Archive for the ‘ISO 13485’ Category

How do you prepare for ISO 13485 registration?

In ISO 13485, Quality Management Systems on December 6, 2012 at 2:40 am

A LinkedIn connection of mine recently asked for sources of good guidance on ISO 13485 registration. I wrote a blog recently about Quality Management Systems in General, but I had trouble finding resources specific to the ISO 13485 registration process. Therefore, I decided to write a blog to answer this question.

Here’s my favorite movie clip with a song for you.

Typically people learn the hard way by setting up a system from scratch. The better way to learn it is to take a course on it. I used to teach a 2-day course on the topic for BSI. The link for this course is: http://bit.ly/Get13485; I shortened the link to the BSI website.

Other registrars offer this course too. I suspect you can find a webinar on this through TUV SÜD, BSI, SGS, LNE/GMED, Dekra, etc. from time to time.

The only registrar I could find that described the process step-by-step was Dekra. I have copied their steps below:

Inquiry to Surveillance in 5 Steps

1. Inquiry
An initial meeting between [THE REGISTRAR] and the client can take place on site or via teleconference. At this time, the client familiarizes [THE REGISTRAR] with company specifics and its quality assurance certification requirements; [THE REGISTRAR] explains its working methods and partnering philosophy, and previews the details of the process.

Rob's 2 Cents

Rob’s 2 Cents

As a client I have completed two initial certifications personally and three transfers, but I have only once had the sales representative actually visit my company. I think this process is typically accomplished by phone and email. If any registrars are reading this, you will close on more accounts if you visit prospective clients personally. In fact, the one that actually visited my company (Robert Dostert) has been on speed dial for almost a decade and he’s received a bit of repeat business.

2. Application Form
The client chooses to move forward by filling out an online application form. Based on the information obtained during the inquiry stage, along with the application form, [THE REGISTRAR] prepares a quote, free of charge, for the entire certification process. A client-signed quotation or purchase order leads to the first stage of the certification process.

Rob's 2 Cents

Rob’s 2 Cents

For both of the Notified Body transfers I completed, I completed application forms and requested quotes from multiple Notified Bodies. During the quoting process, my friend Robert was more responsive and able to answer my questions better than the competition. Robert was also able to schedule earlier audit dates than the competition. To this day I am still amazed that Notified Bodies are not more responsive during this initial quoting process. All of the Notified Bodies are offering a certificate (a commodity). The customer service provided by each Notified Body, however, is not a commodity. Each Notified Body has it’s own culture, and every Notified Body has good and bad auditors. Therefore, you need to treat this selection process just like any other supplier selection decision. I have provided guidance on this specific selection process on more than one occasion, but I am definitely biased.

3. Phase One: Document Review and Planning Visit

LNE/GMED Flow Diagram for the process of ISO 13485 Certification

LNE/GMED Flow Diagram for the process of ISO 13485 Certification

At this stage, [THE REGISTRAR] performs a pre-certification visit, which entails verifying the documented quality systems against the applicable standard. [THE REGISTRAR] works with the client to establish a working plan to define the [THE REGISTRAR] Quality Auditing process. If the client wishes, [THE REGISTRAR] will perform a trial audit or “dress rehearsal” at this stage. This allows the client to choose business activities for auditing and to test those activities against the applicable standard. It also allows the client to learn and experience [THE REGISTRAR] ‘s Quality Auditing methods and style. The results of the trial audit can be used toward certification. Most clients elect for one or two days of trial auditing.

Rob's 2 Cents

Rob’s 2 Cents

Dekra’s statement that, “The results of the trial audit can be used toward certification,” is 100% opposite from BSI’s policy. BSI calls this a pre-assessment. The boilerplate wording used in BSI quotations is, “The pre-assessment is optional service that is an informal assessment activity intended to identify areas of concern where further attention would be beneficial and to assess the readiness of the quality management system for the initial formal assessment.” During these pre-assessments, BSI auditors explain that any findings during the pre-assessment will not used during the Stage 1 and Stage 2 certification audits, and the client will start with a “clean slate.” Most of the clients I conducted pre-assessments for were skeptical of this, but most auditors are ethical and make a every effort to avoid even the perception of biasing their sampling during the Stage 1 and Stage 2 audits. I highly recommend conducting a pre-assessment. You want an extremely thorough and tough pre-assessment so that the organization is well prepared for the certification audits. If the auditor that will be conducting the Stage 1 and Stage 2 audit is not available to conduct a pre-assessment, try to find a consultant that knows the auditors style and “hot buttons” well. FYI…You can almost always encourage me to do a little teaching when I’m auditing (I just can’t resist), and my “hot buttons” are CAPA,  Internal Auditing, and Design Controls.

