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What are IQ, OQ and PQ? And why are they needed in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

  • What are IQ, OQ and PQ? And why are they needed in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

What are IQ, OQ and PQ? And why are they needed in the Pharmaceutical Industry?

If you work in pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturing, you’ve probably heard the terms IQ, OQ and PQ. But unless you’re directly involved with these tasks, you might not be too sure what they mean.

You’re most likely to have heard these terms in relation to installation and commissioning of a new pharmaceutical or medical device manufacturing plant, or its equipment. So what are they and why do we need them?

In short – IQ stands for Installation Qualification. OQ is Operational Qualification. And PQ is Performance Qualification. These 3 independent procedures are used together to check that a system meets requirements, specifications and fulfills its intended purpose.

Want a more detailed explanation of each? Here goes…

What is IQ or Installation Qualification?

Installation Qualification verifies that all aspects of facility, utilities and equipment that affect product quality adhere to the approved design specifications (e.g. construction, materials,) and are correctly installed (in the correct physical location using the correct method).

Installation Qualification is the first step in the qualification of new equipment.

Once equipment is ordered and has arrived on site, it is the job of the Commissioning and Qualification (C&Q) engineers to verify that the technical specifications of the equipment match the technical requirements as were determined in the facility design element of the qualification process.

This phase of qualification is carried out by comparing the Manufacturers Technical Specification Data Sheet to the design and operational requirement determined during facility design. Data which might be recorded at this phase of qualification include:

  • Materials
  • Dimensions
  • Working Temperatures
  • Minimum & Maximum Temperatures
  • Working Pressures
  • Minimum & Maximum Pressures
  • Surface Roughness
  • Maximum Flow Rate
  • Minimum Flow Rate
  • Volume
  • Torque
  • Watts
  • Voltage
  • Current

As well as carrying out these checks on the equipment itself, other checks must be carried out such as the physical location of the equipment in the facility, installation of secondary instruments & other parts and documentation of all manuals, certificates (Cert. of Conformity, Calibration Cert. etc.) and serial numbers.

In a practical sense, Installation Qualification is the over sight and verification of every physical aspect of the equipment (materials, dimensions, pressure ratings, etc.), software design specification (software, accessibility, processor speed, etc.) and instruments (operational parameters, accuracy, voltage, etc.).

What is OQ or Operational Qualification?

Operational Qualification is the testing of each individual component/feature/physical specification of the equipment and is the next step in equipment qualification.

Once the equipment has passed the IQ phase the operational requirements, as well as the operational consistency of the equipment, must be put to the test.

To carry this out, C&Q engineers must work with maintenance personnel, process & mechanical engineers and operations to carry out various tests on the equipment. Features of the equipment which might be tested at this phase of qualification include:

  • Temperature Control Systems
  • Overheating/Low-Temp Alarms
  • Pressure Control Systems
  • Fan/Motor Speed/RPM
  • Display Units/Human-Machine Interface Units (HMI’s)
  • Operational Signals
  • Servo Motors Accuracy
  • Pressure Switches
  • Level Switches

Tests of these features may involve simple tests such as sending power to the unit and opening/closing different ports and valves to ensure signals, switches or HMI’s to ensure that the components are in working order.

Other more complicated testing may need to be carried out such as the following:

  • Pressure Test
  • Flow Test
  • Testing of Equipment Interlocks
  • Speed Test

It is important to highlight that during this phase of qualification, each test is carried out individually. For example, if a shell & tube heat exchanger was being pressure tested for operational qualification, it is essential that the shell of the heat exchanger be tested at a different time to when the tubes of the heat exchanger be tested.

Essentially, Operational Qualification is the testing of each individual component/feature/physical specification of the equipment.

What is PQ or Performance Qualification?

Performance Qualification is the final step in equipment qualification. It is much like Operational Qualification, as it tests the operational requirements of the equipment, but in this case, the equipment will contain a load or process medium.

In other words, it is the testing of equipment while being subject to “real-world” conditions – conditions which the equipment would be subject to during batch production.

This phase is hugely important as it combines the workings, forces and energy of the individual components of the equipment into one harmonious system. By doing so, faults such as the examples below (as well as many more) can be discovered in this phase of qualification:

  • Excessive Vibration/Noise – This may be caused by a combination of 2 or more individual vibrating components.
  • Excessive Heat – This may be caused by a build-up of heat due to a driving belt.
  • Process Media Backflow – This may be caused by incorrect sizing of pipework (a factor which is only highlighted in this case).
  • Pressure Differentials – This may be caused by the use of a valve (toggle open/closed) or other equipment, as well as Process Media Backflow, as mentioned above.
  • Combination of Individual Faults – Problems in the system can also arise due to a combination of these faults.

The working environment around the system can also be affected by the equipment in use. Excessive heat, for example, can cause a dramatic increase in room temperature depending on what process is being carried out.

The spike in room temperature may be uncomfortable for personnel to work in and could possibly be unsafe if personnel are exposed to the high temperatures for an extended period of time. Equally, excessive vibration/noise can not only cause damage to the equipment, but could also be a safety hazard to personnel in the area.

In any case, steps must be taken to deal with such problems, whether it be increased air conditioning to combat excessive heat or fitting noise dampening features to the system to reduce vibration/noise, or by simply cordoning off the area while the equipment is in use.

Take our 15 Week Program and;

  • Develop your own 100-Page Validation Protocol
  • Learn to read P&IDs, Piping Isometrics & Electrical Loop Drawings
  • Qualify Equipment, Instruments and Piping Systems
  • Be Ready to Join a Validation Team as a Junior Member

Click to learn more about our Commissioning and Qualification (IQ, OQ, PQ) of Equipment and Systems program.

What is Calibration and Verification?

Calibration of an instrument is the application of accurate upper and lower limits or measurement range.

Verification is the act of determining whether or not equipment, software, utilities and services comply with regulations, specifications or operation conditions. It is important not to mistake verification for validation.

Verification is an act which is carried out over and over again throughout the validation process. A C&Q engineer, for example, might verify the specifications of equipment as part of the validation of said equipment.

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