A large variety of laboratory equipment, instruments, and computerized analytical systems  are used in the pharmaceutical industry to acquire data to help ensure that products are suitable for their intended use. An analyst’s objective is to consistently obtain reliable and valid data suitable for the intended purpose. Depending on the applications, users validate their procedures, calibrate their instruments, and perform additional instrument checks, such as system suitability tests and analysis of in-process quality control check samples to help ensure that the acquired data are reliable.

This topic provides a scientific approach to analytical instrument qualification (AIQ) and considers AIQ as one of the major components required for generating reliable and consistent data.

Note that the amount of rigor applied to the qualification process will depend on the complexity and intended use of the instrumentation. This approach emphasizes AIQ’s place in the overall process of obtaining reliable data from analytical instruments.

Validation versus Qualification
The term validation is used for manufacturing processes, analytical procedures, and software procedures and
the term qualification is used for instruments.

 “Analytical instrument qualification” (AIQ) is used for the process of ensuring that an instrument is suitable for its intended application.

There are four critical components involved in the generation of reliable and consistent data (quality data). Figure 1 shows these components as layered activities within a quality triangle. Each layer adds to the overall quality. Analytical instrument qualification forms the base for generating quality data. The other components essential for generating quality data are analytical method validation, system suitability tests, and quality control check samples. These quality components are described below.


Analytical Instrument Qualification: AIQ is the collection of documented evidence that an instrument performs suitably for its intended purpose. Use of a qualified instrument in analyses contributes to confidence in the validity of generated data.

Analytical Method Validation: The collection of documented evidence that an analytical procedure is suitable for its intended use. Use of a validated procedure with qualified analytical instruments provides confidence that the procedure will generate test data of acceptable quality.

System Suitability Tests : System suitability tests verify that the system will perform in accordance with the criteria set forth in the procedure. These tests are performed along with the sample analyses to ensure that the system’s performance is acceptable at the time of the test.

USP general chapter Chromatography (621) presents a more detailed information of system suitability tests as related to chromatographic systems.

Quality Control Check Samples : Some analyses also require the inclusion of quality control check samples to provide an in-process or ongoing assurance of the test’s suitable performance.

In this manner, AIQ and analytical method validation contribute to the quality of analysis before analysts conduct the tests. System suitability tests and quality control checks help ensure the quality of analytical results immediately  before or during sample analysis.

ANALYTICAL INSTRUMENT QUALIFICATION PROCESS: Three components of building quality into analytical data—analytical method validation, system suitability tests, and quality control check samples—are not within the scope of this chapter

Qualification Phases :
Instrument qualification is not a single continuous process,these activities can be grouped into four phases:

Design qualification (DQ),

Installation qualification (IQ),

Operational qualification (OQ), and

Performance qualification (PQ).
Some AIQ activities cover more than one qualification phase, and analysts potentially could perform them during more than one of the phases (see Table 1).

However, in many case there is need for specific order to the AIQ activities;

For example, installation qualification must occur first in order to initiate other qualification activities. The AIQ activities will be defined and documented.

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DESIGN QUALIFICATION: The documented collection of activities that define the functional and operational specifications of the instrument and criteria for selection of the vendor, based on the intended purpose of the instrument.

Design qualification (DQ) may be performed not only by the instrument developer or manufacturer but also may be performed by the user.
The manufacturer is generally responsible for robust design and maintaining information describing how the analytical instrument is manufactured (design specifications, functional requirements, etc.) and tested before shipment to users.

Users should also determine the manufacturer’s capability for support installation, services, and training. 


The documented collection of activities necessary to establish that an instrument is delivered as designed and specified, and is properly installed in the selected environment, and that this environment is suitable for the instrument.

IQ applies to an instrument that is new or was pre-owned, or to any instrument that exists on site but has not been previously qualified. Relevant parts of IQ would also apply to a qualified instrument that has been transported to another location or is being reinstalled for other reasons, such as prolonged storage. The activities and documentation typically associated  with IQ are as follows.


A description of the instrument or the collection of instrument components, including its manufacturer,model, serial number, software version, and location. Use drawings and flow charts where appropriate.

Instrument Delivery—

Ensure that the instrument, software, manuals, supplies, and any other instrument accessories arrive as specified in the purchase order and that they are undamaged. For a pre-owned or existing instrument, manuals and documentation should be obtained.


Verify that the installation site satisfactorily meets manufacturer-specified environmental requirements.

Assembly and Installation—

Assemble and install the instrument, and perform any preliminary diagnostics and testing. Assembly and installation may be done by the manufacturer, vendor, specialized engineers, or qualified in-house personnel.


To established installation tests and guides provide a valuable baseline reference for determining instrument acceptance.

