The longer I’m in this business the more I understand the need for quality and maintaining our laboratory’s equipment maintenance and calibration records. Let’s take a look how this can dramatically affect the business of a construction materials operation and their bottom line.
I’ll use the example of a laboratory that uses a dynamic shear rheometer (DSR) where a calibration cycle for the entire construction season was missed and a problem arises in the field. After a little research they find the DSR is out of calibration by a significant amount and who knows for how long. In this example, if the laboratory was providing passing results with the instrument out of calibration, this could be a costly mistake in fines.
I am finding that laboratories without a process in place tend to update their quality management system (QMS) only “periodically.” This is due to the busy construction season, lack of personnel or just needing more knowledge and guidance on managing their QMS.
Keeping your QMS current can be simplified with practical solutions and using the right tools.
When we think of procedures we typically think of equipment in the laboratory. However, understanding and complying with all procedures is important in maintaining total quality within your laboratory. Let’s take a look at each of the major sections as examples;
Section 5.5.2 – Procedure to Evaluate Staff Competency
This is important not only for management to ensure all technical staff are trained properly, but also for the technical staff to understand the process, what is expected, and to ensure all procedures are being followed according to the test standard. Having a clear description and easy access is also a key part of an organized QMS.
Section 6.2.2 – Procedure for Identifying Samples
This may be a procedure that is easily overlooked in the QMS, however it is required and, if neglected, would be a non-conformity during an on-site assessment. Ouch! Many laboratories think a consistent procedure for identifying samples applies only in-house. However, when a customer sends samples to your laboratory, it is critical to have a process in place and to communicate with your customer the process of identifying samples correctly. Again, if all laboratory staff understand this process and know where to find the written procedures, this can save countless hours and, in some cases, business. In the past, cores have been sent to our lab that were not properly identified and with no replacements – a very costly mistake.
We are in the planning stages for the next version of R18LabQMS®; upgrades are based on user feedback.
Upcoming meetings and events
AASHTO Subcommittee on Materials
Sunday, July 31, 2016 – Friday, August 5, 2016
Hyatt Regency Greenville, SC
For all questions regarding your quality management systems whether your lab is accredited or not please contact us and learn how R18LabQMS can add value to your company.
– Gary Irvine