
- Continually communicate the quality standards of your brand.
- Empower individuals to speak up with suggestions or concerns.
- Develop and follow strong administrative controls.
- Specify and communicate timelines and approval workflows for all documentation.
- Track all inputs and adjustments down to the user level for auditability.
- Eliminate manual, siloed systems for recording testing results.
- Invest in technology tools to help formalize and standardize processes.
- Configure alerts to quickly identify outliers.
Humbly, we’d add one more vertex to the business golden triangle: Partnership. A business partner that understands the cannabis industry provides strategic advice and helps design and implement your QM technology framework delivers a game-winning competitive edge.
Silver Leaf partners with cannabis companies to help them reach their quality and profitability goals – learn more about how we can help you.