Written By Geert Van Kempen
A certificate of analysis (CoA) is widely accepted as an essential and ubiquitous Quality document that suppliers provide with each material delivery. So it may come as a surprise that in most consumer goods companies, reviewing and accepting CoAs is still a laborious manual process that can add up to millions of work hours a year in large enterprises.
Over the past year, Quality management innovators in the consumer goods industry have partnered with cloud technology providers Veeva Systems and Amazon Web Services (AWS) to develop solutions that receive and review CoAs automatically, and store the extracted information digitally. This is posed to provide tremendous value to these organizations, streamlining and standardizing CoA processing across its supplier network.
CoAs and the Complex Consumer Goods Supply Chains
To manufacture their finished goods, consumer goods manufacturers manage complex and dynamic supply chains. Facing constantly changing consumer demand, seasonality, frequent product innovation and relatively short shelf-life, consumer goods products and materials require a very flexible and dynamic approach to manufacturing, with often daily product change-overs. Suppliers are key to successfully navigating these complex business environments, often producing materials in smaller batches and delivering them frequently to maximize agility.
Each delivery includes a CoA, the quality document that suppliers share with their customers for every batch of material. The CoA proves that the material batch is produced according to the agreed material specifications. Consumer Goods manufacturers receiving the shipment will review and verify the CoA against their internal records before accepting the delivery of the material.
Large consumer goods manufacturers can receive millions of deliveries of raw and packaging materials annually, making the receipt & review of CoA’s a significant burden for their Quality teams.
4 Reasons CoAs Are Key to Supply Chain Management and Accountability
- CoAs provide the analytical evidence that those material characteristics of the batch that are critically important for the quality and safety of the material are conforming to the material specification.
- A CoA is typically the only source of information about the origin of manufacturing and provides the link between the supplier and customer references to the material batch. This information is crucially important for the traceability of the material.
- For the customer, the CoA presents the testament from the supplier that the most critical quality & safety properties of the delivered batch meet the material specifications.
- CoAs provide the customer with traceability information and allows for the verification of the quality compliance status of the supplier.
Why are CoAs Difficult to Process?
Three main factors contribute to CoA processing complexity in the consumer goods industry.
- Format Variation
Traditionally, CoAs are paper documents physically provided with the delivery of the material batch. Over time, most suppliers have developed their own CoA document formats, which vary significantly across the industry, both in layout as well as in the detail of the information provided.
- Multiple Languages
Globally, CoA’s are not necessarily written in English, but can be stated in the language most suitable to both parties, sometimes formatted as multi-language documents.
- Lack of Standards
Despite several efforts within the consumer goods industry to establish standards for the electronic exchange of CoA documents (e.g. RossaNet’s EDI standard for CoA), no generally accepted standard exists today.
Industry Innovators Partner Leverage Supplier Management Software to Modernize CoA Processing
In the past, efforts to develop a digital system to manage CoA document receipt and review have been challenged at almost every step, including differing document formats, interpreting CoAs in multiple languages, mapping the extracted CoA information to the customer’s information, verifying the extracted information, and providing alerts when the CoA information doesn’t meet the customer’s requirements. These challenges have now been overcome.
In partnership with AWS, cloud software provider Veeva Systems has developed a state-of-the-art solution for the receipt and verification of e-CoA’s using machine learning to interpret the format of the CoA and extract the required information.
As part of Veeva’s QualityOne application, customers are now capable of extracting information from CoAs generated directly by a computer (e.g. printed documents) as well as scanned or photographed CoAs, that might even include handwritten information. The data obtained is stored in a structured form such that it can be compared with information held by the customer (e.g. specifications, supplier qualification status).
Veeva’s CoA processing and management capabilities also provide a mechanism to map descriptions & terminology used by the supplier to the nomenclature used by their customers.
Why Digital CoA Processing is Worth the Investment
The electronic receipt & review CoA documents provide many benefits for both the consumer goods manufacturer and their suppliers.
First and foremost, the digital process all but eliminates manual efforts, automating the extracting and validating of the provided CoA information, involving the customer’s Quality experts only to add value when the information doesn’t match the customer’s expectation.
Secondly, storing the CoA data as structured digital data makes the data available for various forms of analytics, such as material & supplier performance, score cards, supplier comparisons, as well as process adaptation based on the actual material batch properties, and more advanced process modelling, such as digital twinning.
For the supplier, the electronic communication of a CoA provides the opportunity to share the CoA prior to the physical shipment of the material batch, obtaining acknowledgement from the customer earlier in the process, avoiding shipment of materials that would otherwise be rejected upon receipt.
Want to explore if Veeva’s CoA management solution will work in your organization? Contact Veeva to set up a brief discussion.