4. Phase Two: Final Certification Audit 
Once the client’s documented systems have met the applicable standards, [THE REGISTRAR] will conduct an audit to determine its effective implementation.  [THE REGISTRAR] uses a professional auditing interview style instead of a simple checklist approach. This involves interviewing the authorized and responsible personnel as designated in the documented quality system.

Rob's 2 Cents

Rob’s 2 Cents

For certification audits, ISO 17021 requires a Stage 1 and Stage 2 audit to be conducted. The combined duration of the certification audits must be in accordance with the IAF MD9 guidance document–which is primarily based upon the number of employees in the company. The “interview style” that Dekra is referring to is called the “Process Approach”. This is required in section 0.2 of the ISO 13485 Standard, and this is the primary method recommended by the ISO 19011 Standard for auditing–although other methods of auditing are covered as well.

5. Surveillance 
[THE REGISTRAR] arranges for surveillance audits semi-annually or annually as requested by the client.

Rob's 2 Cents

Rob’s 2 Cents

I highly recommend annual surveillance audits, because the short duration of surveillance audits becomes unrealistically short when the auditor is asked to split their time between two semi-annual visits. A few clients have indicated that the semi-annual audits help them by maintaining pressure on the organization to be ready for audits all year-round and prevents them from procrastinating to implement corrective actions. This is really an issue of management commitment that needs to be addressed by the company. Scheduling semi-annual surveillance audits is doesn’t address the root cause. The only good argument I have for semi-annual cycles is if you have a very large facilities that would have an audit duration of at least 2 days on a semi-annual basis. The most important think to remember about scheduling surveillance audits is to make sure that you schedule the audits well before the anniversary. I recommend 11 months between audits. By doing this, you end up scheduling the re-certification audits 3 months before the certificate expires. BSI has a different policy. They want auditors to schedule the first surveillance audit 10 months after the Stage 2 audit, the second surveillance audit 12 months after the first surveillance audit, and then the re-certification audit must be scheduled at least 60 days prior to certificate expiration (i.e.  – no more than 12 months after the second surveillance audit). No matter what, schedule early.

If you have additional questions about becoming ISO 13485 registered, please post a discussion question in the following LinkedIn subgroup: Medical Device: QA/RA. For example, on Monday a new discussion question was posted asking for help with selection of a Notified Body for CE Marking. You will need to become a member of the parent group (Medical Device Group)–if you are not already one of the 140,000+ members connected with Joe Hage. George Marcel and I manage this subgroup for Joe. George is out in the Bay Area and I’m in the Green Mountains.

How do you shadow an auditor? Did you learn anything?

In Elsmar Cove, FDA Inspections, Internal Auditing, ISO 13485, ISO 19011, Supplier Audit, Supplier Audits, Supplier Quality on November 25, 2012 at 5:43 am

If you are shadowing, you are taking notes so you can discuss your observations with the person you are shadowing later.

Somewhere in your procedure for “Quality Audits”, I’ll bet there is a section on auditor competency. Most companies require that the auditor has completed either a course for internal auditor or a lead auditor course. If the course had an exam, then you might even have evidence for training effectiveness. Demonstrating competency is much harder. One way is to review internal audit reports, but writing reports is just part of what an auditor does. How can you evaluate an auditor’s ability to interview people, take notes, follow audit trails, and manage their time? The most common solution is to require that the auditor “shadow” a more experienced auditor several times, and then the trainee will be “shadowed” by the trainer.

I can’t remember posting any music from John Mayer and the song title fits our subject for this blog.

Shadowing 1st Party Audits:

ISO 19011:2011 defines 1st party audits as internal audits. When 1st party auditors are being shadowed by trainer, or vice versa, there are many opportunities for training. The key successful training of auditors is to recognize teachable moments.

When the trainer is auditing, the trainer should look for opportunities to ask the trainee, “What should I do now?” or “What information do I need to record?” In these situations, the trainer is asking the trainee what they should do BEFORE they do it. If the trainee is not sure, the trainer should explain what, why and how at that moment with real examples.

