Reduced Testing in Supply Chain Management: A counterintuitive Shift?

In the ever-evolving landscape of supply chain management, one trend gaining traction is the reduced testing of incoming materials. This approach, while initially counterintuitive, offers several strategic advantages that can lead to significant improvements in efficiency, cost savings, and even quality assurance. Here’s a closer look at why more pharmaceutical companies are considering this shift and how it can be effectively implemented.

But first, understanding the concept of Reduced Testing:

Reduced testing refers to the strategy of minimizing the number of tests performed on raw materials and components (shortly; incoming materials) received from suppliers before they are used in production. Traditionally, companies have relied on extensive incoming testing to ensure quality and compliance with specifications and regulatory demands. However, this can be costly and time-consuming, leading some to reevaluate the necessity of such rigorous procedures.

The three cornerstones of Reduced Testing

1.Trust in Supplier Quality Assurance:

The move towards reduced testing is largely based on a trust-built relationship with suppliers. Companies that choose to test less are those that have strong partnerships with reliable suppliers known for their high-quality standards. These suppliers often have robust quality control processes in place, which reduces the need for duplicate testing by the buyer.

2. Advanced Quality Practices:

Technological advancements and quality management methodologies like Six Sigma and Continuous improvement have empowered suppliers to deliver products that meet strict quality criteria consistently. These practices ensure that the quality of incoming materials is maintained from batch to batch, allowing companies to rely more on supplier certifications and less on their own testing.

3. Cost and Time Efficiency:

Reducing the extent of incoming material testing can lead to significant reductions in both cost and processing time. This can be particularly beneficial in industries where speed to market is crucial. By cutting down on testing, companies can streamline their operations and reduce the overhead associated with quality control processes.

Implementing Reduced Testing

1. Supplier Selection, Quality, and Evaluation:

Choosing the right suppliers is critical when you want to implement reduced testing. Companies must conduct thorough evaluations to assess potential suppliers’ capabilities and quality control measures. This might include site visits, audits, and a review of the supplier’s track records and certifications.

2. Risk Management:

Reduced testing should not compromise the quality of the end product. Therefore, it is essential to implement a risk management strategy that identifies potential risks associated with reduced testing and develops mitigation strategies. This could involve periodic spot-checks or more rigorous testing for critical materials. Key to this Risk Management is the understanding of the links between the incoming tests performed on the raw materials and the critical quality attributes of the drug product.  For example, if the performance of the drug product is known to be dependent on the pH of the API, then it is important that pH testing against accurate specifications should be performed on every batch as part of you reduced testing program.

3. Data-Driven Decisions:

Decisions about where and how much to reduce testing of incoming materials should be based on data. Companies need to analyze historical quality data, defect rates, and supplier performance metrics to make informed decisions about which materials might require less or more stringent testing. In other words, strong product and process knowledge is a must for setting up a sound reduced testing program.

4. Continuous Improvement:

The process of reduced testing should be dynamic and taken up within the QMS. Companies need to continuously monitor outcomes and adjust their strategies based on feedback and new information. For instance, major changes in the production line of a raw material supplier, or an OOS result on the end product with potential relation to its raw materials. This involves regularly reviewing both your supplier as your very own performance and the impact of reduced testing on product quality and compliance.

The Way Forward

As pharmaceutical companies continue to seek ways to optimize their operations and reduce costs, strategies like reduced testing are likely to become more prevalent. By fostering closer collaborations with suppliers and leveraging advanced quality practices, companies can maintain high-quality, risk managed standards while also achieving greater efficiency and agility in their supply chains. a combination that rarely seems possible by today’s standards…

If you are committed to continuous improvement and operational excellence, let’s collaborate! Contact us today to explore how our expertise in operational excellence can benefit your business.


Contact us