Accreditation fundamentals

Accreditation fundamentals

Initiating the accreditation process can be a daunting task, as there are fundamentals that you should be aware of and start with as a foundation. The first thing to consider is the quality standard that you will be following. In this case, we will refer to AASHTO R18. Most accreditation bodies will then require three fundamental components: 

1. Maintain a quality management system
This is where all required procedures within AASHTO R18 are recorded, specifically the management sections and technical section, including inventory records of all equipment and their procedures. As we have discussed in previous entries, there are many ways to manage your Quality Manual (QM) that might include old school folders, filing cabinets, random electronic folders, and yes that infamous three-ring binder. Just to recap, R18LabQMS is a web-based application used to manage your entire QM all in one place. One big advantage to using R18LabQMS is sharing your QM with assessors, inspectors, or government agencies that require periodic review or inspections.

2. Participation in a proficiency sample program
These are commonly referred to as PSP samples in specific areas of accreditation. An example would be if your lab is accredited for aggregates, you would participate with fine and coarse aggregate PSP samples. Depending on the sample type, participation typically has a frequency of 6 or 12 months 

3. Participate in on-site assessments
These occur typically, every 1-2 years, depending on the accreditation body. Since the 2020 pandemic, accreditation bodies began performing assessments remotely, and just recently in Q4 2021, began to phase the on-site assessments back in. On-site assessments typically take 2-4 days depending on your level of participation/areas of accreditation. It is imperative that a laboratory take extensive measures to be prepared as this will alleviate potential nonconformities that require a resolution by the participating laboratory. 

While the aforementioned fundamental components are essential to maintain your accreditation, make no mistake, there is much more involved to establish and maintain your quality management system, so have all the tools, procedures and processes in place to keep current.

  • Keep your laboratory engaged in the process
  • Always continue to review the AASHTO R18 Standard
  • Keep engaged with industry meetings and meet others in the industry to share experiences.
  • One industry meeting worth mentioning is the 2022 AASHTO re:source Technical Exchange. The topics around R18 and laboratory accreditation are excellent! 

User question

Q:  When creating and using equipment procedures, we have used the same procedure for much of our equipment, same name for the procedure, this has become confusing, any suggestions?

A: Excellent question! When you create a new procedure for a piece of equipment or want to add a new procedure, there are 3 options; add an existing procedure, copy from the existing procedure, and create a new procedure. When creating a new procedure, it’s important to give it a descriptive name, for example, we named the ‘check procedure coarse sieves’ as check or ‘Bending Beam Rheometer’ for a calibration. The point here is when creating a new procedure be descriptive when giving the procedure a name. In this case, the user had a generic name for various pieces of equipment. Also, note that all procedures are unique for each piece of equipment.

 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! 

  • 2022 AASHTO re:source Technical Exchange, March 28-31, 2022

Please check out our most recent promotional R18LabQMS video that debuted on all socials and at the 2021 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.

One last favor to ask, if there is a specific topic or discussion you would like to see in upcoming blog entries, please send us a note!

Gary Irvine
R18LabQMS Program Manager