Home / Industry Trends / PCL Lab Techs: Uber-qualified and All About the Peel Strength Test
Industry Trends
May 29, 2019

PCL Lab Techs: Uber-qualified and All About the Peel Strength Test


We Appreciate Your Brains and Obsessions

Unsung heroes are often finally recognized when someone takes note of the fact that someone is flying under the radar while also saving the day in some way. Such is the case today for the lab technicians at Packaging Compliance Labs. Did we also mention the love of peel strength testing? We will.

So here we say thank you for your service! (With ultimate respect for our military, we humbly borrow the phrase). Lab technicians are at the front lines of defense for medical device and pharmaceutical producers, fighting against regulatory denials and defect ambushes.

PCL has always taken a strong position on the critical nature of lab testing work. There are few industry requirements for lab tech qualifications. At PCL, our tech requirements are tough. It can be tedious, lonely, never-ending and stressful work. All the more reason we have insisted on hiring highly-qualified candidates with the will to excel. And in addition to amazing brains, we also salute their collective love of the smallest details.

Today, we sing for you, PCL lab techs as we shed some light on your battle strategies. Meet Cory, Emily, Alyssa, Ian and Jake, as they dish on life in the trenches. They even share a few secrets for colleagues everywhere and bring peel strength testing to the conversation.

Cory, on Getting Started and Growing a Team

Cory started with PCL when the staff was small. He was part of the growth and transformation process as the company got started and gained momentum. “I worked in transit testing most of my time at PCL. One of the things I’ve appreciated is that I can be independent in my work. If you like to tackle things and solve on your own, this is motivating.”

He added, “When I started, we were committed to lean manufacturing already, but as we’ve grown, it’s been great to see how this set the stage for us to do more with less and our productivity still increases. The idea that more people = more opportunity to focus and solve problems is so true in beneficial ways. When we were a small team wearing many hats, reactivity was often the only way. We have developed more preventive maintenance. We are proactive now.”

I think another way our clients benefit from our journey of growth is our robust training system, with specific processes and progress checks that support specialized roles. Taking a dynamic approach with documentation and step-by-step checks really brings it home. As far as peel strength testing, I’ll leave it to the others, since my heart belonged to transit.”

Emily Talks Most Valuable Skills, the Buddy System and ASTM F88

Emily joined PCL with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and biology and an associates in industrial engineering. Her first job was in pharmaceutical testing, which was great experience, but lacked diversity – “you get a white powder and you test it!” What she has loved most about adding medical device to her role because “you can see it and hold it and understand how it works and what it does.”

She enjoys the PCL approach of owning her studies from start to finish – “you manage your larger studies on your own. It maximizes time management skills. And while you can get help if you need it, our QC checks and process ensures things don’t fall though. She added, our tech buddy system and the PCL TPS sheets give everyone a solid plan that has built in reviews and confirmations to ensure top quality results.

When asked if she has a favorite test, Emily chose peel strength testing because she enjoys the rhythm and fast pace. “It’s the best!” She also noted that if she could change anything about her job, it would be more jeans days. Emily leaves the office and enjoys exploring the West Michigan area after moving back to the state.

Alyssa Offers $0.02-worth on Peel Strength and Birds

Meet Alyssa. Alyssa came to PCL with a biology degree from Grand Valley State University. With a job in a major corporate microbiology lab, she discovered a love of packaging sampling and wanted to experience more of it. “I like working with my hands, and since I was a kid, I always wanted to wear a lab coat, so my love for being in a lab setting started early. I also love helping clients sort out what they really need based on our TPS project starters. Since our clients may be focused on other things, sometimes the TPS doesn’t make sense. It’s valuable to be able to help identify what they really need and how that should be done by working with our buddy engineers.”

She agrees that peel strength testing is a favorite, even though it can be a long road. When work becomes tedious, Alyssa’s go-to advice is clear: there are always tasks to be done. If you are ready to zone out on a long watch, especially peel testing, take a mental break and go to another task. Get away from it, redirect your energy for something new and you’ll be able to re-focus when you come back. And you’ll be ahead by being productive in the meantime. Asked about challenges, she added, “Sometimes, results don’t add up. Knowing we can go directly to our engineer is a collaborative way to get input and stay ahead for our clients.” When Alyssa isn’t counting down peel strength samples, she loves to chill out by bird watching, which she admits with no shame.

Ian, on Drug Research and a Diss 

Ian was also a GVSU grad and biology major, with a special interest in genetics. His background of researching cancer and Alzheimer’s disease drugs was intense. “It was middle school where I started to realize how much I loved science and biology. I started going for all the AP classes and wanted to learn as much as I could about genetics and genomics. But animal testing for medical research is really intense and I wanted to shift my focus to challenging science in a different way. At PCL, I have the opportunity to problem solve in different ways, including watching over all of our precision equipment. “ Ian, who listened in as Alyssa and Emily sang praises to peel strength testing weighed in: “I have a love hate relationship with peel testing, but I do love the equipment. When you have 1,600 samples to run, you can get stir crazy. You need a breather. But it’s an important area of testing for industry. There are two approaches, with supported and unsupported methods. While unsupported is more popular, the supported method offers sometimes unrecognized benefits with a narrower range of potential use and possible higher numbers. I may be newer to the team, but the work is rewarding and I really like our system.”

When Ian isn’t figuring out what’s what in the lab, he is probably at the gym or taking his Australian shepherd to the park.

Jake, the New Tech with No Opinion on Peel Strength

To close out the lab chat, we called in the newest member of the team. Jake joined PCL following a winding journey that included building medical devices. He moved into material handling and selecting components to build a new clean room that led to medical receiving and shipping. As he grew interested in the precision and standards required for secure transit of medical products, he zeroed in on transit. “Actually, I had never even thought about transit. I had a love of IT and coding, but recognized that it had drawbacks for the long term, like sitting there, day in and day out. That was what led me to the medical device industry early on, but my love for precision and details remained. Stringent clean room processes and the critical need for meeting every criteria for safety was rewarding.

Since I love detail work, it quickly became an industry I wanted to pursue. My work in shipping and receiving opened a whole new arena of details—what happens to this box in transit in this temperature or at this vibration level. There are so many aspects of testing, transit and quality. Right now, as the newest to the team, I’m doing a lot of different things, learning cross-functional systems and training for different test protocols. We will have Jake chime in on how he feels about peel testing in a future post. For now, it’s all about lab life. And when he’s home, it’s a 14-month old daughter and a puppy Pomski to jolt him out of the minutia.

Sarah Rosenblum, on Why PCL is Hot on Peel Strength

To finish our conversation about peel testing, we called up the Denver office to hear what business development and marketing director, Sarah Rosenblum, had jumped on at the mention of peel strength testing. She was excited that the lab techs were into it. “ASTM is recognizing that there is lack of clarity in the ASTM F88 standard for peel strength testing. The definition for acceptance criteria is vague and for some has been derived from industry folklore. They are looking into establishing certain acceptance criteria to bring consistency. MDMs know they need to test their peel strength, but without the details on how or why, it becomes muddy. There are many aspects to consider. For example, most people aren’t aware that your acceptance criteria should be derived from data found in the OQ & PQ of your sealer validation. The details like time, temperature and pressure, with the duration of the bar press at this pressure, are very important to consider. Without using this data and asking these questions, you are deriving your acceptance criteria from thin air. Seeing the regulators scrutinizing potentially weak links may bring additional requirements, but they will benefit everyone in the long run.This is an area to watch and our methods are ahead of the curve. Our engineers are involved in the ASTM F88 discussion.” Feel free to reach out for the latest developments and how they may affect you.

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