Case Study: Puro New Zealand—SOPs for medical cannabis processing

Puro at Kekerengu

Specialist contract cultivator Puro is New Zealand’s largest grower of medical cannabis. When the first crop was planted in late 2020, getting effective Standard Operating Procedures in place before harvest in March and April 2021 was a matter of urgency.

But this was a new venture and a totally new crop, meaning there was a high degree of learning on the job.

And it was all taking place on a remote rural site with no mobile phone access.

Enter Ewan. He loves a challenge. So when Wendy Tillman, Puro’s Quality and Compliance Manager (Organics) approached Bold about creating SOPs for Puro’s processing operations, he jumped in the truck and headed for Kēkerengū.

When his work was done, he contacted Wendy to find out what she thought about it.

What were the challenges that led you to look for someone to do this job?

Our staff were focused on getting the operations going, but we realised we also needed to quickly get quality SOPs written within our time and resource constraints.

So it made more sense for us to bring in someone experienced.

Even though it wasn’t exactly the same equipment, your level of understanding of machinery in general and manufacturing facilities made it really easy for you to understand the type of environment that we’re working in.

What was success going to look like for hiring somebody to write your SOPs?

The outcome of having good, solid SOPs written.

And from my perspective, not having much intervention on my part—being able to take your SOPs, read them, maybe tweak a few bits here and there, or things I needed from a compliance perspective, and just go, “Yep, they’re good to go.” 

We did use a student for a while to draft SOPs, but in the end that took a whole lot more time on my part.

Medical cannabis drying in vertical stacks
Image source: Puro New Zealand

Why did you come to me?

Our company tries to hire as many people that we know from experience who can deliver. To support our local communities, we try to do things locally. And we know what type of people we want to work with. 

So it was great to be able to support a friend, and somebody local, but also knowing your background in the wine industry and your experience in Australia, it was a pretty easy connection to make. 

How were you feeling at the start? 

I saw it as like, I was doing a bit of project management, and making sure that you were able to go actually do it, knowing that I wasn’t going to be the one down there with you. And you did.

How do you think it went?

I think it went okay. I mean, it was always going to be a challenge given how busy everyone was. And that was part of the reason that we brought you in.

So it was good that you were able to do what you did with fairly minimal input from the team, which is what we needed. 

The physical distance and the fact that there was no phone coverage were the biggest challenges in terms of getting feedback and sign-offs.

Yeah, we’re attempting to rectify that situation. Technology. Yeah.

What do you think I did well?

The writing of the SOPs and the completeness of them was spot on for what we were looking for.

The level of detail and the quality of the SOPs that you were writing… it was, I think, just the right amount of detail. 

You really and totally understood the health and safety perspective, so having that input from you [helped] when we had a new [H&S] staff member with less manufacturing experience.

I think it will give her the opportunity now to take ownership and see what you’ve done and set a good standard going forward.

And less intervention from me made my job easier and freed me up to do other things. 

Dried medical cannabis at the Puro facility
Image source: Puro New Zealand

Anything I could have done better? We’re all friends here. Be totally honest!

I think communication about the extra work you did without being asked for, the stuff that was not in the original scope.

The JHAs that you provided, I didn’t know when you did them whether they would impact the budget. When I looked at them, I saw the value in them. I’ve been with companies that have not had that level of detail and it is a very good thing to have.

So I understood what you did, and it was really good. And, they didn’t cost us extra.

You saw a gap we had and delivered value.

There probably should have been a little bit of communication on that before going ahead but we are going to use them and you probably will end up writing more for us. So it’s a good selling tool.

If someone came to you and asked about hiring me to write SOPs, what would you say to them? 

Absolutely! Yeah. I think for me, it was the ability for you to just get on with what needed to be done.

And the quality of the product that came out of it with minimal supervision was really good.

Rows of medical cannabis growing outside.
Image source: Puro New Zealand

Many thanks to Wendy for her time (Puro, you bagged a total legend there—no, we’re not biased!) and warm wishes to the Puro team for every success.

We love it that Ewan can now say with all honesty that he writes procedures for “wine and weed”. Wonderful!

Writing your own SOPs can be a nightmare, especially when there’s a deadline and you’re putting best practices together as you go. If you’re starting to feel a bit desperate, contact Ewan for a no-obligation chat. He’ll happily take the whole hot mess off your hands!

Ewan Morrell

Ewan is Technical Director and co-founder of Bold Communications. He has extensive experience in engineering and project management around the world as well as practical experience in the New Zealand wine industry.

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