When the trainer is shadowing, the trainer should watch and wait for a missed opportunity to gather important information. In these situations, the trainer must resist guiding the trainee until after the trainee appears to be done. When it happens sometimes the best tool is simply asking, “Are you sure you got all the information you came for?”

Here are five (5) mistakes that I have observed trainers make when they were shadowing:

1. Splitting up, instead of staying together, is one of the more common mistakes I have observed. This happens when people are more interested in completing an audit than taking every advantage of training opportunities. The trainee may be capable of auditing on their own, but this is no excuse for tag teaming the auditee. This is unfair to the trainee AND the auditee. If an audit is running behind schedule, this is the perfect time to teach a trainee how to recover some time in their schedule. Time management is after all one of the hardest skills for auditors to master.

2. Staying in the conference room, instead of going to where the work is done, is a common criticism of auditors. If the information you need to audit can be found in a conference room, then you could have completed the audit remotely. This type of audit teaches new auditors very little other than how to take notes. These are basic skills that auditors should master in a classroom prior to shadowing.

3. Choosing an administrative process is a mistake, because administrative processes limit the number of aspects of the process approach that can be practiced by an auditor-in-training. Administrative processes rarely have equipment that requires validation or calibration, and both the process inputs and outputs consist only of paperwork, forms or computer records. With raw materials and finished goods to process, the job of the auditor is more challenging because there is more to be aware of.

4. Not providing honest feedback is a huge mistake. Auditors need to be thick skinned or they don’t belong in a role where they are going to criticize others. Before you begin telling other people how to improve, you first need to self-reflect and identify your own strengths and weaknesses. Understanding your own perspective, strengths, weaknesses, and prejudices is critical to being an effective assessor. As a trainer, it is your job to help new auditors to self-reflect and accurately rate their performance against objective standards.

5. “Silent Shadowing” has no value at all. By this I mean shadowing another auditor without asking questions. If you are a trainee you should be mentally pretending you are doing the audit. Whenever the trainer does something different from the way you would do things, you should make a note so you can ask, “Why did you do that?” If you are trainer you should also be mentally pretending you are doing the audit. It is not enough to be present. You job is to identify opportunities for the trainee to improve. The better the trainee, the tougher your job becomes. This is why I training other auditors has helped me improve my own auditing skills.

Shadowing 2nd Party Audits:

If you are developing a new supplier quality engineer that is responsible for performing supplier audits, it is recommended to observe the auditor during some actual supplier audits. Supplier audits are defined as 2nd party audits in the ISO 19011:2011 Standard. The purpose of these audits is not to verify conformity to all the aspects of ISO 13485. Instead, the primary purpose of these audits is to verify that the supplier has adequate controls in place to consistently manufacture conforming product for your company. Therefore, processes such as Management Review (Clause 5.6) and Internal Auditing (Clause 8.2.2) are not typically sampled during a 2nd party audit.

The two most valuable process for a 2nd party auditor to sample are: 1) incoming inspection, and 2) production controls. Using the process approach to auditing, the 2nd party auditor will have an opportunity to verify that the supplier has adequate controls for documents and records for both of these process. Training records for personnel performing these activities can be sampled. The adequacy of raw material storage can be evaluated by following the flow of accepted raw materials leaving the incoming inspection area. Calibration records can be sampled by gathering equipment numbers from calibrated equipment in use by both processes. Even process validation procedures can be assessed by comparing the actual process parameters being used in manufacturing with the documented process parameters in the most recent validation or re-validation reports.

My recommendation is to have the trainee shadow the trainer during the process audit of the incoming inspection process and for the trainer to shadow the trainee during the process audit of production processes. In between the two process audits, the trainee should be asking questions to help them fully understand the process approach to auditing. Supplier auditors should also be coached on techniques for overcoming resistance to observe processes that may involve trade secrets or where competitor products may also be present. During the audit of production processes, the trainer may periodically prompt the trainee to gather information that will be needed for following audit trails to calibration records, document control or for comparing with the validated process parameters. The “teachable moment” is immediately after the trainee missed an opportunity, but while the trainee is still close enough to go back and capture the missing details.

Shadowing 3rd Party Audits:

Use your FDA inspections and ISO certification audits as an opportunity to shadow experienced auditors and to learn what they are looking for.