Any abnormal event observed during assembly and installation should be documenting. Installation packages purchased from the manufacturer or the vendor may, however, need to be supplemented with user-specific criteria.

Network and Data Storage—

Some analytical systems require users to provide network connections and data storage capabilities at the installation site. When required, connect the instrument to the network, and check its functionality.

Installation Verification—

Perform the initial diagnostics and testing of the instrument after installation.


After a successful IQ, the instrument is ready for OQ testing.

Operational qualification (OQ) is the documented collection of activities necessary to demonstrate that an instrument will function according to its operational specification in the selected environment.

Testing activities in the OQ phase may consist of these test parameters.

Fixed Parameters—

These tests measure the instrument’s non-changing parameters such as length, height, weight, voltage inputs, acceptable pressures, and loads. If the manufacturer-supplied specifications for these parameters satisfy the user, the test requirements may be waived.

However, if the user wants to confirm the parameters, testing can be performed at the user’s site.

Fixed parameters do not change over the life of the instrument, and therefore never need re determination.

NOTE—Fixed parameters tests could also be performed during the IQ phase if so, fixed parameters need not be redetermined as part of OQ testing.

Secure Data Storage, Backup, and Archiving—

When applicable, test secure data handling such as storage, backup, audit trails, and archiving at the user’s site according to written procedures.

Instrument Function Tests—

Instrument functions required by the user should be tested to verify that the instrument operates as intended by the manufacturer. Manufacturer-supplied information is useful in identifying specifications for these parameters and in designing tests to evaluate the identified parameters. Users, or their qualified designees, should perform these tests to verify that the instrument meets manufacturer or user specifications in the user’s environment.

The extent of OQ testing of an instrument undergoes depends on its intended applications. 

Routine analytical tests do not constitute OQ testing.

OQ tests are specifically designed to verify the instrument’s operation according to specifications in the user’s environment, and repeating the testing at regular intervals may not be required.

However,when the instrument undergoes major repairs or modifications, relevant OQ and/or PQ tests should be repeated to verify whether the instrument continues to operate satisfactorily.

If an instrument is moved to another location, an assessment should be made of what, if any, OQ test should be repeated.

OQ tests can be modular or holistic.

Modular testing of individual components of a system may facilitate interchanging of such components without re-qualification.

Holistic tests, which involve the entire system, are also acceptable.


The documented collection of activities necessary to demonstrate that an instrument consistently performs according to the specifications defined by the user, and is appropriate for the intended use.

After IQ and OQ have been performed, the instrument’s continued suitability for its intended use is demonstrated through performance qualification.

The PQ phase may include the following parameters.

Performance Checks—A test or series of tests to verify the acceptable performance of the instrument for its intended use.PQ tests are usually based on the instrument’s typical on-site applications and may consist of analyzing known components or standards.The tests should be based on good science and reflect the general intended use of the instrument.

Some system suitability tests or quality control checks that are performed concurrently with the test samples can be used to demonstrate that the instrument is performing suitably.

PQ tests may resemble those performed during OQ, but the specifications for their results may be set differently if required.

Nevertheless, user specifications for PQ tests should demonstrate trouble-free instrument operation for the intended applications. In the case with OQ testing, PQ tests may be modular or holistic.

Testing frequency depends on the ruggedness of the instrument and the criticality of the tests performed.

Testing may be unscheduled—

For example, each time the instrument is used. It may also be scheduled for regular intervals. Experience with
the instrument can influence this decision. It may be useful to repeat the same PQ tests each time the instrument is used so that a history of the instrument’s performance can be compiled. Alternatively, the instrument may be incorporated into an integrated support system to assure that it remains continually qualified.

Some system suitability tests or quality control checks that are performed concurrently with the test samples also imply that the instrument is performing suitably.

Preventive Maintenance and Repairs

When an instrument fails to meet PQ test specifications, it requires maintenance or repair. A periodic preventive maintenance may also be recommended for many instruments.

The relevant PQ test(s) should be repeated after the needed maintenance or repair to ensure that the instrument remains qualified.

Practices for Operation, Calibration, Maintenance, and Change Control—

Establish practices to maintain and calibrate the instrument. Each maintenance and calibration activity should be documented.


Users are ultimately responsible for instrument operations and data quality. The user’s group encompasses analysts, their supervisors,instrument specialists, and organization management. Users should be adequately trained in the instrument’s use,and their training records should be maintained as required by the regulations.

Users should also be responsible for qualifying their instruments because their training and expertise in the use of instruments make them the best-qualified group to design the instrument test(s) and specification(s) necessary for successful AIQ.
Consultants, equipment manufacturer or vendors, validation specialists, and quality assurance (QA) personnel can advise and assist as needed, but the final responsibility for qualifying instruments lies with the users. The users must also maintain the instrument in a qualified state by routinely performing PQ.

