Quality management is one of the crucial but less known processes in chemical manufacturing and processing plants. Without proper quality management, the entire business may become unsustainable. These processes ensure that the plant functions as designed and produces the desired outputs with minimal wastage.
Quality control and quality assurance are two main aspects of quality management. While they’re often used interchangeably, there are considerable differences between the two.
In this article, we explore the differences between quality control and quality assurance as well as their benefits. We also explore best practices to implement quality management in an organization.
Both quality control and quality assurance are part of quality management. The end goal for both of these processes is to ensure that the products reaching the end user will have at least the minimum standards. It’s used to ensure that the products have minimal impurities, have the active ingredient in sufficient quantities, and are what it says on the packaging. They’re both essential in chemical plants and cannot be substituted for each other.
Quality control is a reactive approach to quality management in that it comes after the production process. The goal of quality control is to ensure that defective products don’t leave the plant or reach the hands of end users. The process is aimed at detecting defects and defective products.
In a chemical plant, one of the main aspects of quality control processes is testing the final products by collecting samples from all the batches. The QC team will check for impurities and the concentration of active ingredients as well as particle size or other parameters and check if they’re within limits.
Chemical plants may use techniques like chromatography, HPLC, and others to conduct quality control inspections. Quality control teams may also conduct sampling tests after delivering the product or during its transportation to see if it is deteriorating.
Quality assurance on the other hand is a proactive approach to quality management. These processes are designed to reduce defects or defective products during the manufacturing process.
Quality assurance processes manage and ensure consistent standards during the manufacturing process. It explores where the defects are creeping in during the manufacturing operations and attempts to mitigate them.
In a chemical plant, quality assurance processes involve documenting every process, reviewing them regularly, calibrating the equipment, training the staff, and more. The goal is to ensure that defective products are not manufactured in the plant; it attempts to ensure that the production process results in products of specified standards.
Here are five reasons why chemical plants should implement quality control and quality assurance.
With better quality control and quality assurance, organizations can reduce losses through wastage. In the absence of quality management processes, customers and end users may reject products. This can double the production costs and waste resources and materials.
Quality management processes reduce wastage at every stage of production. By checking product quality at every stage, chemical plants can reduce material, energy, and human resources wastage at the end of every production cycle.
Over time, quality management will reduce rejections at the quality control level as well. As the processes improve, fewer batches will fail quality control tests and have to discarded.
Poor quality products will affect brand reputation. Fewer customers will be interested in sourcing products from your plant if you can’t offer the level of quality they need. It will impact business in the long run.
With a dedicated quality management system, the company can offer better products to its customers. It will improve brand reputation and more clients will be interested in your products.
If an organization can offer products with fewer impurities and higher concentrations of active ingredients, it can get an advantage over the competition and get better prices. The organization will also be able to move its products much more quickly and reduce wastage due to gradual degradation.
When employees realize that they’re producing good products, they’ll feel better about their contributions. For instance, if a plant is producing medicines and the employees feel that the plant is maintaining proper standards, that they’re producing medicines that are helping patients, they’ll be motivated to put more effort and care into their work.
Poor quality control can have the reverse effect as well. When employees get the feeling that the company doesn’t put a lot of care into the quality of the output, they’ll care less about their efforts. This can bring down output quality and cost the company in the long run.
Quality management processes place a lot of importance on maintaining the equipment in the right condition and conducting regular maintenance, calibrations, and other activities. This will improve safety at the plant; equipment is less likely to malfunction and cause accidents.
Quality management will also enhance worker safety. Workers will get better training and will be less likely to make mistakes. They’ll also be provided with better PPE and other equipment that can help them perform their duties safely and efficiently.
By producing products with less impurity, quality management in chemical plants will keep customers safe. For medical products, patients are less likely to have adverse effects and for other products, they’re less likely to contain unknown toxic components.
Lack of quality management can expose organizations to legal issues. The chemical manufacturing industry is highly regulated and is required to comply with strict quality standards. Violating these regulations can invite costly penalties.