If you are going to shadow a 3rd party auditor, I recommend two specific people to “shadow” the auditor. First, the process owner should be the guide for whichever process is being audited. This is the person that will be responsible for addressing any nonconformities found in the area, and they should be present during interviews–although they should be coached on when to comment and when to remain quiet and simply observe.  Second, the person that performed an internal audit of the process being audited should be present if at all possible. This person will benefit from seeing how a professional 3rd party auditor performs a process audit, because they will know which things to look for in the future so that auditees in that area are prepared for the next external audit.

If you are an audit program manager, and you would like to learn “What Makes World Class Audit Programs Different?”, please contact me. I am co-teaching an advanced course for audit program managers in April 2013.

For other sources of information related to auditor shadowing, please check out the following links:

1. Internal Auditor Training – Shadowing external auditor? – from Elsmar Cove

2. Developing Supplier Quality Auditor Training Programs – by Seth Mailhot at NixonPeabody

Where can I learn about this Quality Management System (QMS) stuff?

In ISO, ISO 13485, Quality Management Systems on November 10, 2012 at 7:03 pm

A blog follower from Jon Speer’s website, Creo Quality, recently sent me a message asking for sources of good guidance on this Quality Management System (QMS) Stuff. There are a bunch of links below for you to follow and some practical advice. Enjoy learning!

J’aime Pink Martini et le chant de China Forbes.

The single best guidance document on the implementation of a QMS system in accordance with ISO 13485 is “13485 Plus” (type in the words in quotes to the CSA search engine).

There are also a bunch of pocket guides you can purchase for either ISO 9001 or ISO 13485 to help you quickly look-up information you are having trouble remembering. One of my Lead Auditor students recommended one pocket guide in particular and she was kind enough to give me her copy.

There are some webinars out there that provide an overview of QMS Standards. Some are free and some have a modest fee. I’m not sure the value is there for these basic overview webinars, but if you need to train a group it’s a great solution. I know BSI has several webinars that are recorded for this purpose.

AAMI has an excellent course on the Quality System Regulations (QSR) which combines 21 CFR 820 and ISO 13485.

There are a number of blogs I recommend on my website.

You can try to identify a local mentor–either in your won company or at your local ASQ Section.

You can join the following LinkedIn subgroup: Medical Device: QA/RA. You will need to become a member of the parent group (Medical Device Group)–if you are not already one of the 140,000+ members connected with Joe Hage. George Marcel and I manage this subgroup for Joe. George is out in the Bay Area and I’m in the Green Mountains.

You can visit the Elsmar Cove website and participate in the discussions you find there. I wrote a blog about Elsmar Cove a while back (wow almost 2 years ago now).

The best way to learn this stuff is to do all of the above.

And for the encore performance…

How do you audit design controls using the process approach?

In Change Control, Design & Development, Design Inputs, Design Outputs, Design Validation, Design Verification, Forward to MDA, Internal Auditing, IOVV, ISO 13485, ISO 14971, Risk Management on June 23, 2012 at 4:44 am

A new connection I made on LinkedIn joined the RA Review Group, and they suggested that anything related to the topic of Design and Development would be of interest for a blog topic. Therefore, I thought I would share a secret with everyone reading my blog…

This blog has been moved to the following location and the name has been changed: http://bit.ly/AuditDesign.

This blog website and the blogs within it are gradually being transferred over to my new website: http://www.MedicalDeviceAcademy.com. The titles may change, and there may be minor revisions to the content as the blogs are reviewed and edited. There will be a subscription list created for the new blog site. If you would like to be added to the list for the new blog site, please email me directly at: rob@13485cert.com.

I have left the links to the videos I love.

Entertainment for this week is Diana Krall‘s recording of Bésame Mucho. I have also included another recording by Andrea Bocelli with English and Spanish subtitles for anyone that wondered what the words meant. The song loses a little of it’s appeal in translation, but English is not one of the Romance Languages.

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.

WANTED: Design Team Needs Über-Leader

In CE Mark, CE Medical, Change Control, Design & Development, Improvement, ISO 13485, ISO 14971, Medical CE, Medical Device on May 16, 2012 at 5:11 am

“Mona Superwoman” by Teddy Royannez (France)

Last November Eucomed published a position paper titled, “A new EU regulatory framework for medical devices: Six steps guaranteeing rapid access to safe medical technology while safeguarding innovation.” While I have serious doubts that any government will ever be able to “guarantee” anything other than its own continued existence, I have an idea of how industry can help.

