Cannabis Quality Management System Guide

Cannabis Quality Management System Guide

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Louis Levey
Louis Levey is a content marketer, SEO, and journalist in the cannabis space. His work has been featured in High Times, Dope Magazine, Alpacannabis, and other notable cannabis publications.

Cannabis quality management system utilization is crucial in this highly-regulated space. But what does this actually look like?

Every industry places importance on quality management; however, those operating in the cannabis industry are under additional pressure to ensure product safety and robust processes.

This is where the right software becomes pivotal to your operational success.

The GrowerIQ quality management system is designed to provide an integrated system for cannabis producers, processors, and retailers that provides quality assurance throughout the entire supply chain. We’ve included a suite of modules and functionality such as Deviation Reporting, Corrective Action documentation, Sanitation tracking, Recalls, a Document Management repository, live sensor readings, and many other capabilities to provide complete visibility and traceability into cannabis products.

But what should quality management software for the cannabis space include to ensure success in the cannabis industry? Keep reading to learn how a powerful quality management system is a flexible and scalable solution to help cannabis producers and retailers stay compliant with the rapidly changing landscape of the cannabis industry.

Flower flourishing with a Cannabis Quality Management System in place

What is a Robust Quality Management System?

A quality management system streamlines processes and procedures to ensure consistent product quality throughout the entire production lifecycle. It includes processes such as the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices, personnel training, equipment maintenance, product testing, data collection and analysis, and more.

Furthermore, it ensures your customer’s health, prevents quality issues, and guarantees you implement a compliant audit process that prepares you in case of a real audit. For example, having your business’ critical data organized and accessible can prevent improperly managed batch records and encourage audit management that keeps your business operating as it should.

However, equally important to note is that a quality management system improves visibility into each step of the supply chain from seed to sale, which is especially important for companies operating in the cannabis industry.

Quality management software in the cannabis industry enables organizations to monitor and manage the quality of plant material from seed to sale in real time. This includes tracking each step of cultivation, production, processing, manufacturing, packaging, distribution, and sales processes. The right software for cannabis operations should be designed to be flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the cannabis industry as new regulations come into play.

Cannabis Quality Management System being used to monitor flower cycles in cultivation facility

Benefits of a Quality Management System in the Cannabis Industry

There are numerous benefits of a formalized quality system in the cannabis industry. The right quality management software can help cannabis businesses stay compliant with local and federal regulations, as well as improve operational efficiency and streamline processes to ensure consistent quality. Here are some key benefits:

Automation – Automate many manual tasks, such as data entry, documentation, and reporting with your QMS. This helps to reduce errors and save time on mundane tasks.

Traceability – Get real-time traceability into production, from seed to sale. This ensures that all product is accounted for throughout the entire supply chain.

Regulatory Compliance – Stay compliant with local and federal regulations by ensuring that all processes are documented and tracked. This prevents mishaps or deviations from standard operating procedures from impacting product quality.

Quality Assurance – Ensure consistent quality from seed to sale. This helps to maintain customer satisfaction and trust in the cannabis brand.

Cost Savings – Automation and streamlined processes can save companies time and money by reducing errors, paperwork, and labour costs.

GrowerIQ’s Comprehensive Quality Management System

GrowerIQ’s built-in QMS allows Quality teams, growers, and processors to monitor production from seed to sale. Seed-to-sale tracking is one of the most essential aspects of complying with Health Canada’s, or your local jurisdiction’s, cannabis policies. Tracking is necessary for various US state cannabis programs and optimizes production efficiency while ensuring quality. Besides batch tracking and reporting, GrowerIQ has many other features that facilitate compliance and quality assurance.

GrowerIQ’s software was designed with a Master Grower’s insights to ensure it offers the capabilities needed for successful cannabis production activities. The tracking software provides more than what’s required by global regulatory bodies’ compliance-related regulations and gives growers resources they can use to enhance their crops. Here’s what’s included:

Tracking and managing cannabis nugs and trim with a Cannabis Quality Management System

Batch Numbering and Batch Tracking

Cannabis inventory tracking is essential for regulartory compliance. GrowerIQ seed-to-sale software gives cultivators the ability to assign batch numbers and track plants from seed-to-sale. It’s capable of logging batch cloning and seeding, along with other unique cultivation activities, like destroying sick cannabis plants, to guarantee all plants are adequately tracked.

