When selecting an agency to fulfill your testing, calibration, or measurement needs, you must be sure that they can supply you with accurate and reliable results. The technical competence of a laboratory depends on a number of factors, including:
- The qualifications, training, and experience of the staff
- The right equipment—appropriately calibrated and maintained
- Adequate quality assurance and quality control procedures
- Appropriate testing and sampling practices
- Sound testing and/or inspection procedures
- Traceability of measurements to national standards
- Accurate recording and reporting of data
- Appropriate testing environment
While a laboratory can reassure you that it has these attributes, or attempting to evaluate the laboratory yourself, can not provide confidence that a technically competent service has been selected. Relying on third-party accreditation assessments, however, does provide such confidence.
What should you consider when choosing a laboratory?
When selecting a laboratory to fulfill your testing, calibration or measurement needs, you need to be sure that they can supply you with accurate and reliable results. All these factors contribute to a laboratory being technically competent to perform your testing.
Why is a laboratory's technical competence so critical to you?
Throughout the world today, customers seek reassurance that the products, materials, or services they produce or purchase meet their expectations and conform to specific requirements. This often means that the product is sent to a laboratory to determine its characteristics against a standard or a specification. For the manufacturer or service provider, choosing a technically competent laboratory minimizes the risk of producing or supplying a faulty product.
Avoid Expensive Retesting
Testing products and materials can be expensive and time-consuming even when they are done correctly the first time. If not done correctly, then the cost and time involved in retesting can be even higher if the product has failed to meet specifications or expectations. Choosing a technically competent laboratory minimizes the chance of retesting being required.
Enhance Your Customer's Confidence
Confidence in your product or service is enhanced if customers know it has been thoroughly evaluated by an independent, competent testing facility. This is particularly true if you can demonstrate that the laboratory itself has been evaluated by a third party.
How can you be sure that a laboratory is technically competent?
Throughout the world, many countries now rely on a process called Laboratory Accreditation as a means of determining technical competence. Laboratory accreditation uses criteria and procedures specifically developed to determine technical competence. Technical assessors conduct a thorough evaluation of all factors in a laboratory that affect the test data. The criteria used are based on standards such as AASHTO R18, ASTM E329, and ISO / IEC 17025, which are used for evaluating laboratories.
Laboratory accreditation bodies use these standards specifically to assess factors relevant to a laboratory's ability to produce precise and accurate data, including the:
- technical competence of staff
- appropriate use of test methods
- traceability of measurements and calibration to national standards
- suitability, calibration, and maintenance of test equipment and testing environment
- sampling, handling, and transportation of test items
- quality assurance of test and calibration data
To ensure continued compliance, accredited laboratories are regularly reassessed to check that they are maintaining their standards of technical expertise. These laboratories may also be required to participate in regular proficiency testing programs as an ongoing demonstration of their competence.
Laboratory accreditation provides a means of evaluating the competence of laboratories to perform specific types of measurement and calibration. It also allows a laboratory to determine whether it is performing work correctly in accordance with appropriate standards. Most importantly, laboratory accreditation provides formal recognition to competent laboratories, providing a ready means for customers to find reliable testing services able to meet their needs.