The position paper identified six steps. Each of these steps has a comparable action that could be taken in every medical device company. My list of six steps is:

Only the best leaders

  1. Only one approach to design controls
  2. Stronger internal procedures
  3. Cross-pollination by independent reviewers
  4. Clear communication of project status to management
  5. Better project management skills

The most critical element to success is developing stronger design team leaders. Design teams are cross-functional teams that must comply with complex international regulations, while simultaneously the team must be creative and develop new products. This type of team is the most challenging type to manage. In order to be successful, design team leaders must be “Über-Leaders.”

The most critical skills are not technical skills, but team leadership skills. The role of a design team leader is to make sure that everyone is contributing without tromping on smaller personalities in the group. Unfortunately, there are more men in this role than women.

Why is this unfortunate? Because men suck at listening (takes one to know one).

We need a leader that will be strong but we also need someone that is in touch with the feelings of others and will use that skill to bring out the best of everyone on the team. This superwoman also needs to earn the respect of the male egos around the table. She needs to be an expert in ISO 14971, ISO 13485, Design Controls, Project Management, and managing meetings. Our beautiful heroine must also be a teacher, because some of our team members will not know everything—even if they pretend to.

The Über-Leader will always remind the team that Safety & Efficacy are paramount. As team leaders we must take the “high road” and do what’s right—even when it delays a project or fails to meet our boss’ unrealistic timetable. Superwoman must demand proof in the form of verification and validation data. It is never acceptable to go with an opinion.

She will remind us that compromise is the enemy, and we must be more creative to solve problems without taking shortcuts that jeopardize safety and efficacy. She will work harder on the project than anyone else on the team. She will keep us on schedule. She will whisper to get our attention, but she won’t be afraid to yell and kick our ass.

As Jim Croce says, “You don’t tug on Superman’s cape.” Superwoman is the only exception to this rule.

What is the Design Input?

In 510(k), CE Mark, CE Medical, Class IIb, Class III, Design & Development, Design Inputs, Design Outputs, Design Validation, Design Verification, ISO 13485, Medical CE, Medical Device, Risk Management on May 12, 2012 at 7:09 pm

Micky, this is for you.

I have been directly involved in dozens of design projects throughout my career, and during the past three years I have audited 50+ Design Dossiers for CE Marking of Medical Devices. Throughout most of these design projects, I have noticed one common thread—a misunderstanding of design inputs.

ISO 13485 identifies the requirements for Design Inputs. These requirements are:

  1. Functional (7.3.2a)
  2. Performance (7.3.2a)
  3. Safety (7.3.2a)
  4. Statutory / Regulatory (7.3.2b)
  5. Previous and Similar Designs (7.3.2c)
  6. Essential Requirements (7.3.2d)
  7. Outputs of Risk Management (7.3.2e)
  8. Customer Requirements (7.2.1)
  9. Organizational Requirements (7.2.1)

The most common error seems to be the failure to include the outputs of risk management. For those of you that have used design FMEA’s—that’s what the right-hand columns are for. When you identify suggested actions to mitigate risks with the current design, these actions should be translated into inputs for the “new and improved” model.

The second most common error seems to be failure to consider regulatory requirements. There are actually two ways this mistake is frequently made: 1) Canadian MDR’s were not considered as design inputs for a device intended for Canadian medical device licensing, and 2) an applicable ISO Standard was not considered (i.e. – “State of the Art” is Essential Requirement 2 of the Medical Device Directive or MDD).

The third most common error, and the one that drives me crazy, is confusion of design outputs and design inputs. For example: an outer diameter of 2.3 +/- 0.05 mm is not a design input for a 7 French arterial catheter. This is a design output. The user need might be that the catheter must be small enough to fit inside the femoral artery and allow interventional radiologists to navigate to a specific location to administer therapy. Validation that the new design can do this is relatively straight forward to evaluate in a pre-clinical animal model or a clinical study. The question is, “What is the design input?”
Design inputs are supposed to be objective criteria for verification that the design outputs are adequate. One example of a design input is that the catheter outer diameter must be no larger than a previous design that is an 8 French catheter. Another possible design input is that the catheter outer diameter must be less than a competitor product. In both examples, a simple measurement of the OD is all that is required to complete the verification. This also gives a design team much more freedom to develop novel products than a narrow specification of 23 +/- 0.05 mm allows for.

