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Posts Tagged ‘ISO 14971’

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.

Never Stop Learning

In ISO 14971, Medical Device, QA, Quality, Quality Management Systems, Risk Management, Training on April 2, 2011 at 2:30 pm

One of my family’s favorite songs is “Come on Get Higher” by Matt Nathanson. Two years ago I tried to purchase this for my wife as a Christmas present. Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember who sang the song. I tried searching the web for the lyrics and found out that Sugarland sings it. I remembered the logo on the album cover, went to the store and bought the album. After I got home I realized that the song wasn’t on the album. Back to the store I went and found another version of the album with some live versions of songs—including “Come on Get Higher.” Just to make sure I had the right song, I decided to open the package and play it. My music video selection for this blog is what I heard. I guess we never stop learning, but I did fall in love with Country music at the age of 38…

I am in Canada, it’s almost midnight, and this client has me thinking so hard that I can’t sleep. I am here to teach the company’s Canadian facility about ISO 14971:2007—the ISO Standard for Risk Management of medical devices.

                Most of the companies that request this training are doing so for one of two reasons: 1) several of their design engineers know almost nothing about risk management, or 2) they have several design engineers that are quite knowledgeable with regard to risk management but these engineers have not maintained their credentials and their last risk management training was to the 2000 version of the Standard. This company falls into the second category.

                I always tell students that I learn something by teaching each course. From this company, however, I have learned so much. This company has forced me to re-read the Standard a number of times and reflect on the nuances of almost every single phrase. I have learned more about this Standard in one month than I learned in the 3.5 years since I first took the course I am now teaching.

                I have developed a model for learning that explains this phenomenon. I call this model the “Learning Pyramid.” At the base of the pyramid there are “Newbies.”

               This is the first of four levels. At the base, students read policies and procedures with the hope of understanding.

                In the second level of the pyramid, the student is now asked to watch someone else demonstrate proper procedures. One of my former colleagues has a saying that explains the purpose of this process well, “A picture tells a thousand words, but a demonstration is like a thousand pictures.” This is what our children call “sharing time,” but everyone over 40 remembers this as “show and tell.”

                In the third level of the pyramid, the student is now asked to perform the tasks they are learning. This is described as “doing,” but in my auditing courses I refer to this process as “shadowing.” Trainees will first read the procedures for Internal Auditing (level 1). Next trainees will shadow the trainer during an audit as a demonstration of proper technique (level 2). During subsequent audits, the trainees will audit and the trainer will shadow the trainee (level 3). During this “doing” phase, the trainer must watch, listen and wait for what I call the “Teachable Moment.” This is a moment when the trainee makes a mistake, and you can use this mistake as an opportunity to demonstrate a difficult subject.

                Finally, in the fourth level of the Learning Pyramid we now allow the trainee to become a trainer. This is where I am at—so I thought. I am an instructor, but I am still learning. I am learning what I don’t know.

                The next step in the learning process is to return to the first level. I am re-reading the Standard and procedures until I really understand the nuances that I was unaware of. Then I will search for examples in the real world that demonstrate these complex concepts I am learning. After searching for examples, I will test my knowledge by attempting to apply the newly acquired knowledge to a 510(k) or CE Marking project for a medical device client. Finally, I will be prepared to teach again.

                This reiterative process reminds me of the game Chutes and Ladders, but one key difference is that we never really reach the level of “Guru.” We continue to improve, but never reach our goal of perfection…For further inspiration try reading “Toyota Under Fire.”

Risk Management – It’s Not My Job

In Contract Manufacturers, International Standard, ISO, ISO 14971, Medical Device, QA, QC, Quality, Quality Management Systems, Risk Analysis, Risk Management, Supplier Audit, Supplier Audits, Supplier Qualification, Supplier Quality on January 5, 2011 at 4:12 am

There’s no deeper meaning to this week’s YouTube selection. I just thought I would share one of my favorite guitar soloists with you. The recording quality is only good, but just watching Tim play reveals how freakishly good he is. I highly recommend the live CD with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds. If someone knows of a better quality recording that I can post in my blog, please let me know.

Have you experienced a discussion similar to this?

Auditor: “How do you manage risk throughout the production process?”

Auditee: “That is the responsibility of our customers. We will prepare a risk analysis if customers pay for it, but usually customers do the risk analysis.”

Most contract manufacturers in the medical device industry exclude design from their Quality Management Systems. Unfortunately, most of the contract manufacturers also associate risk management with only the design process. Risk Management cannot be “not applicable” in an ISO 13485 Quality Management System. The requirement of section 7.1 is: “The organization shall establish documented requirements for risk management throughout product realization. Records arising from risk management shall be maintained.” The Standard also references ISO 14971 as a source of guidance on Risk Management.

                For a contract manufacturer, compliance with ISO 14971 is not my primary concern as an auditor. My primary concern is to verify that contract manufacturers analyze risks associated with the processes that they perform and do their best to minimize those risks. What I don’t understand is why more companies don’t want to have strong risk management process. Risk management is how we prevent bad things from happening. Bad things like scrap, complaints and recalls. Should we expect our suppliers to have a strong risk management process?

                Duh.

                Contract manufacturers should be doing everything they can to get better at risk management. During pre-production planning they should be asking, “What happens if…” The contract manufacturer knows best HOW things will fail in production, while the customer knows best WHAT happens when things fail in production. In order to be safe and effective, both companies need to collaborate on risk analysis.

                The reason companies avoid doing risk analysis is because it’s time consuming and tedious.

                 Too bad, so sad.

                 Balancing my checkbook is time consuming and tedious too, but I balance my checkbook to prevent an overdraft charge. Not doing risk analysis can be much more painful. Scrapping out a part can cost tens or hundreds of dollars. Complaints can cost thousands of dollars. Recalls can cost millions of dollars.

                If I owned a contract manufacturing company, I would make sure that everyone in the company is involved in risk management, because we don’t want scrap, we can’t afford mistakes that lead to complaints, and a recall will put us out of business.

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