Having an accountability mechanism or guardrails in place in regard to maintaining your quality management system is becoming more important than ever. While accreditation strives to play that role with assessors typically visiting laboratories on-site every 12 to 30 months. It is possible for a laboratory to go for months or close to two years without interacting with their QMS. This practice places quality and a laboratory’s reputation at risk.

Let’s take a look at ways we can incorporate accountability into our quality management system;

1. Provide a system or methodology of managing all processes and procedures that all laboratory personnel have easy access to, not just the person who set it up.

2. Establish a systematic or reminder system of ongoing procedures, i.e. email, calendars, etc.

3. Meet with senior management to review the complete QMS on a quarterly basis, not just management within the laboratory. This is now a requirement in AASHTO R18-16, section 5.7, at least every 12 months.

4. Have an outside source with an unbiased view hold you accountable.

Improving the process of a quality management system should be an ongoing effort, and implementation of that process will ultimately build better products.

Interesting calls we get

We received a phone call from a laboratory with an upcoming on-site assessment less than two weeks away. They asked a multitude of questions regarding their quality manual and requirements for the assessment that had me a tad confused being that we don’t offer a service like that. I then proceeded to asked if they had ever been through an on-site assessment and if they had an organized quality manual? There was a long pause.. and the answer was… no!

After a little probing, I found they did have bits and pieces of their QMS but, needless to say, this lab was not prepared and needed assistance to help in the preparation of their on-site assessment.

I share this because it is important that all laboratory personnel be engaged with their processes and procedures outlined in their QMS, with easy access. Being prepared will ensure quality and, in the long run, save time and money.

User question

Q: I have a question about some random equipment. For emulsion distillations there is a metal lid and metal container at the bottom. Would most labs inventory that equipment to the R18 software program; or would they leave that out since most of the stills don’t contain a serial number/model number?

A: Guidelines on equipment inventory requirements; the R18 standard states in section 6.1.1: Maintain a list of major equipment; note 10 defines major equipment as normally amortized. There’s more detail in those sections but that’s the general rule.

Additionally, if a standard makes reference to tolerances or any type of scheduled calibration requirement then it should be included in your inventory. When using R18LabQMS, procedures that are included with equipment require a “next” procedure date which then will appear on your dashboard when they become due.

If you want equipment in your inventory but no procedures attached (won’t appear on dashboard), that works as well.  

Upcoming meetings that we will sponsor

AAPT (Association of Asphalt Paving Technologists)

Annual Meeting

March 19-22, 2017

Newport Beach, CA

The 2017 AASHTO re:source Technical Exchange

Industry topics presented by AASHTO re:source staff and other subject matter experts.

March 27-29, 2017

Annapolis, Maryland

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