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In today’s competitive marketplace, best-in-class global cosmetics manufacturers rely on lean manufacturing practices to achieve operational excellence. But there remains a frequently overlooked opportunity. By embracing next-generation rapid microbiological testing methods (RMM), these manufacturing companies can uncover harder cost savings throughout the supply chain that lead directly to measurable financial performance. At the same time, global manufacturers of beauty and personal care products can satisfy their global regulatory requirements to meet or exceed standards for product quality. How can this opportunity be realized and achieved? Before implementing RMM, global cosmetic manufacturing companies need to understand the common challenges that can hinder production performance and increase costs.
For example, manufacturers of cosmetic products are conflicted by the need to be more responsive to their customers while improving overall profitability. Most recognize that in order to increase customer satisfaction, they must reduce manufacturing lead times, shorten cycle times, decrease defects and accelerate order fulfillment. At the same time, these manufacturing companies are also faced with internal priorities. They’re under pressure to reduce costs associated with excess inventory levels and safety stock; to continuously keep working capital requirements to a bare minimum—in essence, use less to create more. This means cutting excess waste anywhere it can be found.
The Last Great Frontier: The Micro Hold Area
In manufacturing, one of the biggest culprits of waste is delay based on inefficient processes or movement of goods. Manufacturers of beauty products have invested millions of dollars on supply chain software and other costly initiatives. But they can literally cut days out of their cycle times by moving to rapid methods, because RMM enables manufacturers to quickly screen for microbiological contamination in raw materials, in-process and finished goods.
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Reducing waste and streamlining efficiencies requires a closer look at the supply chain and, in particular, one of the key areas—the micro department. The micro hold area is really the last great frontier for process time reduction. Beauty product manufacturers often put their inventory in quarantine for three, five, or even seven days. Many typically run micro tests using less expensive, slower agar plates to save costs. But the delays caused by lengthy micro hold times can cost a fortune in supply chain efficiency.
Holding inventory for several days stymies customer responsiveness. It creates waste on the production floor and ties up valuable resources that could otherwise be contributing to profitability. When inventory isn’t getting off the floor and out the door fast enough, revenue is lost.
Consider how much manufacturers spend to relocate processes on the manufacturing floor to save just 15 minutes in the production cycle. What would it be worth to save three days? That’s where the benefit of RMM becomes clear.
Many next-generation RMM systems contain newer enzyme technology that significantly compresses testing times to 18–24 hours vs. three to seven days with traditional methods. It’s even faster than other rapid methods. By greatly reducing the time required to test and release goods, global manufacturing companies can drive new efficiencies throughout the supply chain and realize significant cost savings. Such technology also supports efforts to achieve certification with ISO 9001 standards, cGMP compliance and other manufacturing best practices.
Brush Up on Advances in RMM
Compared to traditional detection systems using agar plates (a process that has been used for more than 100 years), new RMM technology can greatly enhance the reduction of manufacturing cycle times and throughput. With agar plates, beauty product manufacturers wait for results from incubations of three to seven days in the micro hold area. An ATP bioluminescence assay can cut this waiting time by half or more. The enhanced ATP assay using adenylate kinase (AK) saves another 25–50%, further shortening cycle times. Both ATP and AK methods of rapid detection have been validated on a wide range of raw materials, in-process and finished goods for the beauty industry. Common examples include foundation makeup; moisturizers; lip balms and glosses; lotions and creams; facial scrubs; hair care and styling products; even the blackest of mascaras and eye liners.
Virtually anything that can be tested the traditional way can be tested with rapid methods—it’s just that some systems are more flexible than others. When evaluating rapid systems, look for one that can test the widest range of your materials—including filterable and non-filterable samples. Ask if the system has been used to test similar products. Since most systems can readily detect the presence of a known contaminant, be sure you assess its value in absence screening—especially for slow-growing molds, very few can ensure the absence of mold in 24 hours. Ideally, select a method where the test is non-destructive. This ensures you can re-test any sample that comes up positive. For high volume facilities, consider the system’s throughput. If samples must incubate in the testing unit for many hours, then the unit will be unavailable for testing a good portion of the time, and you may need to purchase additional units. Examine the protocol itself carefully—how simple and familiar will it be to your testing staff? Is it easy enough to be used by non-scientists? How much space does the system consume? If necessary, is the instrument robust enough to be run on the factory floor? Finally, does the company provide ongoing technical, scientific and regulatory support worldwide?
Faced with ever-increasing pressures to drive costs out of product fulfillment while meeting customer demands, best-in-class cosmetic and personal care manufacturers can deploy next-generation RMM solutions that speed product-to-market time while ensuring product quality and safety standards are met. Companies that incorporate value-added RMM technology into their micro departments will benefit from manufacturing and supply chain efficiencies. These translate to direct and measurable cost savings as well as a competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace.
Cindy Lieberman is vice president of Celsis Rapid Detection. A graduate of Northwestern University, she is experienced in manufacturing supply chain and technology issues. 1-312-476-1260; firstname.lastname@example.org