by Tim Lautenbach
In my eight years of managing MTC’s laboratory I have hosted assessors from the AASHTO Materials Reference Laboratory (AMRL) and the Cement and Concrete Reference Laboratories (CCRL) on six occasions. On these visits our laboratory personnel are closely observed demonstrating laboratory tests and I open our records for third-party review of our Quality System. While visits can be a bit nerve-wracking, I’ve found them to be extremely rewarding. The chance to be reviewed by a third-party agency is a chance to boost client confidence in our test results and a chance to confirm that we are meeting the Quality Standards that we hold ourselves to in our Quality System Manual.
Through the AMRL and CCRL visits to our laboratory MTC has been an AASHTO Accredited Laboratory (AAP) since 2003. In fact, once the accreditation program was opened to participation by non-DOT labs, MTC was the first in the state to receive laboratory accreditation with only MDOT’s Central Laboratory being accredited by AASHTO before us. The accreditation requires verification that our laboratory meets the requirements set forth in AASHTO R-18. This includes, among other things, conformance to required calibration intervals of our equipment, certification of personnel, procedures for sample management, and participation in the AMRL and CCRL Proficiency Sample Program (PSP).
The Proficiency Sample Program includes the shipment of nine types of material samples throughout the year. Samples include soils, asphalt, aggregates, and concrete. Identical samples are also shipped to the other participant laboratories around the nation. A list of tests required is provided for each sample received. Test results are then reported to AMRL and CCRL to be compared to the average of all participant laboratories. Laboratories are then rated according to the standard deviation of data for each test with MTC regularly being well within the standard deviation from the average.
Through our participation in the laboratory assessment program I can be proud of our ability to prove ourselves through third party review. It gives me just a bit more satisfaction when providing test results, providing tours to clients and students, and lending expertise to our clients that we have proved our mettle through these programs. In the words of our last assessor, she doesn’t need to worry about us; we’ve got our stuff together.