13485cert

The Ultimate Design Control SOP

In Design & Development, Design Inputs, Design Outputs, Design Validation, Design Verification, Elsmar Cove, ISO 13485, Medical Device, Procedures, US FDA on May 27, 2012 at 12:33 am

Disclaimer: There is no need to create the Ultimate Design Control SOP. We need medical devices that are safer and more effective.

If Adele is worthy of six Grammy Awards, she’s probably worthy of a blog link too. Rumor has it that this is my personal favorite from Adele.

In my previous blog posting, I indicated six things that medical device companies can do to improve design controls. While the last posting focused on better design team leaders (WANTED: Design Team Needs Über-Leader), this posting focuses on writing stronger procedures. I shared some of my thoughts on writing design control procedures just a few weeks ago, but my polls and LinkedIn Group discussions generated great feedback regarding design control procedures.

One of the people that responded to my poll commented that there was no option in the poll for “zero”. Design controls do not typically apply to contract manufacturers. These companies make what other companies design. Therefore, their Quality Manual will indicate that Clause 7.3 of the ISO 13485 Standard is excluded. If this describes your company, sit back and enjoy the music.

Another popular vote was “one”. If you only have one procedure for design controls, this meets the requirements. It might even be quite effective.

When I followed up to poll respondents asking how many pages their procedures were, a few people suggested “one page”. These people are subscribing to the concept of using flow charts instead of text to define the design control process. In fact, I use the following diagram to describe the design process all the time: The Waterfall Diagram!

From the US FDA Website.

I first saw this in the first AAMI course I took on Design Controls. This is on the FDA website somewhere too. To make this diagram effective as a procedure, we might need to include some references, such as: work instructions, forms, the US FDA guidance document for Design Controls, and Clause 7.3 of the ISO Standard.

The bulk of the remaining respondents indicated that their company has eight or more procedures related to design controls. If each of these procedures is short and specific to a single step in the Waterfall Diagram, this type of documentation structure works well. Unfortunately, many of these procedures are a bit longer.

If your company designs software, active implantable devices, or a variety of device types—it may be necessary to have more than one procedure just to address these more complex design challenges. If your company has eight lengthy procedures to design Class 1 devices that are all in the same device family, then the design process could lose some fat.

In a perfect world everyone on the design team would be well-trained and experienced. Unfortunately, we all have to learn somehow. Therefore, to improve the effectiveness of the team we create design procedures for the team to follow. As an auditor and consultant I have reviewed 100+ design control processes. One observation is that longer procedures are not followed consistently. Therefore, keep it short. Another observed I have made is that well-design forms help teams with compliance.

Therefore, if you want to rewrite your design control SOP try the following steps:

  1. Use a flow chart or diagram to illustrate the overall process
  2. Keep work instructions and procedures short
  3. Spend more time revising and updating forms instead of procedures
  4. Train the entire team on design controls and risk management
  5. Monitor and measure team effectiveness and implement correct actions when needed

The following is a link to the guidance document on design controls from the US FDA website.

Refer to my LinkedIn polls and discussions for more ideas about design control procedures:

  1. Medical Devices Group
  2. Elsmar Cove Quality Forum Members Group

In addition to the comments I made in this blog, please refer back to my earlier blog on how to write a procedure.

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