GrowerIQ tracks all plants in your facility. It pairs with scanning guns and label printers that work with custom barcodes to allow producers to log plant activities like movement from room to room, or track plant growth throughout all stages of the grow cycle.

activity tracking in cannabis industry using a Cannabis Quality Management System

Activity Tracking

Besides tracking batches and their movement throughout your facility, GrowerIQ also tracks what happens to each batch. Various cultivation activities like pesticide application, irrigation, trimming, and nutrient application are logged into the system using a two-step sign-off; one for the person performing the activities and one for the individual responsible for verifying what has been completed properly.

Facilities are also able to track their sanitation activities, and GrowerIQ will send alerts if your grow conditions aren’t ideal. For example, if your plants have been in a growth stage for too long or need watering, GrowerIQ will send an alert to your main dashboard.

Even though tracking activities might seem tedious, many cultivators are already doing this manually with paper notebooks, The issue with this method is that these notes aren’t accessible by everyone in the facility and are easy to lose or damage. GrowerIQ’s software solution creates accessible records that ensure everyone is in the know with information that maintains its integrity.

This data retention is essential for regulatory compliance, but it’s also important for batches in case they have issues. If a batch has an adverse event, your quality assurance team will have to perform an investigation. While these can be tedious and time-consuming with paper records, GrowerIQ’s reports on any batch provide accessible information instantaneously. This encourages rapid risk assessments and corrective actions (CAPA) with accurate information.

Cannabis on display in inventory section that's managed by a Cannabis Quality Management System

Quality Testing and Document Storage

Document retention and test result tracking are crucial for quality assurance and Cannabis Act / regulatory compliance. GrowerIQ’s state-of-the-art document storage ensures you can upload documents like SOPs and forms for easy access by employees, but the system also allows limits on employee access throughout the system and training record storage.

GrowerIQ also gives operators the ability to upload test results and set limits and alerts. Acceptable limits for pesticide residues, CBD, THC, and other variables are customizable, ensuring all batches can be reviewed with ease prior to being released from quality hold. With GrowerIQ seed-to-sale software, you’ll be able to track samples taken for testing or retention, too.

Flowering marijuana plant that's been grown using a cultivator's SOP found in a Cannabis Quality Management System

Environmental Monitoring

Grow and storage room environment monitoring is an essential component of quality assurance. Producing cannabis with consistent cannabinoid content, growth time, and yield means producing and maintaining a consistent environment. Each strain has slight differences in environmental preferences like humidity and temperature. However, finding and achieving the ideal conditions for each strain and reproducing these conditions guarantees consistency in cannabis products.

Facilitating grow environment monitoring and comparing conditions between batches, GrowerIQ provides data collection and tracking when connected to environmental sensors. If a sensor shows conditions that don’t fall within the ideal specifications you set, GrowerIQ seed-to-sale software alerts you and can integrate with controller boxes for automatic environmental control adjustments like HVAC, shutters, and fans. You’ll also have real-time continuous data from GrowerIQ that you’d otherwise have to walk your entire facility to check terminals or flip between software applications to see.

GrowerIQ’s comprehensive quality management software ensures compliance with all applicable regulations while helping cannabis businesses streamline their operations for increased efficiency and productivity. By utilizing this system, cannabis companies can ensure they are producing safe, high-quality products that meet customer expectations.

GrowerIQ’s software helps make sure that these procedures are implemented correctly and consistently throughout your organization so that everyone is following the same protocols. The software also helps you ensure compliance with local regulations.

Below are some of the other key elements of an effective quality management system specially designed for companies operating in the cannabis industry:

• Good Agricultural Practices (GAP): GAP standards define best practices to ensure safe production, handling, and storage of cannabis products throughout the supply chain. A GAP analysis achieving compliance keeps these standards in mind and ensures that your products are of the highest quality.

• Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP): GMP guidelines are a set of best practices designed to control the manufacturing process and ensure product safety. This includes processes such as personnel training, sanitation protocols, production procedures, and more.

• Good Laboratory Practices (GLP): GLP ensures that laboratories are equipped with the proper technology and resources to test cannabis products for potency, pesticides, contaminants, mold, and more.

• Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): SOPs are the foundation for any quality management plan and define how cannabis businesses should manage their operations. This includes personnel training, laboratory assessment, process controls, purchasing, and inventory management.

• Automated Documentation: Electronic documentation such as reports, certificates of analysis (COA), and master batch records provide an audit trail to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations.

Product Traceability: Cannabis businesses must track each step of production in order to stay compliant with state and local laws. Automated traceability systems help companies monitor cannabis products throughout their lifecycle, from seed to sale.

Data Analytics: Data analytics provide companies with the ability to track and analyze key performance indicators (KPIs) related to product quality, production efficiency, and more.

