Prior to your busy vintage period, it’s important to be as organized as possible in your laboratory. One way to do this is to generate 3 main lists of what you require to effectively run your lab – we show you how below.
By having all the tests you do documented as Test Methods, a very simple system can be developed to check you have all equipment and reagents needed to operate the lab efficiently. Test Methods are a requirement of ISO17025 - the international standard that is used by all NATA accredited laboratories. Although ISO17025 is not needed by non-accredited labs it contains some important information that can be used to help you run your laboratory.
This standard,titled “General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories”, is a very prescriptive document that is the basis for all laboratories that want to be accredited. It has its own jargon and requires a lot of experience and knowledge to understand the ramifications of what is stated in the standard. We are not suggesting that you need to get your lab accredited; however some of the content can be used as a guide to running your laboratory better. After running accredited labs for decades we have worked out a few short cuts from the standard, and these are described below.
One of the main thrusts of ISO17025 is the issue of “Test Methods”. These are the written documents that are used by laboratories as guides to the way to operate the testing and calibrating they cover.
ISO17025 states that “Test Methods should contain at least”:
The two most relevant sections of the Test Method criteria that we think can help you be better prepared are:
Winechek operates three laboratories across Australia and all the Test Methods are the same in each lab. This means that for the fields of testing we perform in wine, water, plant and soil we have over 80 Test Methods that we maintain. A small winery laboratory may only need 10 or perhaps 20 Test Methods written up, which may sound like a lot if you have never done it before. But once the Test Methods are written they may not need changing for many years. Good text books to use as a basis are the very popular series produced by Patrick Iland.
Documenting the Apparatus and Equipment section in each of your Test Methods ensures you know what Apparatus and Equipment you need for each Test Method.
This section from each Test Method, once consolidated, will provide a complete inventory (or Assets Register) of all the Apparatus and Equipment you need in your lab. If your Test Methods are in electronic format then compiling the register is a simple cut and paste.
There may, of course, be some duplication in the Assets Register – for example if you do enzymatic analysis for malic acid and also for glucose/fructose then it’s likely you will have two Test Methods written. It is also likely you will use the same spectrophotometer for each of these two methods. Of course the spectrophotometer only needs to be listed once on the Assets Register.
Most importantly this Assets Register can then be used as your guide to all the laboratory hardware that must be maintained and calibrated.
One of the most critical tasks in a lab is the calibration of equipment. If the equipment is not calibrated correctly then all results will be suspect.
The Assets Register can be used to produce a list of equipment that needs calibrating and also when it needs calibrating. This Calibration Schedule is a critical document in accredited laboratories and one of the key aspects that a NATA assessor will investigate during the regular audit. Table 1 below shows NATA recommendations for the frequency of calibrations for specified equipment.
|ITEM of EQUIPMENT
|One point check
|2 point buffer check
|Stray light error
|Ice point check
A sub-section of the Apparatus and Equipment section of your Test Methods should be Reagents. This should list all the chemicals and solutions that are required to perform that particular Test Method.
By using the same process that you used to generate the Assets Register you can very quickly produce a complete Reagents List for your laboratory by extracting the Reagents list from each one of your Test Methods.
Importantly you now have the full inventory of chemicals and solutions you need to operate your lab.
Make sure you specify the reagents in the Test Method with full details e.g. concentration, purity.
The ISO17025 requirement in the Procedure section is to specify all Safety measures that must be taken.
If you include a list of Safety Equipment in each Test Method you can use the same process to generate a full list of all Safety Equipment needed to run your laboratory.
Of course you will need to check for duplication as you did previously for both the Assets Register and Reagent List.
And again you now have the full list of Safety Equipment needed to safely operate your laboratory.
Label all your Safety Equipment as you did for the laboratory equipment to keep easy track of all items.
So prior to your busy vintage period you now have the three main lists of what you require to effectively run your lab.
And again by some simple formatting you can generate a Stocktake list for each of:
These Stocktake lists can then be used to check each piece of laboratory equipment, each reagent and every piece of Safety Equipment that is needed.
Then from this stocktake the list of missing or broken items from your 3 lists is easily obtained and there you have your shopping list!
By having all the tests you perform in your laboratory documented in well organised Test Methods you can set up a simple system that enables you to quickly check you are totally organized for the busy vintage period coming up.
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