If you are developing a Class II medical device for a 510(k) submission to the FDA, special controls guidance documents will include design inputs. If you are developing a Class IIa, Class IIb or Class III medical device for CE marking, there is probably an ISO Standard that lists functional, performance and safety requirements for the device. Regulatory guidance documents and ISO Standards usually reference test methods and indicate acceptance criteria. When you have a test method and acceptance criteria defined, it is easier to write a verification protocol. Therefore, design teams should always strive to document design inputs that reference a test method and acceptance criteria. If this is not done, verification protocols are much more difficult to write.

In my earlier example, the outer diameter of 2.3 +/- 0.05 mm is a specification. Unfortunately, many companies would document this as an input and use the final drawing as the output. By making this mistake, “verification” is simply to measure the outer diameter to verify that it matches the drawing. This adds no value and if the specifications are incorrect the design team will not know about it.

A true verification would include a protocol that identifies the “worst-case scenario” and verifies that this still meets the design input requirements. Therefore, if the drawing indicates a dimensional tolerance of 2.3 +/- 0.05, “worst-case” is 2.35 mm. The verification process is to measure either a previous version of the product or a competitor’s catheter. The smallest previous version or competitor catheter tested must be larger than the upper limit of the design output for outer diameter of the new catheter.

How do you control design changes?

In Change Control, Class IIb, Class III, Design & Development, ISO, ISO 13485, ISO 14971, Medical Device, PMA, Quality, Quality Management Systems, Risk Management on May 4, 2012 at 4:59 am

Of JB’s recommended artists, the Josh Abbott Band was probably my favorite. I especially liked this one. I hope every man is lucky enough to know a girl like Texas. I’m lucky enough to have married a girl that grew up in Texas. They are something special.

We have been discussing the best ways to control design changes at work, and I thought it might present an opportunity to have more of an interactive discussion with my readers.

During my rounds as a 3rd party auditor, I have seen quite a few design control procedures. The most complex consisted of 19 procedures (NOT recommended, but there were no nonconformities). The most simple consisted of one 4-page procedure, which I wrote, but I would never recommend being this brief. I have created a couple of polls in my LinkedIn profile for you to respond to if you would like to share your own company’s “design control stats”:


The problem I see is that most projects are not new product designs. Sometimes the projects are not even major design changes. I think most changes involve supplier changes, component specification improvements, and design for manufacturability. These changes require review and approval of changes. These changes must also be recorded and retained as a Quality Record.

My own personal preference is to always open a design project—no matter how small the change is. In order to make the process flexible, I also prefer to define how many design reviews each project will have in the design plan rather than mandating that design reviews be held in a stage-gate fashion for 100% of projects.

Most companies will have a table of requirements with columns added to indicate if the requirements are mandatory for the project or optional. For example, “risk management plan needs to be updated? Yes/No.” I like this approach, because the table of requirements makes the decision making systematic.

Sometimes a change is only to a work instruction for a step in the manufacturing process. In these cases, some companies will use a document change order process to supplement the engineering change order process.

My feeling is that more complex products (i.e. – Class IIb & Class III in EU and Class III/PMA in US) will require more stringent design controls for the change. What does your company do to control design changes?

Best in Class Validation Program

In ISO 13485, ISO 14971, Medical Device, Process Validation, Quality, Risk Analysis, Risk Management on April 27, 2012 at 11:46 am

This is one of the early music videos I remember from the 80’s.

The original question from a former client was: “What does a best in class CNC machining process validation program look like?” Although I intend to answer this question, I know a few other clients that have done a great job of this. Hopefully they will add their own opinions as a comment. Therefore, I am expanding the scope of this question to validation in general.

The problem with validation is that you can always do a more thorough validation. Only in the cases of processes such as sterilization, do we have ISO Standards that tell us what is required. Otherwise, we are normally the experts and we have to use our own judgment as to what is necessary. In general, the best approach is a risk-based approach.

For each design specification established for a component, we also need to identify what process risks are associated with failure to meet the specification. Most companies perform a process failure modes and effects analysis (pFMEA). This risk analysis has three quantitative components: 1) severity of the failure’s effect, 2) probability of occurrence, and 3) detectability.          The first factor, severity, is based upon the intended use of the device and how that component failure impacts that use. Usually it is important to have a medical professional involved in this portion of the estimation.

