If you already make a good product, then you already have the beginnings of your good manufacturing practices in place. Much of what’s included in GMP is common sense – a clean space, checking and double checking your ingredients and measurements to make sure they are correct, mixing correctly, checking temperatures when necessary, etc.
But if you are ready to take it to the next level, where do you start?
There are several things you can do to get the jump on getting your Good Manufacturing Practices established. The points I’m listing below are the things that most handcrafters are the weakest on, so they working on them first is a good place to start.
Write it down
Whatever you are doing now that is working and is ensuring that your products come out right, write it down!
You know what you do to make your product – so write it down. That way you don’t have to “remember” every time you go to make a product. It’s especially helpful for those products that you don’t make every day or week, or for the products that are somewhat complicated or finicky. When you don’t have to keep all that in your head, you have room for other more important details of life!
Having your manufacturing procedures written down also helps if you have (or plan to hire) helpers. Think how much easier it would be to have someone come in during a big order if you had everything written down. You’d be able to say, “Here, follow these steps.” and then just oversee the process. No worrying about whether they remember the steps you tell them – it’s in writing for them to follow.
Use lot numbers to identify the ingredients and packaging materials you receive.
Each time you receive an order of ingredients or packaging materials, take a moment to assign a unique lot number to it. Slap a label with the lot number and date received on the box or container you store it in (along with the name of theproduct and supplier, if you want). Log the lot number, what the product is and where you got it in a notebook or spreadsheet.
Once you have lot numbers assigned to every incoming shipment of an ingredient or packaging material, you can have the ability to keep track of exactly what goes into each batch. If anything goes wrong with the batch – or if you find out there was a problem with the ingredient – you have a way to track it down and resolve the issue much more easily.
Assign a Batch Number to every batch you make
Batch numbers are a key factor in Good Manufacturing Practices. The allow you to track and identify each batch. You can create your batch numbers however you want – just so long as they are unique. Two possible options are to use the date and a letter for the batches of the day (i.e. 2013-03-13-A, 2013-03-13-B) or to use an identifier of the type of product and then either the date or a sequence number (ie SOAP-2013-03-12-A, SOAP-2013-03-13-B or SOAP-000001, SOAP-000002).
Then keep a log book with the batch number, date, what was produced (product and quantity). The log could be in a notebook or in a spreadsheet – whatever works best for you. (Note: if you use sequence numbers and a spreadsheet, putting leading zeros in the number will help with sorting the rows, should you want to.)
Keep written Batch Records
Every time you make a batch, keep a written record of exactly what you did. Your master recipe is what you should do, your batch record is what your actually do.
When you start to make a batch of product, print or make a copy of the recipe or master formula you are working on. As you go through the steps making the batch, note what you did. Check off or initial that each ingredient was correctly measured, and note the lot number of the ingredient actually used. If you have to melt oils or ingredients to a certain temperature, write what the actual temperature was when you check it at that step.
At the end, you probably have certain things that you check to make sure it came out okay – things like the color, texture, scent, and to make sure nothing ugly managed to make its way into the batch. These are things you probably intuitively look at and verify. Write them down and initial and/or make any notes about what you see. Scent? check. Color? Light pink. Check. Texture? Smooth. Check.
Establishing your Good Manufacturing Practices is not an overnight thing. But by implementing just these simple steps, you are well on your way.