The idea of implementing a Certificate of Analysis (COA) system can be somewhat overwhelming. The cost, resources, and time involved are not insignificant. However, once an organization recognizes the benefits of a COA system both internally and competitively, the decision is much easier to make.
So, what are the benefits an organization can expect to realize? There are three main areas that are improved when a COA system is implements.
- Material Validation and Documentation – The first area impacted by a COA system is the data from the analysis. Prior to implementing a COA, organizations would simply tell their customers to trust them that they were supplying materials that were within the specification. They may even provide samples to support the case that they meet the specification. In many cases, though, that is no longer adequate. Customers are getting more demanding. If you supply product to the food & beverage, chemicals, or pharmaceutical industries, you also need to comply with various governmental regulations.
What customers – and regulators – are looking for is validation and documentation. Validation means “Prove it, scientifically.” As for documentation, “if it is not documented, it was not done.” A COA addresses both of these by capturing the exact test conditions, test parameters, customer specifications or requirements, and actual results for a specific lot or batch of product.
- Improve Information Management – Another area that will improve with a COA system is how you manage all of this information. If you have a paper-based system, you do have the data captured, but it can be difficult to track and file all that paper. Not to mention, the effort you have to go through if your customer lost their COA and needs to request a new one. The other drawback is the data on the COAs are passive. If you wanted to analyze the data to find trends or improvement opportunities within your own processes, it all has to be entered into, at the very least, Excel to begin any meaningful analysis.
By implementing a COA system, organizations become more efficient because they no longer have employees tracking and fulfilling COA requests. Customers can login to a portal on a website and request the documents themselves. The data is now stored electronically and is much easier to find and access, which improves overall material traceability. Another advantage of having all the data stored electronically is you can now analyze that data. You can see trends. Is a particular product trending towards the upper end of the specification? That information is now visible to you and your team.
- Improve Information Sharing – Finally, a well-developed COA system enhances information sharing both internally and externally with customers. Internally, data from the COAs can be shared among various departments, such as operations, quality, and account managers. By making this information available you can lower your costs associated with additional processes or inspections to ensure materials meet customer specification. Teams know which areas to target for improvement based on data and not just intuition. Work in process can be decreased since you don’t need to account for production inefficiencies or risk of violating government or industry compliance. Each individual department can analyze the data for their specific use
A COA system should also enhance the communication and sharing of information between the organization an its customers. By providing this information in advance of the actual shipment arriving, the customer then can use this information to optimize their own processes. If they have done the analysis on how your product impacts key characteristics in their operations, they can proactively eliminate issues that reduce yield or quality.
As you can see, a COA system affects all three of these areas, which in turn enable the organization to be more effective and efficient internally. Concurrently, the system allows the organization to bring more value to their customers and differentiate themselves from their competitors. All of which has a positive impact on a company’s financials. With this understand, COA systems just make good business sense.