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Virtual Manufacturing Replaces OBL

The new guidance on Virtual Manufacturing has been published by the MHRA. The document, titled “Virtual Manufacturing replaces Own Brand Labelling for medical device manufacturers” can be found here[1]. As the title suggests, this replaces the previous OBL guidance and its requirements must be met by 1st September 2017.

One of the critical new requirements is that such manufacturers must now have their own Quality Management System audited, and their technical documentation reviewed by notified bodies. This manufacturer, now termed the “Virtual Manufacturer”, is considered as “the natural or legal person who places a new or fully refurbished device on the market under his name despite not undertaking the design or manufacture of the medical device itself”. Previously, such manufacturers got away with holding Summary Technical Documentation (STED), however are now expected to hold the full technical documentation for any product they register under their name. The documentation will then be reviewed by a Notified Body (NB) or Competent Authority (CA). In cases where the manufacturer does not hold the rights to the product design, the NB or CA may accept certain design information to be redacted, however this should be limited as much as possible and must not hinder their assessment. In such cases, the virtual manufacturer shall ensure that a mutual contractual agreement is in place with the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) such that the CA may access this redacted information.

Previously, manufacturers of class I devices or IVDs were not expected to register these products. The new guidance clearly states that this is no longer the case, and such devices must be registered with the appropriate CA. The technical documentation is expected to be well integrated into the manufacturer’s quality system, with references to instructions for use, labels, risk management and so on. Furthermore, the technical documentation must include a statement by the virtual manufacturer stating that “they fully understand all the documentation provided and that they accept full legal responsibility”.

The minimum requirements present in the contractual agreement between the virtual manufacturer and OEM can be found on the MHRA guidance document, however have been provided below:

  1. A direct link between the medical devices being placed on the market by the manufacturer that holds the rights to the product design and the virtual manufacturer they are supplying who does not hold the design rights (e.g. by name / part number).
  2. Arrangements for post market surveillance and vigilance activities (i.e. details of who is responsible for what in relation to these requirements, including reporting of adverse incidents). All virtual manufacturers should ensure that incidents or potential incidents are reported and also brought to the attention of the manufacturer that holds the rights to the product design. Similarly, the manufacturer is responsible for notifying the virtual manufacturer to enable them to take appropriate action with regard to their own products.
  3. Provisions for post-production follow-up, including ensuring that post market clinical follow up provisions are in place.
  4. Arrangements for details of any changes to the medical devices to be notified to both parties.
  5. Provisions for unannounced audits – i.e. the notified body of the virtual manufacturer will be required to have access to any critical suppliers (including the manufacturer who holds the rights to the design).
  6. The contract should include the fact that the virtual manufacturer may not enter into another contract with another virtual manufacturer for the same device, i.e. a virtual manufacturer cannot be the OEM for another virtual manufacturer for the same medical device.
  7. Provision for the OEM (including the manufacturer who holds the rights to the design) to provide fully un-redacted information upon request of the notified body of the virtual manufacturer, without the requirement for further contractual actions between the notified body and critical supplier such as non-disclosure agreements.
  8. Provision for the OEM, where relevant, to maintain and provide to the virtual manufacturer notified body certification covering the products concerned.
  9. Provision for the OEM, where relevant, to maintain and provide to the virtual manufacturer evidence of registration (e.g. for their Class I devices, IVDs etc.) with their Competent Authority.

We understand that these new requirements may seem daunting to some who have been operating as an OBL under the previous guidance. Advena has the right expertise to guide you through this transition and build your technical documentation. For further information and guidance, please do not hesitate to contact us.


New Quality Management Requirements for OBL Manufacturers

Quality Management System

In relation to the Quality Management System [QMS] the OBL will be expected to maintain a QMS which covers the requirements as defined in the Medical Device Directive or IVD Directive as relevant. This does not mean that a fully compliant ISO13485 system must be in place although if this is the case it will simplify the process as ISO 13485 is the harmonized standard under both the MDD and IVDD for the QMS requirements.

The OBL documented quality system must cover the following areas as a minimum

  • Internal Audit,
  • Management Review,
  • Traceability,
  • Regulatory Requirements [e.g. Vigilance, Post Market Surveillance, Post Market Clinical Follow Up, informing regulatory authorities of vigilance issues],
  • Quality Objectives,
  • Complaints,
  • Order  processing and client communications
  • Document Control and Records
  • Organizational Structures and Responsibilities,
  • Control of the Manufacturing Process including any in-line or final performance testing and Non-Confirming Product,
  • Corrective and Preventive Action
  • Purchasing and Control of 3rd parties [including the OEM and other critical suppliers] must be included in the OBL quality system

These areas will be reviewed during your yearly assessment audits.