Quality Unit:

The role of the Quality Unit in AIQ remains the same as for any other regulated activity. Quality personnel are responsible for assuring that the AIQ process meets compliance requirements, that processes are being followed, and that the intended use of the equipment is supported by valid and documented data.


Manufacturers and developers are responsible for DQ when designing the instrument. They are also responsible for validation of relevant processes used in manufacturing and assembly of the instrument.

Manufacturers should test the assembled instruments before shipping them to users.
Finally, it is desirable that manufacturers and vendors should notify all known users about hardware defects discovered after a product’s release; offer user training, service, repair, and installation support; and invite user audits if required.


Software used for analytical work can be classified into three categories:


2.Instrument control, data acquisition, and processing software; and

3.Stand-alone software.


Computerized analytical instruments contain integrated chips with low-level software (firmware). Such instruments will not function without properly operating firmware, and users generally cannot alter firmware design or function.

Firmware is therefore considered a component of the instrument itself. Indeed, the qualification of hardware is not possible without operating it via its firmware. Thus, when the hardware (that is, the analytical instrument) is qualified at the user’s site, the integrated firmware is also essentially qualified. No separate on-site qualification of the firmware is needed. Whenever possible, the firmware version should be recorded as part of the IQ activities. Any changes made to firmware versions should be tracked through change control of the instrument.

Instrument Control, Data Acquisition, and Processing Software:

Software for instrument control, data acquisition, and processing for many of today’s computerized instruments is loaded on a computer connected to the instrument. Operation of the instrument is then controlled via the software, leaving fewer operating controls on the instrument. Also, the software is needed for data acquisition and post-acquisition calculations.

Thus, both hardware and software, their functions inextricably intertwined, are critical to providing analytical results.
The manufacturer should perform DQ, validate this software, and provide users with a summary of validation. At the user site, holistic qualification, which involves the entire instrument and software system, is more efficient than modular validation of the software alone. Thus, the user qualifies the instrument control, data acquisition, and processing software by qualifying the instrument according to the AIQ process.

Stand-Alone Software:

An authoritative guide for validating stand-alone software, such as LIMS, is available. The validation process is administered by the software developer, who also specifies the development model appropriate for the software. Validation takes place in a series of activities planned and executed through various stages of the development cycle.

Changes to instruments, including software, become inevitable as manufacturers add new features and correct known defects.However, implementing all such changes may not always benefit users. Users should therefore adopt changes they deem useful or necessary and should also assess the effects of changes to determine what, if any, re-qualification is required.

The change control process enables them to do this.
Change control may follow the DQ/IQ/OQ/PQ classification process. For DQ, evaluate the changed parameters, and determine whether need for the change warrants implementing it. If implementation of the change is needed, install the changes to the system during IQ.

Evaluate which of the existing OQ and PQ tests need revision, deletion, or addition as a result of the
installed change. Where the change calls for additions, deletions, or revisions to the OQ or PQ tests, follow the procedure outlined below.

Operational Qualification

Revise OQ tests as necessitated by the change. Perform the relevant tests affected by the change. This ensures the instrument’s effective operation after the change is installed.

Performance Qualification:
Revise PQ tests as necessitated by the change. Perform the PQ testing after installation of the change if similar testing is not already performed during OQ. In the future, perform the revised PQ testing.

For changes to firmware and to software for instrument control, data acquisition, and processing, change control is performed through DQ/IQ/OQ/PQ of the affected instrument.

Change control for stand-alone software requires user-site testing of changed functionality.

Analytical instrument qualification (AIQ) DOCUMENTATION:

Documents obtained during instrument qualification should be retained in an accessible manner. Where multiple instruments of one kind exist, documents common to all instruments and documents specific to an instrument may be stored separately.
During change control, additional documents may supplement those obtained during the qualification process, and
both sets of documents should be retained and maintained in a suitable manner that allows for appropriate protection and access.

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Reference – USP General Chapter <1058> Analytical Instrument Qualification

About Pharmaceutical Guidanace

Mr. Shiv Kumar is the Author and founder of pharmaceutical guidance, he is a pharmaceutical Professional from India having more than 14 years of rich experience in pharmaceutical field. During his career, he work in quality assurance department with multinational company’s i.e Zydus Cadila Ltd, Unichem Laboratories Ltd, Indoco remedies Ltd, Panacea Biotec Ltd, Nectar life Science Ltd. During his experience, he face may regulatory Audit i.e. USFDA, MHRA, ANVISA, MCC, TGA, EU –GMP, WHO –Geneva, ISO 9001-2008 and many ROW Regularities Audit i.e.Uganda,Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe. He is currently leading a regulatory pharmaceutical company as a head Quality. You can join him by Email, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and YouTube

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