Quality Assurance & Control: Quality assurance and control are essential for any company operating in the cannabis industry. This includes processes such as laboratory testing, labeling requirements, customer feedback, and more.

Training & Education: Training and education are essential for ensuring personnel understand and comply with all applicable regulations. Companies should provide ongoing training to employees to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest industry trends and best practices.

By implementing these elements, cannabis operations can develop an effective QMS that meets all requirements for compliance, customer satisfaction, and product safety.

12 Elements of Quality Management System

A quality management plan in the cannabis industry involves more than a simple electronic quality management system; it demands a comprehensive strategy for success.

However, the basic elements of quality management software are essential for cannabis businesses interested in achieving success in today’s market:

Cannabis Quality Management System monitoring marijuana plant during the flowering stage

1. Organization

Leadership in the cannabis industry must define the organization’s quality management policies and objectives. This involves setting up an organizational structure to ensure all departments are working together towards a shared goal.

Cannabis Quality Management System guiding cultivator operations

2. Personnel

Your personnel wants to follow your leadership, particularly when it comes to quality management. This includes providing personnel with adequate training, tools, and resources to ensure they understand the importance of a closed-loop quality system.

Define your values and recruit team members that fit your company culture. Maintaining an inclusive culture with clearly defined values will keep your team engaged and allow your operation to perform as expected.

Cannabis Quality Management System ensuring that the manufacturing factory continues to operate efficiently

3. Equipment

Equipment and facilities must be designed, constructed, and maintained to meet the operational needs of your organization.

It’s important to ensure that equipment meets industry standards and regulations. This, of course, includes ensuring all equipment is properly calibrated at the right intervals to guarantee that all of the data you’re collecting and processes executed are happening within the right parameters.

Cannabis Quality Management System for tracking inventory on the shelves of a retail location

4. Purchasing & Inventory

Running a business in the cannabis space requires effective inventory management. You must produce and purchase the correct products in the right quantity for the right price and store them in a safe and secure location.

Additionally, you need to establish clear procedures for incoming materials, taking into account the specific needs for cannabis products such as shelf life, expiration date, and more.

Already trimmed flower moving on to the next stage of production as tracked by a Cannabis Quality Management System

5. Process Control

Your training management system should involve establishing quality control procedures because it is critical to the success of your business. This includes setting up processes for incoming materials, production steps, packaging and storage, testing, etc. Upload those SOP documents right to GrowerIQ’s QMS and assign them to your team to train on those procedures.

Quality control should cover all areas related to the production process as well as regular testing of products. Make sure you validate and verify these procedures as this is how you’ll avoid severe issues within your organization.

Cannabis Quality Management System for managing information on laptop from anywhere with a wifi connection

6. Information Management

Confidentiality is crucial in the cannabis space, so it’s important to have a secure cloud-based management system for information management. You must ensure that all of your data is properly stored and protected from unauthorized access. Additionally, you should be able to track changes in personnel, products, and processes.

Cannabis Quality Management System for document management ensures marijuana flower is managed with repeatable processes

7. Document Management

With such a diversified spectrum of documentation, organizing it correctly is key in the cannabis industry; all steps must be documented properly to provide traceability throughout the production process. Quality management software should include document control processes that enable you to manage multiple controlled documents.

You should be able to create, revise, implement, and distribute documents with ease. However, you should also ensure everyone is on the same page, working on the latest version of your procedures with up-to-date training records.

Rather than writing a letter to address an occurance, a Cannabis Quality Management System ensures a pen never needs to touch paper while managing complaints and quality control issues

8. Occurrence Management

Handling customer complaints and quality control issues is essential for remaining competitive in the cannabis market. Your customer satisfaction ratio benefits when you address your customers’ concerns effectively. But maintaining consistent quality and ensuring all the team members of your organization are following documented standard operating procedures minimizes your chances of issue reoccurrences.

Top-quality management software should provide an efficient way to track and respond to any problems that may arise during production, as well as document corrective actions taken by your personnel. GrowerIQ’s built-in cannabis QMS allows your team to log Deviation Reports and Corrective Actions.

Operational assessment facilitation through Cannabis Quality Management System utilization

9. Operational Assessment

Auditing your processes and systems as a cannabis business operator is crucial, regardless of whether or not you’re expecting an audit or inspection. This is how you’ll identify gaps and propose improvements.

Performing an internal audit will reveal areas of improvement and give you control over your operations. Understanding quality controls and the role they play in your operation contributes to ensuring workplace safety and total quality management, too.