For those companies who OBL Class IIb or Class III medical devices, or List A / List B / Self Test IVD devices under Annex IV, it is mandatory to have Design Processes within your QMS. This does not have to cover design to first principles but as a minimum it must include how you as the legal manufacturer agree any changes to the design of the product.

As stated above this requirement cannot be delegated to the OEM it must also be under your control, so a formal procedure detailing how you manage design changes is required and a lack of such a procedure will result in a Major Non-Conformance.

Unannounced audits

Unannounced audits are required to be conducted at the place of manufacture of the devices and it is likely that these audits will be conducted at the premises of the OEM.

The costs will be charged to you as the legal manufacturer.

In your agreement with the OEM there will need to be a clause where the OEM allows these audits to take place without hindrance.  If an unannounced audit is refused by the OEM, a Major Non-Conformance will be raised which may lead to suspension of your certification and you will still be liable for any costs associated with the audit.

Discover more about Advena’s Medical Device Regulatory Consulting and Quality Management Services, or contact us on +44 (0) 1926 800 153 or via email to

Key Own-Branding Guidance for OBL Manufacturers

OBL Guidance to Clients

This article is now obsolete and has been replaced by our article on Virtual Manufacturing, which has replaced OBL. Press here to be redirected.

As you are probably aware there have been significant changes to the requirements of Own Brand Labelling [OBL] in relation to the MDD 93/42/EEC and IVDD 98/79/EC contained in the Commission Recommendation 2013/473/EU, which was released in September 2013.

This document made clear the Commission view that OBL manufacturers should be viewed in the same way as all other legal manufacturers of medical devices and should not be subject to a lighter conformity assessment process

The following email is therefore being sent to explain these expectations and the requirements that you as the legal manufacturer will be required to carry out.

One area which has already been completed is the process of ensuring that annual on-site audits are conducted, no longer can the complete CE certification process be completed off-site. SGS have already informed those affected clients of this change and from the end of June 2014 we will not be conducting any more of these purely off-site audits.

The main point to state is that the previous concept of OBL being able to pass responsibilities to their OEM is no longer acceptable; the concept is now that you will be considered to be “virtual” manufacturers.  Other important changes are as follows.

Technical agreement

You will still require to have a formal agreement with the Original Equipment Manufacturer  [OEM] as presently which will define the responsibilities of each party but no longer can an OBL delegate any regulatory function to the OEM, these must now be fully under the control of the OBL.

The formal agreement as a minimum must include the following:

  • A direct link between the OEM and OBL products
  • Provision of technical documentation by the OEM to be held by the OBL
  • Notification of design changes by the OEM to the OBL prior to implementation and updating of the technical documentation held by the OBL
  • A clause allowing access to the OEM’s full technical documentation by regulatory bodies and your Notified Body.
  • A clause allowing your Notified body to undertake unannounced audits at the OEM
  • Responsibility for design, translation and affixing of labelling and IFUs
  • Arrangements for Customer Complaints ,Vigilance, FSN, Post Market Surveillance and Post Market Clinical Follow Up activities and the communication of any issues between the two parties.
  • Document Retention Times
  • Traceability requirements.

Access to OEM technical documentation

The OBL as a minimum must have a copy of the STED [Summary Technical Documentation as defined in the GHTF document SG1/N011R20 for medical devices or GHTF/SG1/N063 for IVD devices], this is sometimes known as Part A of the technical file.

This STED document will be reviewed as part of the yearly on-site assessment audit or if as an OBL you have a large number of STED’s a sample will be checked. We will not be conducting a full in-depth technical review of the STED as the full technical file should have been reviewed by the OEM’s Notified Body but if we do find significant omissions from the STED then we will raised Major Non-conformities on the OBL.

If there is any specific propriety information of a confidential nature in the full technical file it is accepted that this information may not be passed to the OBL. This policy has been confirmed as acceptable by the regulatory authorities but the rationale for this omission will be reviewed during the audit and it is expected that the OBL will be aware of the omission of this data.

Discover more about Advena’s Medical Device Regulatory Consulting and Quality Management Services, or contact us on +44 (0) 1926 800 153 or via email to

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