If the organizations fail to deliver the required quality of products, it can invite legal action from customers. Particularly in the pharmaceutical industry, poor-quality chemicals can cause adverse reactions among patients which can create legal challenges for the organization and the management.
Here are some of the best practices for quality management in chemical manufacture.
Ad-hoc processes are one of the reasons for poor quality products in manufacturing plants. If every batch is manufactured with its own set of processes, measurements, and standards without clear documentation, it will affect the consistency. It will be difficult to guarantee quality without clear-cut processes.
So the first step to improving the quality is to define the process, document them, and ensure that the entire plant sticks to these processes. The amount of raw material used, the temperatures, the humidity, water content, fluid velocities, equipment configurations, and all the other aspects of manufacturing must be clearly documented.
Defining these processes will help QA teams analyze them, ensure that the plant is meeting the standards, and refine them further.
To set up effective quality management, chemical plants have to define the quality standards they want to achieve. The organization must define acceptable parameters for every batch that comes out of the plant. These standards should specify the quantity of different impurities, the level of active ingredients, production efficiency, permissible water content, and other parameters.
These standards will help QC teams to set up their testing processes and quality assurance to figure out how much they need to optimize. The different parameters should be set by considering legal requirements, industry standards, client specifications, testing capabilities, and cost of production.
Third-party audits will give a better perspective on the processes within the organization. They can help figure out inefficiencies or where the quality is going down and help organizations improve them.
Third-party teams are usually comprised of experts who may have worked in the industry for years and seen other plants and similar processes. These audits help organizations leverage this expertise to make their processes better. They may be able to offer suggestions or new techniques and technologies that will improve production both quantitatively and qualitatively.
Even if you document all the processes and stick to them, there will be differences among batches.
Measurements will be more precise right after you’ve calibrated than after two months, even if the errors are within acceptable limits. Seasonal variations in temperature and humidity may affect the quality of output. There may also be differences because of the personnel involved in the production processes.
By documenting the production and aligning it next to the output, organizations can figure out the factors affecting the results and improve them.
Randomized testing is important for quality control. There are many testing procedures for statistical quality control. With these methods, QC teams can test the quality of entire batches by taking a small sample and extrapolating the results.
Random sampling can also help teams understand patterns and trends in production qualities. For instance, if the quantity of a certain impurity is increasing over time, there may be problems with specific machinery or vendors. By identifying these patterns, quality assurance teams can take steps to mitigate them and improve the quality of production.
Regular inspection and maintenance activities are essential for quality control. They ensure that the equipment is properly calibrated and functioning properly. Without maintenance, the equipment won’t be able to provide the necessary conditions for reactions and other processes. For maximum conversion during a chemical reaction, the equipment has to be kept at optimum conditions. If the reactors cannot provide the right temperature or water level or cannot mix the reactants properly, there will be lots of impurities in the output.
The downstream processing equipment may fail to clear out impurities and make the product stable if they’re not properly calibrated.
In a chemical plant, the valves and sensors must be properly configured, filters cleaned and replaced regularly, and the equipment must be monitored to ensure consistent quality of output.
Good manufacturing practices ensure that chemicals are produced with consistent standards. These standards include everything from using the right equipment to documenting the processes in detail.
These standards are specified by various authorities and evolve over time. They ensure the quality of chemical manufacturing processes and improve the brand reputation.
Proper testing procedures are essential for good-quality production. The testing processes must be standardized and well-documented. The labs must have trained staff and the necessary equipment. The staff should follow proper standards within the lab and the equipment must be maintained and calibrated regularly.
TargPatrol is a web and mobile that can help chemical plants streamline their quality management processes. The app can help managers set standards for maintenance and repair and ensure that the processes are fully documented. It can help QA teams manage their inspection process and access information through multiple interfaces.
It can document the maintenance and calibration processes automatically to a large extent with the help of RFID and NFC tags. Organizations simply have to place the tags near the equipment and when the maintenance personnel conducts their inspections, the app will automatically log their location and activities.
Check out TargPatrol now to streamline quality management in your chemical processing manufacture.