1. Equipment and ProcessThe equipment and process(es) should be designed and/or selected so that product specifications are consistently achieved. This should be done with the participation of all appropriate groups that are concerned with assuring a quality product, e.g., engineering design, production operations, and quality assurance personnel.
a. Equipment : Installation QualificationInstallation qualification studies establish confidence that the process equipment and ancillary systems are capable of consistently operating within established limits and tolerances. After process equipment is designed or selected, it should be evaluated and tested to verify that it is capable of operating satisfactorily within the operating limits required by the process. This phase of validation includes examination of equipment design; determination of calibration, maintenance, and adjustment requirements; and identifying critical equipment features that could affect the process and product. Information obtained from these studies should be used to establish written procedures covering equipment calibration, maintenance, monitoring, and control.
In assessing the suitability of a given piece of equipment, it is usually insufficient to rely solely upon the representations of the equipment supplier, or upon experience in producing some other product. Sound theoretical and practical engineering principles and considerations are a first step in the assessment.
It is important that equipment qualification simulate actual production conditions, including those which are "worst case" situations.
Tests and challenges should be repeated a sufficient number of times to assure reliable and meaningful results. All acceptance criteria must be met during the test or challenge. If any test or challenge shows that the equipment does not perform within its specifications, an evaluation should be performed to identify the cause of the failure. Corrections should be made and additional test runs performed, as needed, to verify that the equipment performs within specifications. The observed variability of the equipment between and within runs can be used as a basis for determining the total number of trials selected for the subsequent performance qualification studies of the process.
Once the equipment configuration and performance characteristics are established and qualified, they should be documented. The installation qualification should include a review of pertinent maintenance procedures, repair parts lists, and calibration methods for each piece of equipment. The objective is to assure that all repairs can be performed in such a way that will not affect the characteristics of material processed after the repair. In addition, special post-repair cleaning and calibration requirements should be developed to prevent inadvertent manufacture a of non-conforming product. Planning during the qualification phase can prevent confusion during emergency repairs which could lead to use of the wrong replacement part.
b. Process: Performance QualificationThe purpose of performance qualification is to provide rigorous testing to demonstrate the effectiveness and reproducibility of the process. In entering the performance qualification phase of validation, it is understood that the process specifications have been established and essentially proven acceptable through laboratory or other trial methods and that the equipment has been judged acceptable on the basis of suitable installation studies.
Each process should be defined and described with sufficient specificity so that employees understand what is required. Parts of the process which may vary so as to affect important product quality should be challenged. In challenging a process to assess its adequacy, it is important that challenge conditions simulate those that will be encountered during actual production, including "worst case" conditions. The challenges should be repeated enough times to assure that the results are meaningful and consistent.
Each specific manufacturing process should be appropriately qualified and validated. There is an inherent danger in relying on what are perceived to be similarities between products, processes, and equipment without appropriate challenge.
Related: Process Validation Protocol
c. Product: Performance QualificationFor purposes of this guideline, product performance qualification activities apply only to medical devices. These steps should be viewed as pre-production quality assurance activities.
Before reaching the conclusion that a process has been successfully validated, it is necessary to demonstrate that the specified process has not adversely affected the finished product. Where possible, product performance qualification testing should include performance testing under conditions that simulate actual use. Product performance qualification testing should be conducted using product manufactured from the same type of production equipment, methods and procedures that will be used for routine production. Otherwise, the qualified product may not be representative of production units and cannot be used as evidence that the manufacturing process will produce a product that meets the pre-determined specifications and quality attributes.
After actual production units have successfully passed product performance qualification, a formal technical review should be conducted and should include:
o Comparison of the approved product specifications and the actual qualified product.
o Determination of the validity of test methods used to determine compliance with the approved specifications.
o Determination of the adequacy of the specification change control program.
2. System to Assure Timely RevalidationThere should be a quality assurance system in place which requires revalidation whenever there are changes in packaging, formulation, equipment, or processes which could impact on product effectiveness or product characteristics, and whenever there are changes in product characteristics. Furthermore, when a change is made in raw material supplier, the manufacturer should consider subtle, potentially adverse differences in the raw material characteristics. A determination of adverse differences in raw material indicates a need to revalidate the process.
One way of detecting the kind of changes that should initiate revalidation is the use of tests and methods of analysis which are capable of measuring characteristics which may vary. Such tests and methods usually yield specific results which go beyond the mere pass/fail basis, thereby detecting variations within product and process specifications and allowing determination of whether a process is slipping out of control.
The quality assurance procedures should establish the circumstances under which revalidation is required. These may be based upon equipment, process, and product performance observed during the initial validation challenge studies. It is desirable to designate individuals who have the responsibility to review product, process, equipment and personnel changes to determine if and when revalidation is warranted.
The extent of revalidation will depend upon the nature of the changes and how they impact upon different aspects of production that had previously been validated. It may not be necessary to revalidate a process from scratch merely because a given circumstance has changed. However, it is important to carefully assess the nature of the change to determine potential ripple effects and what needs to be considered as part of revalidation.
3. DocumentationIt is essential that the validation program is documented and that the documentation is properly maintained. Approval and release of the process for use in routine manufacturing should be based upon a review of all the validation documentation, including data from the equipment qualification, process performance qualification, and product/package testing to ensure compatibility with the process.
For routine production, it is important to adequately record process details (e.g., time, temperature, equipment used) and to record any changes which have occurred. A maintenance log can be useful in performing failure investigations concerning a specific manufacturing lot. Validation data (along with specific test data) may also determine expected variance in product or equipment characteristics.
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