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Staying ahead in a competitive environment, and providing assurance to your key clients – the critical importance of both the QC and R&D laboratory within a manufacturing organisation.
Based on feedback from our clients, here are four key points to consider when making the difficult decision where to invest your budget for the coming year.
1) Reduce costly and damaging production errors
Sandwich fillings produced by North Country Cooked Meats were recently in the news when they produced a positive test result for the outbreak strain of listeria. Perhaps you have recently invested in a new production line or packaging line – while this will almost certainly increase production and give you economies of scale and production efficiencies, it is easy to forget that the function of a well-equipped and well-run quality control laboratory can also be key to control of costs and reducing waste by speedy resolution of non-conformance issues, not to mention protect your reputation.
2) Build a solid foundation with your key clients and attract new ones
Many people underestimate the confidence generated with your customers by having top quality laboratory facilities. If you are looking to attract high profile clients, they will be reassured by a tour of your research/testing area – not only does this show commitment to quality control, but also some evidence of research and development shows that your company is coming up with fresh ideas ensuring the organisation’s success for years to come.
Weeks after completing a QC and R&D lab refit last year, our client secured a major contact, in which the new laboratories were a key factor.
3) Give your auditors confidence and boost your credibility
It is easier to acquire important accreditations when the laboratory facilities are good. Much time is taken up with auditors for UKAS accreditation (or NADCAP if you are in the materials or aerospace sector). To minimise disruption, organise everything the inspectors are likely to want to see before the visit. Focus on clear processes and ensure your lab is highly organised.
4) Improve the culture – introduce better ways of working
Are staff in the laboratory operating in a culture of careful accuracy? A well-lit, bright and well-designed laboratory will contribute to this by improving efficiency through good, flexible and considered design thereforeimproving the morale by changing the work culture within the lab environment. Key to improving the output from a quality assurance laboratory is a careful assessment of the type of work required. Effective and ergonomic positioning of mobile storage units containing often-used equipment, consumables and reagents are a good idea to introduce flexibility into the space.
One client was keen to get the laboratory staff to do their write up in the laboratory, rather than in a separate office, as this meant less wasted time. Kastner drew up a design which reduced the office space, but provided write up areas on the laboratory bench. For other laboratories, a separate write-up area is essential for more in-depth reports.
Labs don’t always make money or offer an easy-to-calculate return on investment in the way a new factory, machine or production line does. But as this article shows, it is well worth turning the spotlight on your R&D or QC lab – the results could directly impact your bottom line.