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Modernizing your lab can improve employee retention

Around the world, countries have been facing labor shortages that have impacted many industries. The cosmetics industry has not been immune. Especially in the laboratory, employee retention of skilled technicians is a constant struggle with high turnover. This is an even greater challenge for quality control microbiology, which is a niche specialty. 

Cosmetic microbiology is an essential part of product quality, assessing microbial risks and providing final product release approvals. It can be incredibly hard to find qualified technicians with the appropriate laboratory skills and to train them in the company's specific processes. The quality control microbiology laboratory is constantly multitasking, and training must be done while still maintaining the laboratory's responsibility to get results to operations. There isn't time in the production cycle to put testing on hold to dedicate solely to training purposes. Another challenge that the industry faces is not just finding talent but retaining it. It's fundamental to the success of a laboratory to ensure employee satisfaction and for your staff to continue growing in their roles. Finding time for them to develop in their careers will encourage them to stay.

The list of responsibilities for a quality control microbiologist is long and varied. Their duties include managing the laboratory, assessing product quality, conducting numerous product tests from preservation efficacy to microbial contamination detection, and compiling and effectively communicating their data throughout the company. This is just an overview of the responsibilities required of a quality control laboratory technician. Some of the processes are time-consuming, and when the lab is short-staffed this means more work for the current technicians. With the added pressure, employees can become dissatisfied, creating a negative environment of low morale and increased turnover of staff. Losing a skilled technician creates a knowledge gap in the team and adds increased pressure on the other employees to maintain production timelines with less people. For many laboratories, the loss of qualified employees is felt across the company. Downstream operations will be affected even though they may not realize the consequences initially. Any time a laboratory technician leaves, the laboratory is impacted, and productivity may be reduced causing a bottleneck in the supply chain.

Training needs of the quality control microbiology lab

Detailed training of laboratory technicians sets the standard, so everyone is performing each task the correct way and assures consistency in results. Standard operating procedures should be strictly followed, and training reduces potential errors or misinterpretations. When training is rushed, mistakes are more likely to happen, and the necessary retesting of products will take even more time away from their current project responsibilities. Many microbial tests such as pour plating have subjective data interpretation, and training is the only way to mitigate potential discrepancies. 

A typical day in the life of a quality control microbiologist is full of reviewing plate after plate and counting microbial colonies. Microbial contamination of products can be an uncommon event, which will have your microbiologists essentially counting empty plates. All finished products and raw materials need to go through this very manual and time-consuming process to assess the presence of microbial contamination. When you use a plating method, nothing is fast tracked, and every test, whether the results are in specification or out of specification, takes the same amount of time. Modernizing your lab could be the answer to improve training and relieve the supply chain bottleneck.

site-industries-cosmetiques In a laboratory, a scientist examines a violet liquid under a microscope.

Modernizing to a rapid microbial detection method

By implementing a rapid microbial detection method, you can realize significant improvements in your laboratory and in overall manufacturing and operations. You can develop training programs with a consistent workflow that will streamline your processes and increase productivity, allowing your staff to focus on other important tasks. Manual and subjective processes like the traditional pour plate method can be difficult to train adequately and document proficiency. Automated processes like rapid microbial methods require much less training and prior microbiology experience to operate. Rapid methods already have documented processes and vendor-supplied protocols. They often make microbial testing laboratories more efficient, and can require less time, materials, and expertise to use. Laboratory technicians can spend their time on other duties and high priority assignments, trusting in the accuracy provided by the rapid method. With a lighter workload and more confidence, technicians have greater job satisfaction. This increases employee retention and reduces the rate of employee turnover. Overall, rapid methods are a win for both the employee and the business.

Rapid methods significantly reduce time to results without reducing quality. Rapid microbial detection methods can automatically produce fast and objective results, eliminating subjectivity and reducing the risk of human error. This is where the benefit of a rapid microbial detection method is at its highest and most realized by the laboratory. A rapid method will speed up how you triage your test results, indicating which products can be immediately moved to distribution and which products need further investigation. With this new technology, product release approvals can be made with confidence, shortening production timelines to meet strict shipment deadlines. When there is a contamination event, it allows for quick and more effective contamination response and remediation. All these benefits impact the company operationally and financially. This is an opportunity to improve your company's profitability by effectively streamlining the manufacturing process by modernizing your quality control lab.  

Companies push themselves to streamline and accelerate process flows. But there is often one overlooked opportunity...modernizing your microbiology lab. There are new technologies that can replace the traditional pour plate method that significantly reduces time to results without reducing quality. Using the traditional methods often leads to delays and can grind your manufacturing process or product release to a halt by holding up and delaying shipping. Rapid microbial methods provide an opportunity to gain efficiency in production and help lighten the load in the laboratory. This benefit is compounded and continues to grow helping quality control laboratory and supply chain work together to be more efficient and flexible to respond to the needs of their customers.

How Can Charles River Laboratories Help You?

We've purposely built our portfolio to bring you products and services that deliver accurate, relevant, and reliable data to fuel confident decisions on your product quality and contamination control efforts. Our unique combination of Celsis® rapid microbial detection and Accugenix® microbial identification, modernize your quality control laboratory and keep your manufacturing operations running efficiently. Explore our portfolio of integrated services at www.criver.com/cosmetics.

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