In our previous blog post, we highlighted how the right approach to your quality system can improve your development time to clinical studies. The impact of that is you can do more projects at the same time, and, should those projects be successful, improve your profits. In this post, we will continue the conversation by looking at three approaches taken by companies and how that will – or won’t! – align with your product development strategy.
The three kinds of companies we will look at:
- Start Ups: They don’t have a quality system and need one
- Mature Company: Have a robust quality system
- Some companies customize each system for the project
Start Ups: Building from the ground up
We worked with a client who was down the development path, raising money, designing his product when we started asking about his quality system. The blank look made us panic – and his panic matched ours when we explained our concerns. However, this presented us with a clean slate with which to start.
The great thing about starting with a clean slate is that there are no preconceived notions around previous experiences, custom solutions carried over from a specific situation or programs developed for a beginning to end solution when that might not be needed. We try to identify the specific quality modules needed for the project to get to the company established goals.
Ideally, startup companies know they need a quality system and they build it around what they anticipate for the product’s development life cycle. Our small client has a product they need to get to proof of concept (i.e., limited clinical studies). They also placed a priority on minimizing their investment burn rate. To get them where they needed, we held off on developing a management quality system and just built the development portion of it. This would allow them to get the proof of concept. They then have the choice of selling off the product to a company that can take it through manufacturing or raising more money to do that themselves.
Mature Companies: Comprehensive systems in place
We have several mature medical device company clients that have extremely comprehensive quality systems in place. On its face, this makes sense: A mature company should have a thorough quality system. On some occasions this proves to be a problem when the company makes all projects go through the full quality system. In our previous post on profitability, we highlighted how companies try to build a system that anticipates every possible problem and build a plan to remediate it.
This is bloat and does not drive profits. While a small company is forced to be efficient to save cash, mature companies do not have to so will put a new product through their manufacturing quality system despite the fact that they haven’t achieved a proof of concept yet. There are times when this makes sense, such as when you are 98% sure the product will go to market or your product is a development of another proven product already on the marketplace.
Still, this is a prime example of how a very robust quality system erodes the profitability of your company. Major market companies have often turned to outsourcing their projects to avoid this erosion.
A Customized Approach: Applying modules at the right stage
We have seen companies effectively stage their quality system requirements for each level of production and only do what is necessary to hit the next benchmark. In thinking like a small company, profits abound in efficiency. For example, when you approach the design element of your project, have just the quality system needed for design work. When you complete clinical trials and you know what you have, then you can see. Are you going to the next step?
At this point you need to go back, review and implement the quality manufacturing portion of your system. For an individual project, this might be more expensive as you must customize what you do for your product. However, you can realize an increase in your profits by not spending time running products through complex quality systems when they won’t go to market for failing clinical trials or are scrapped afterward for other reasons.
For example, when you are building prototypes for a clinical trial, you might just approve a simplified inspection process for each product. There may only be 30 units to inspect so doing so manually makes sense. When you approach manufacturability, and you will be making thousands or more, you will need to build a system that encompasses the machines you used, automation of your inspection tools, auditing systems, and many more elements. Why spend the time and money building these systems unless you know they are going to be used?
If you are looking for help to right size your quality system, we should talk. Waddell Group has world class project managers that are smart about the business drivers of projects – including profits!