In our last post, examining the first step in quality management for cannabis companies, we looked at how cannabis companies can craft a plan that supports quality management (QM). In this post, we consider how cannabis companies can execute on that plan, building quality control processes to ensure that the products they produce meet their standards for precision, consistency, and control.
Every point scored in an NFL game is with a Wilson football. Since 1967, the leather for those balls has come from one single tannery in Chicago. (Spoiler alert: footballs are made from steer hide, not pigskin.) Each ball is 71 centimeters long, 55 centimeters wide, and weighs 425 grams. And as every fan has come to learn, they are inflated between 12.5 and 13.5 psi. You could sum up the Wilson football in three words: precision, consistency, and control. It adds up to quality — and that’s the goal.
Elements of a QC Program
Once you have a QM plan in place, it’s time to establish guidelines and metrics that will allow you to measure how you’re performing against the plan and to specify how you’ll respond when products aren’t achieving your quality standards. In most organizations, this process is called Quality Control, or simply QC.
To implement an effective quality control program, first consider and document the elements of your QC program. Those elements may include:
- Defining the quality standards for each product
- Selecting the quality control method(weight, potency, etc.)
- Deciding whether to outsource some testing
- Determining the number of products/batches that will be tested
- Deciding where in the production cycle testing will take place
- Training employees for quality control
- Creating a communication system for reporting defects or potential issues
Defects are an inevitable part of manufacturing, so it’s vital to create the procedures in your QC program for handling identified defects. Consider the following:
- Will batches be rejected if defected items are found?
- Will there be further testing and potential repair work involved?
- Will production be halted to ensure that there are no more defective products created?
- How will recalls be handled?
- How will new product versions be handled?
Integrating QC Throughout the Process
Often, cannabis companies insert the QC process at the end of the production cycle, but this sequencing will only catch after-the-fact defects — typically past the point where a batch could potentially be saved.
Effective quality management for cannabis companies should be incorporated throughout the manufacturing process. Involve all departments in the process. For example, Operations can monitor the manufacturing process to ensure little variation between each major step in output and Product Engineering can monitor the product design for issues.
Benefits of Incorporating a Formal QC Program
Quality control is often viewed as a cost center rather than a profitability maximizer. However, a robust QC system is a competitive advantage – especially in the cannabis industry, which is not (yet) mandated to be compliant to a particular standard, such as the FDA’s CGMP, 21 CFR Parts 201-2011, or ISO/IEC 17025.
In many states, testing of your final product is a legal requirement, but regardless of legality, cannabis companies need to ensure that all their product standards are routinely checked and verified throughout the production cycle.
Benefits of a conscientious QC program include:
- Improved safety and reduced liability
- Increased customer loyalty—gaining repeat business
- New customers gained from referrals
- Maintained/improved market position through positive brand identification
- Improved ability to meet new and changing requirements
Quality is the Goal
As the cannabis industry matures, more stringent quality testing requirements and standards are sure to follow. By building robust quality control into the fabric of quality management for cannabis companies’ plans, organizations are best prepared to meet the inevitable challenges to come. We work with cannabis companies to help them reach their quality and profitability goals – how can we help you?