The second factor, probability, is typically quantified during the process validation activities. One company I audited developed a ranking scale for probability that was linked directly to CpK of the process. Higher CpK values received lower scores, because the process was less likely to result in an out-of-specification component. Another company I worked for used a six-point logarithmic scale (i.e. – 10e-6 = 1, 10e-5 = 2, 10e-4 = 3, 10e-3 = 4, 10e-2 = 5, and 10e-1 = 6). This logarithmic scale was based on sterilization validation where a sterility assurance level of 10e-6 is considered “validated”.

The third factor, detectability, is best estimated by using a quantitative scale that is based upon a gauge R&R study or some other method of inspection method validation.

Most companies struggle with determination of what is acceptable for design risk analysis. However, for process risk analysis it is usually much easier to quantify the acceptable risk level.

Once you have determined that a process is not acceptable at the current residual risk level, then you must take corrective actions to reduce the risk. The first step to achieve this should be to review the process flow. There are critical control points that can be identified in the process flow. One of those places is at the end of the process at the inspection step in the process.

The inspection step in the process flow affects detectability of defects. For many automated processes, such as CNC machining, it is not reasonable to perform 100% inspection. Therefore, these processes require validation. Most engineers make the mistake of trying to validate every dimension that is machined. However, only some of the dimensions result in device failures. These are the dimensions that are critical to validate. Best practice is to calculate the process capability for meeting each of these critical specifications (i.e. – CpK). A minimum threshold should be established for the CpK (refer back to the process risk analysis for ideas on linking CpK to risk acceptance). Any CpK values below the threshold require a more consistent process. These are the component specifications that should be the focus of process validation efforts.

During a process validation, it is often advisable to perform a design of experiment (DOE) in order to quantify the affects of each process variable. Typically a DOE will evaluate the impact on CpK for each variable at a high, low and middle value while other variables are maintained at nominal values. Any variables that appear to have a significant impact on the CpK are candidates for performing an operational qualification (OQ). For a machining process, this could include spindle speeds, feed rates, and material hardness. If variation of the variable has little or no impact upon the CpK, then there is probably little benefit to inclusion of this variable in an OQ.

The output of an OQ validation should be high and low limits for each process variable that will result in a “good” part. Performance Qualification (PQ) validation is the final step of the process validation. In the PQ, most companies will conduct three repeat lots at nominal values for the variables. If the OQ is designed well, there is often little added value in the PQ. Therefore, the sample size is typically three lots of 10 samples each. If the OQ validation does not clearly identify safe operating limits for the variables, or the process has marginal capability (i.e. – a low CpK), then the OQ should be repeated and an additional DOE may be needed.

Here are a few resources for those of you that are in “Deviceland” and may not be aware of guidance on validation in other related industries:

  1. Guidelines for the Validation of Chemical Methods for the FDA Foods Program (3/22/2012) – http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ScienceResearch/FieldScience/UCM298730.pdf
  2. 2.      Process Validation: General Principles and Practices (January 2011) –  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/UCM070336.pdf?utm_campaign=Google2&utm_source=fdaSearch&utm_medium=website&utm_term=Process%20Validation:%20General%20Principles%20and%20Practices&utm_content=1
  3. Guidelines for the Validation of Analytical Methods for the Detection of Microbial Pathogens in Foods (9/8/2011) –  http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ScienceResearch/FieldScience/UCM273418.pdf
  4. 4.      CPG Sec. 490.100 Process Validation Requirements for Drug Products and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients Subject to Pre-Market Approval (3/12/2004) –  http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074411.htm?utm_campaign=Google2&utm_source=fdaSearch&utm_medium=website&utm_term=validation&utm_content=3
  5. Q 2 (R1) Validation of analytical procedures: text and methodology (June 1995) – http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/index.jsp?curl=pages/regulation/general/general_content_000431.jsp&mid=WC0b01ac0580029593&jsenabled=true

The Supplier Audit Agenda

In Audit Schedule, Contract Manufacturers, Forward to MDA, ISO, ISO 13485, Supplier Audit, Supplier Audits, Supplier Qualification, Supplier Quality on April 21, 2012 at 12:24 pm

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