By Caleb Guedes-Reed on October 6, 2021
Process Automation is the fastest way to improve, organize, and streamline laboratory practices by automating as many paper-based tasks as possible. All of this contributes to creating a culture of quality where reporting issues, even the smallest, are encouraged.
Before we get into the webinar recap, a full recording of which can be viewed here, let’s learn a little bit about our presenter:
Tim Akin is a former forensic chemist who has worked for two different laboratories that used Qualtrax. He joined the Qualtrax team in 2017 as a Software Trainer, and now works as a Solutions Engineer helping prospective customers identify creative solutions for their compliance needs.
Tim is a big believer in constant improvement and isn’t a fan of doing things the same way over and over again just because “they’ve always been done that way”. With that said, this webinar and blog recap are all about optimizing and streamlining the work you’re already doing. So, let’s get started!
1.) Quality systems work best when everyone participates.
2.) Participation should be easy. More people will want to get involved if it’s easy to be involved and if it directly improves their daily work life. If you can’t convince your staff that this is an improvement, then you will never get buy-in. Most people tend to only think about quality when they have a problem. What Tim advocates is a system where you don’t have to think about what to do next. In doing so, issues are properly addressed as to not repeat or get bigger.
Requirements – these could be requirements for standards like TNI, ISO 9001, ISO/IEC 17025, FDA, etc. You may even have multiple sets of requirements that you’re managing. Either way, you have to demonstrate day-in and day-out that you not only meet your requirements, but that you’re continuing to meet these requirements over time. Mostly, we are going to fulfill these requirements with policies, procedures, and other forms of documentation.
Records – As we meet our requirements, we are going to generate a lot of records that show that we did what we said we were going to do. This is where things get trickier. The main thing we want to consider with records is HOW we use them to demonstrate compliance and what’s the easiest way to store and maintain them for audits.
Quality Champions – They are the people actively working within your quality system. Many standards like TNI and ISO/IEC 17025:2017 want everyone working in the organization to be active in the system and they measure this through things like demonstrations of capabilities and qualification requirements for certain roles.
We always have to think with the end in mind when working in compliance. If you’re in an assessment and you must demonstrate compliance, every procedure you have in place should make it easier to do that. If you’re operating with a fully paper-based/manual QMS system, that can be a really difficult task. Tim, however, advocates for a dedicated electronic quality management system (eQMS) so that organizations are spending less time on the demonstration side and more time on the actual work. That’s where automation and electronic records really pay off.
Electronic systems give your organization huge wins just by using them. In some cases, like with Qualtrax, you can access your eQMS anywhere – not just within your laboratory’s walls. This makes the assessment process easier, both for your team and the assessor. Additionally, having all your records in one place makes locating files much easier when you don’t have to go digging for files in a room full of binders and old documents. Because the system is electronic, activities like searching and reporting are built into the design.
If you’re considering setting up an eQMS for your lab, the first thing you should look into is document control. It’s very easy to digitize a document and that alone is going to make it much more accessible than having it only in a paper format. For a real win here, it’s all about controlling the editing, reviewing and approving process and that’s where systems like Qualtrax come to the forefront.
While document control is a great place to start, we can still improve! The same automation we use with document control can be applied to other processes as well, like audits, nonconformance reports, corrective actions, and equipment maintenance.
In the full webinar, Tim Akin takes us through the special reports and workflows in Qualtrax that were specifically designed with the new TNI standard in mind, like nonconformance reports, corrective actions, and a handful of others.
If you’d like to learn more about how Qualtrax can support your environmental lab, reach out to us! We’d be happy to walk you through our product and explain how Qualtrax has helped many other environmental labs use process automation to make their labs more efficient.