Process improvement being made possible with a Cannabis Quality Management System

10. Process Improvement

Continuously improving your processes and operations is essential for scaling your cannabis business.

Using GrowerIQ’s software, you should be able to easily spot issues and implement corrective actions, document process changes, and track progress over time. Additionally, the data collected from your daily processes can help you identify areas that need improvement. This way, you can stay ahead of the competition and ensure your business remains compliant.

Customer service representatives handling things efficiently with a Cannabis Quality Management System in place

11. Customer Service

The cannabis industry is highly competitive, so it’s essential to provide exceptional customer service. This is possible with GrowerIQ’s CRM module in the platform since you’ll be able to track customers, orders, and shipments, allowing you to resolve issues quickly and efficiently.

You can also use the software to train your staff on customer service techniques and workflows for follow-up tasks. This will help your business stay on top of customer service issues and keep customers satisfied.

plants growing in a facility managed by GrowerIQ Cannabis Quality Management System

12. Facilities & Safety

Health and safety hazards can be a major issue in the cannabis industry. To protect your workers and customers, you must establish standards for facilities and safety as well as policies for handling hazardous materials.

Types of Quality Management Systems

laptop for document control through a Cannabis Quality Management System

Document Control

Think of the quality documents, procedures, forms, and policies your organization leverages every day. Effective document management helps to organize and tracks your production and general business practice, ensuring everything is accounted for, is up to date, and approved by the correct people.

Cannabis Quality Management System facilitating laboratory testing of products routinely

Laboratory Testing

Laboratory testing helps cannabis businesses verify that their products are safe and compliant with all relevant laws. Laboratories use specialized equipment to assess the quality of a product, such as chemical composition or potency.

Cannabis Quality Management System making equipment and asset management easy by tracking cannabis flower

Equipment & Asset Management

Equipment and asset management keep track of all the machines, tools, and materials used in production. This is important for safety reasons, as well as to ensure that no costly items are lost or damaged during operations.

team member overseeing cannabis plants after checking to ensure they're moving throughout the cultivation process as outlined by the Cannabis Quality Management System

Training & Education

Cannabis operations can leverage flexible training programs that provide employees with training on best practices and regulations. This helps cannabis businesses stay compliant with all applicable laws and produce consistent quality products. Regular education and training management can also help boost employee morale and reduce the risk of costly errors or accidents.

Data Analytics

Data analytics allows cannabis businesses to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) such as production efficiency, product quality, customer feedback, and more. By utilizing thorough data analysis tools, businesses can identify areas of improvement and take proactive steps to achieve improved business processes. These tools also aid in managing quality risks in a streamlined, standardized manner.

CAPA Management

CAPA management (Corrective and Preventative Action Management) is a process used to identify areas of improvement and take corrective action to prevent future issues. This quality control strategy helps cannabis companies stay compliant with all applicable laws and regulations, as well as reduce the risk of costly errors or accidents, in a streamlined and compliant manner.

Internal Audits

Conducting internal audits helps cannabis operations maintain quality control by identifying major audit findings, correcting any issues that are found, and implementing preventative measures to reduce the risk of future errors. Incorporating audits as part of a quality management program also provides an audit trail that helps to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

By implementing internal audit processes, a cannabis company can create a comprehensive QMS that meets all requirements for compliance, customer satisfaction, and product safety. This entire system should also be regularly updated to ensure it remains up-to-date with the latest industry trends and regulations.

Integrated Dashboards & Analytics

The cannabis industry implementing integrated dashboards and analytics allows these companies to track all the business processes while remaining informed about their performance to identify areas of improvement. This helps ensure that all processes are running smoothly, products are compliant with any applicable laws and regulations, and these operations can accelerate business growth.

By utilizing analytics tools, businesses in the cannabis space have a powerful and scalable solution. Ultimately, this tends to lead to these businesses establishing compliant processes that result in them achieving their quality and revenue goals.

Closing on Using a QMS for Cannabis

By implementing these elements, cannabis companies can develop an effective QMS that meets all requirements for compliance, customer satisfaction, and product safety.

Quality assurance is essential for any business operating in the cannabis industry and should not be overlooked or underestimated. With controlled management in place, cannabis companies can ensure consistent quality, product safety, compliance, and customer satisfaction.

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About GrowerIQ

GrowerIQ is a complete cannabis production management platform. Ours is the first platform to integrate your facility systems, including sensors, building controls, QMS, and ERP, into a single simplified interface.

GrowerIQ is changing the way producers use software - transforming a regulatory requirement into a robust platform to learn, analyze, and improve performance.

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