Although few manufacturers doubt the ability of electronic batch records (EBRs) to move mountains of paperwork, some have had their faith in the technology severely shaken. This occurs mostly when their goal has been only to convert an existing paper-based system into an electronic version, according to Reddy Beeram, director of product development at Edgewater Fullscope, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) consulting firm.
As worthy a goal as going paperless can be, Beeram considers the following considerations to be important success factors for EBR projects:
Streamline the production process. “Standard operating procedure for a paper-based batch record is vastly different than one that would be applicable to an electronic batch record,” explains Beeram. “When you’re collecting data manually on paper, logging information can happen at any stage of the process, as long as no downstream dependencies exist.” In the case of EBRs, however, information logging must occur at specific times for the process to advance to the next step.
Embed streamline quality reviews. “Embedding quality checks and automation into the process should minimize the amount of time that regulatory departments have to spend on reviewing the batch record information,” says Beeram.
Adopt a “right the first time” philosophy. A proper implementation of an EBR would have embedded validations and workflows that reinforce work instructions.
Develop interfaces for all associated systems. “EBR implementation is not limited to the production process within the ERP system,” notes Beeram. “There are multiple systems that feed information to the ERP from a batch record standpoint, like MESs [manufacturing execution systems] and LIMSs [laboratory information management systems].” When designing and implementing an EBR solution, consider that all systems can affect the batch record as a whole.
Improve the user experience. A common cause of failure for EBR and similar initiatives is a perception among users that the burdens outweigh the benefits of using them. For this reason, Beeram says that an effective EBR implementation should offer users work instructions and other batch record details at the appropriate time in a much more user-friendly fashion than the paper method.
Obtain management support. EBR initiatives typically affect more than one department in the organization. Like any interdepartmental initiative, the likelihood of failure is high without the active sponsorship of upper management.
For more in-depth information, read "Electronic Batch Records: A Story of Workflow Improvement".