By Caitlin Hines on July 17, 2018
When your work has a real impact on the health of people, the community, and the environment there is an inherent sense of pressure to deliver. For those working within water treatment labs, such as Eric Davis with Austin Water, that underlying sense of urgency is an ever-present component of day to day operations. Therefore, it is paramount that Eric finds ways he can implement systems that create conditions for visibility, traceability, and efficiencies.
Each and every day Austin Water receives up to 95 million gallons of sewage a day. To put that in perspective, that would fill 144 Olympic sized swimming pools. The task at hand is large and doesn’t stop there! They also have three water treatment plants, which draw water from the Colorado River, filter it and treat it, and provide it to the community. They must be certain the water is safe and also a quality that is enjoyable to consume.
While the regulations are there to promote safety, without the proper tools and processes in place those same regulations can create burdens for the men and women of Austin Water. Eric has found that through the use of process controls — also known as workflows — he has been able to reduce the amount of administrative work required by himself and his colleagues, which has freed them up to focus more on the mission-critical tasks of Austin Water.
Since our software is comprehensive, and not modular, we don’t have to follow a one-size-fits-all approach to implementation. For Eric, he was most eager to get going with workflows! It is amazing how he has combined creativity, our software, and his process to improve the compliance efforts of Austin Water.
We particularly like how Eric has utilized workflows in novel ways–such as for the validation of other necessary software systems. Eric explained that when it was time to implement a LIMS system for the testing lab staff, they were eager for a way to validate the software that measured progress while also providing clear visibility for all involved in the complex validation. “We were getting a lot of work done but we weren’t able to show that we were making process. Within Qualtrax…we were able to show management that progress was being made,” said Eric. This visibility not only kept management informed but also had the pragmatic value of quickly identifying areas that did not pass the validation protocol. Eric emphasized, “Being able to report off of those checklists was really important.”
Just as it was important to show the positive progress forward, it was also important to be able to show when an aspect of the LIMS system had a negative result within the validation protocol. The ease of reporting functions within Qualtrax made this accessible and provided actionable data for getting to the bottom of issues and advancing the validation forward.
Reflecting on how things have changed since implementing Qualtrax, and subsequently workflows, Eric shared, “We are not getting any new staffing but are constantly being asked to run more tests. To make up for the lack of bodies we are making up for it with efficiencies.”
With an increased workload there can be a natural tendency to overlook or forget about critical tasks, due to the rapid pace required. However, as Eric has experienced, this can be overcome with workflows and processes. There is accountability, clearly defined roles, expectations, and guidance on the type of data input required from the user. Workflows keep everyone accountable and help drive compliance efforts forward.
Workflows have also enabled Eric and his colleagues to, in a sense, get back to work. Eric shared, “We used to spend so much time tracking things that it was a lot of our time just maintaining the system that did the tracking on top of doing the word itself.” The administrative tasks are no longer as dominating as they once were, thanks to automated and controlled processes found in Qualtrax.
Much like a healthy quality assurance culture, the use of Qualtrax by Austin Water will continue to improve. At present, they are heavily focused on the benefits of workflows and also training management. Eric has his eye on expanding into robust use of Document Management, as they evolve. We look forward to continuing to support Eric and his colleagues in the critical work they do at Austin Water.
Categories: Environmental, Process Management