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December 5, 2022 10 mins
In this podcast, we interviewed Katie Keller, Director of Quality and Safety at Asahi Kasei Bioprocess America, about the importance of quality management and how to achieve the best possible results. Topics included the most critical elements of quality management, how to ensure the purchase of high-quality equipment, and future trends. I started the conversation by asking Katie what she thought were the most critical elements of quality management. Katie replied by saying that a holistic approach to quality is best for any organization. It used to be that the quality unit was considered responsible for product quality, making all the decisions, and driving all the improvements and that's not really the case today. She feels the most successful approach is that since quality is so important, everyone should be responsible for it. She went on to say that when all employees understand how they contribute to product and service quality and therefore customer satisfaction, there is more buy in throughout the organization. People are empowered to take responsibility for the improvement of the processes they manage, and this total quality management is achieved by clearly defining the interaction of each process to another, ensuring employees understand that, and then setting the expectation that quality is achieved from every level of the organization with everyone playing a part. I then asked Katie what should bioprocess equipment customers be looking for to ensure that they are purchasing high quality equipment? She told me that across industries, it's common for customers to search for suppliers with robust quality management systems. As a supplier, Asahi Kasei Bioprocess America (AKBA) can minimally prove this by achieving and advertising certification to ISO 9001. This shows that Asahi Kasei meets the minimum expectations for a manufacturing company to provide those quality products and services, but it really doesn't stop there. If they can show their customers that they have well designed, thorough processes that are continually improving, this naturally leads to better quality products and customers gain confidence in their ability to meet ongoing needs. I continued the discussion by asking if she could talk a bit about ISO certification and why it's an important part of their quality management system. Katie explained that ISO 9001 really is the minimum. Their customers in the pharmaceutical industry might stop and look when they see the ISO certification, but what really brings them confidence and satisfaction are the ways Asahi Kasei goes above and beyond this. For AKBA, ISO certification is not just words on a page, there is a reason why every requirement in that standard exists. Katie shared that she believes it is her job to interpret this in a way that means something to her organization, so they can not only live it but improve upon it and take the next step. She elaborated on her point by saying that it is how you build upon those minimum criteria that truly shows a customer who you are and what is important to you as an organization. This is how a company can start to build that quality culture where the employees believe in the message that customer satisfaction, both internal and external, comes first. I asked her about how these quality management systems affect the design and build of their equipment and how they have an impact beyond the quality management systems. Katie said that having ISO as a guideline is helpful for this, especially if they need to create or revamp a process. Asahi Kasei Bioprocess starts by asking what ISO requires to get a baseline and then looks at what their customers’ expectations for safety, quality, and productivity are. She explained that by keeping both these things in mind, they can create robust processes with controls or checkpoints to ensure they are satisfying all the requirements. However, that example is at the front end of creating a new process,
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