Select a glass from your cabinet, place it under the faucet, and let the water flow. It’s so simple to realize you’re thirsty, walk into your kitchen, and grab a cold glass of crystal clear water–or is it? Without dedicated professionals like Eric Davis, Quality Assurance Officer with Austin Water, we wouldn’t be quite as confident in our cup.
Work With an Impact
Austin Water, located in Austin, Texas has two wastewater treatment plants that receive up to 95 million gallons of sewage a day before it is treated and returned to the Colorado River. In addition, they have three water treatment plants that draw water from the Colorado River, filter and treat it, in order to provide clean and safe drinking water to the community. Quality, therefore, is critical for Austin Water. Eric shared:
“The purpose of the regs being there is to make sure people are safe. On the drinking water side, we need to make sure the standard of drinking water is not only passable but also something people don’t mind drinking..”
On the waste side, the stakes are equally high because the cleaned wastewater is reintroduced into the river. If they don’t do a good job cleaning the water, it can impact the health of people, animals, and the environment alike. Additionally, the treated water is used for irrigation and drain water purposes. All of these uses demand the utmost of quality.
Like many who work in compliance, Eric explained his work comes with the pressure that, “you can lose accreditations or be fined if you miss certain things that are important. If you can’t get corrective actions under control you can lose accreditation.” Eric and his colleagues are bound by state and federal regulations; the water testing lab itself is also NELAP Accredited by TNI using the 2009 TNI standard.(National Environmental Lab Accreditation Conference).
Not only does Eric work in compliance with Austin Water, he also has a leadership role with TNI. In this role he helps write and update standards, learning the “whys and the hows”. This provides context for Eric, and is something he shares with his lab to help them understand the purpose behind certain standards.
A Demonstrated Need
As a chemist, working in a role that ensures water is properly tested and determined to be safe for people and the environment is a great fit for Eric. In particular, he appreciates how his work contributes to the good of the community. “I like it because it is public safety,” he shared.
We were fortunate that our path with Eric intersected at an industry event–and our discussions about how we could help streamline quality processes at Austin Water began. Eric recalled, “My first conference I came across Scott and thought [Qualtrax] was an interesting product.” Eric knew they had need for a more robust system. Even for someone who claims to be a “spreadsheet guru”, like Eric, the sheer number of tests, files, and paperwork were too much for their old system to handle. “Ultimately, internal audits kept coming across the same issues with corrective actions not being performed well, not being tracked well, and not being finished,” Eric explained.
Ease of Use
“I volunteered for all this,” explained Eric. Growing up, he did a lot with computers and also took some computer classes as he advanced in his education. When he began his work with Qualtrax he came armed with some programming knowledge from his earlier days and understood the concept of a workflow. Interestingly though, he notes that his colleagues who lack a background in computer science are quickly able to execute administrative tasks in Qualtrax. Eric said, “ I have two assistants that help me and they had no computer knowledge before. I’ve gotten them to be able to write tests and training and workflows. I have them working on all that even though they have have no background.”
Speaking of staffing, perhaps the biggest benefit of implementing Qualtrax is how it is has helped Austin Water combat staffing challenges. Through process automation and elimination of administrative minutia within quality management, they have been able to run more tests and keep up with a heavier workload without having to increase staffing. A higher level of productivity without an increase in overhead costs is huge!
The Best Part
When asked his favorite part of Qualtrax the answer was quick: “Workflows and flexibility. If I see an issue and something needs to be more efficient, there are tools to fix it. That is the part I get the most use out of.” Ask us what the best part of working with Eric Davis is, and our answer will also be quick: knowing we are supporting the valuable work he does at Austin Water, which contributes to a safe and healthy community.