The future is here – paper to digital

The future is here – paper to digital

While exploring this month’s topic I decided to continue a discussion with Brian Johnson and Kim Swanson on a recent AASHTO re:source podcast episode, ‘S2 E18: Moving to a Digital Quality Management System. This was my debut podcast appearance so please, bear with me. It was fun.

Like most things in life, change is inevitable. Have you ever visited the wayback machine website? It’s crazy what a website 20 years ago looked like. Change is inevitable and constantly evolving.  

Looking back, the AASHTO Accreditation Program was established in 1988. And yes, laboratories were required to establish and maintain a Quality Management System (QMS) even back then. So what did that look like? Bulky filing cabinets that had a large footprint, big drawers with folders, colored tabs with handwritten labels that were sometimes not legible, and yes, that big 3 ring binder. All this to maintain a 5-year history. Then we moved into the late 1990s and into the world of spreadsheets, word processors and digital folders. That was a big change for some. 

Moving to the digital platform of R18LabQMS was a smooth transition for our laboratory because of its nature. It has been specially designed and maintained around the guidelines of AASHTO R18 in a user-friendly format with safeguards in place. Every new laboratory is guided through a setup process for sections 5 and 6 with promptings to add procedures and content specific to that laboratory – guardrails if you will. 

The driving force for moving from paper to digital is rather obvious; a web-based solution that solves the big problem of organization, all in one place. It also provides easy access for all laboratory personnel and the ability to share your QMS with assessors and inspectors anytime prior to onsite or remote assessments. In short, access and management of your QMS records are key.

Making the change

Where are my QMS records now?  Take time to go through a ‘discovery process’ as you begin to transfer from paper to digital. Start the process of scanning, or ‘printing as a pdf’ to upload your procedures. 

Discover areas within your QMS that may need improvement as far as record keeping. An example could be technician training records.

Assemble a team within the laboratory to build and maintain your QMS. This will be a key factor to make the process a success.

Set a timeline for implementation. This is a game-changer and will simplify the management of your QMS. Using the R18LabQMS application is like hiring a part-time employee to keep everything organized.

User question

Q: How does R18LabQMS handle and track equipment repairs and service calls?

A: Great question. When taking a piece of equipment out of service, you will click the ‘Out Of Service’ button where a dialog box pops up with a couple of options: Add Comments, and Out Of Service Date. If you click Add Comments, there are additional options: Comments and Supporting Documentation. 

When putting equipment back into service simply click the ‘Out Of Service’ tab, select the equipment to be put back into service, and you will have two options to choose from: In-Service Date, and the option to Perform a Calibration (choose procedure from the dropdown menu). There isn’t a function specifically for Repairs and Service Calls at this time, however, they can be incorporated into the comments and supporting Documentation options. 

We are currently reviewing upgrades that will begin in Q4 and will be taking a closer look at user recommendations.

Resources and Training Opportunities

Once you work through the setup process, the following links can be found in the lower right-hand corner of the application;

  • Support
  • R18 Blog
  • Virtual Training (1 hour or less, no fees), contact us for an appointment
  • Extensive Virtual Training – Fee-based, please inquire.
  • 1 Full Day in your lab onsite – Fee-based, please inquire.

Upcoming meetings

All travel to industry meetings will be assessed on their scheduled dates, 2021-22 is looking good. 

Please check out our new promotional R18LabQMS video that debuted on social media and at the AAPT Annual Meeting in Nashville.

For all questions regarding your Quality Management System, whether your lab is accredited or not, please contact us and learn how R18LabQMS can add value to your company.

Gary Irvine
R18LabQMS Program Manager