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Design Control Procedure: The Ultimate SOP

The author has reviewed 100+ design control processes in his career, and this blog provides 5 steps for rewriting your design control procedure.

Disclaimer: There is no need to create the Ultimate Design Control SOP. We need medical devices that are safer and more effective.

In my previous blog posting, I indicated six things that medical device companies can do to improve design controls. While the last posting focused on better design team leaders (WANTED: Design Team Needs Über-Leader), this posting focuses on writing stronger procedures. I shared some of my thoughts on writing design control procedures just a few weeks ago, but my polls and LinkedIn Group discussions generated great feedback regarding design control procedures.

One of the people that responded to my poll commented that there was no option in the poll for “zero”. Design controls do not typically apply to contract manufacturers. These companies make what other companies design. Therefore, their Quality Manual will indicate that Clause 7.3 of the ISO 13485 Standard is excluded. If this describes your company, sit back and enjoy the music.

Another popular vote was “one”. If you only have one procedure for design controls, this meets the requirements. It might even be quite effective.

When I followed up with poll respondents, asking how many pages their procedures were, a few people suggested “one page”. These people are subscribing to the concept of using flow charts instead of text to define the design control process. In fact, I use the following diagram to describe the design process: The Waterfall Diagram!

waterfall diagram Design Control Procedure: The Ultimate SOP

From the US FDA Website.

I first saw this diagram in the first course I took on Design Controls. This is on the FDA website too. To make this diagram effective as a procedure, we might need to include some references, such as: work instructions, forms, the US FDA guidance document for Design Controls, and Clause 7.3 of the ISO Standard.

The bulk of the remaining respondents indicated that their company has eight or more procedures related to design controls. If each of these procedures is short and specific to a single step in the Waterfall Diagram, this type of documentation structure works well. Unfortunately, many of these procedures are a bit longer.

If your company designs software, active implantable devices, or a variety of device types—it may be necessary to have more than one procedure just to address these more complex design challenges. If your company has eight lengthy procedures to design Class 1 devices that are all in the same device family, then the design process could lose some fat.

In a perfect world, everyone on the design team would be well-trained and experienced. Unfortunately, we all have to learn somehow. Therefore, to improve the effectiveness of the team, we create design procedures for the team to follow. As an auditor and consultant, I have reviewed 100+ design control processes. One observation is that longer procedures are not followed consistently. Therefore, keep it short. Another observed is that well-desiged forms help teams with compliance.

Therefore, if you want to rewrite your design control SOP try the following steps:

  1. Use a flow chart or diagram to illustrate the overall process
  2. Keep work instructions and procedures short
  3. Spend more time revising and updating forms, instead of procedures
  4. Train the entire team on design controls and risk management
  5. Monitor and measure team effectiveness and implement corrective actions when needed

The following is a link to the guidance document on design controls from the US FDA website.

Refer to my LinkedIn polls and discussions for more ideas related to design control procedures:

  1. Medical Devices Group
  2. Elsmar Cove Quality Forum Members Group

In addition to the comments I made in this blog, please refer back to my earlier blog on how to write a procedure.

Posted in: Design Control

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Design Team Needs Superwoman Leader

mona superwoman Design Team Needs Superwoman Leader

“Mona Superwoman” by Teddy Royannez (France)

This blog discusses the reasons for a female design team leader, and the qualities and skills that she should possess to get maximum results out of her team.

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 have:

  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 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.”

Critical Design Team Leader Skills

The most critical skills are not technical skills, but team leadership skills. The role of a design team leader is to ensure 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 have difficulty when it comes to 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.

 

Posted in: Design Control

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