Aside from meeting regulatory compliances, participation in Proficiency is a GLP (Good Lab Practice) that ensures the competency of your staff. PT programs allow comparison not only internally over time, but also immediately against technicians from other laboratories. Through participation, you can identify improvements in your processes before they become a problem. These factors can help strengthen relationships with customers by showing commitment to quality and improvement.
The most important factor when selecting a program is ensuring it is a good fit for your purpose. Choose a program that allows the use of your internal methods and processes as they are, or as close to routine as possible. Other important factors include the matrix of the sample, ease of processing, presentation of results, size of the program, and response of the provider. It is also important to remember, if you are an ISO accredited laboratory, you must use an ISO 17043 accredited proficiency provider.
If possible, the program should have a matrix as close to the matrix typically being tested at your facility. However, if the proficiency program allows for similar testing in the lab, the matrix will be suitable. Ensure that results tested differently are assessed equally. This confirms that different methods can produce similar results. The two matrixes can be different, as long as the end result is the same. Contact our team to see if the matrix is a good fit for your needs and lab practices.
Product testing accounts for only a small portion of the finished goods that will ultimately be released to consumers. As the food industry shifts from a reactive to a proactive culture, testing the facilities environment provides a more encompassing picture. As exhibiting competence is a foundation of proficiency, an environmental proficiency program shows competence in one’s EMP and ultimately, the safety of the product within your facility. These programs bridge the gap from knowing only your product testing process is proficient, to knowing your environmental testing process is proficient as well.
More data is available for trending each time a facility participates, which provides a more robust trend analysis. To ensure competence, everyone performing testing in the facility should participate in proficiency. When efficiency is a concern, one option is to rotate technicians through rounds so all participate, but not at one time. If your provider rotates matrixes, participating more will ensure you receive multiple matrix types, increasing confidence in your results and processes.
The Z’ score is a numerical value that determines acceptability of results compared to the group – it is the number of standard deviation units from an assigned value and differs from a z score in that it includes the uncertainty of the assigned value in the calculation of results and therefore minimizes the effect of outliers on the overall statistical analysis of the data. This helps to ensure your results are not negatively impacted by outliers. Z scores do not include this uncertainty.
It is important to review the report in a timely manner and compare your value against the group for the round. It is recommended to perform a root cause investigation for any unsatisfactory results. In doing so, this will allow you to make small changes to improve future performance. As you obtain reports over time, be sure to track and trend your data. Even if you do not have a result that is unsatisfactory, you may still be able to make improvements upon your results. For example, if you are always higher than the average (assigned value), you may have a bias in your method or process. The best course of action is to again perform a root cause investigation and review your procedures and execution of procedures for standardization, correctness to references, and improvements.
If you send your report with the wrong result, Cherney may not be able to provide an updated report. We can tell you how you most likely would have done in comparison to the round, had the alternative result been reported instead.
Check to ensure results were reported correctly. If the instructions state not to include units or symbols, including these characters may cause the result to be removed from evaluation. Review the results to ensure no clerical errors occurred while entering data (incorrect values or transposing test results). Review sample storage and handling before and during sample processing to ensure the sample was not compromised or underwent temperature abuse. Check to ensure processes were followed correctly and all equipment used was within calibration/specifications. If a root cause cannot be determined, contact us for any assistance!
In these instances, a recheck sample may be a good option. This is a new sample sent by the provider to test again to determine if satisfactory, or an improvement in results, can be made. This is a way to provide a corrective action report to customers or additional training to show documented competency of technicians. Additionally, it can be used to demonstrate the root cause was the true root cause and has been addressed effectively. Cherney currently offers recheck options for all available programs. Contact Cherney to enroll in a recheck program after the close of the round.
Often, the errors are simple mistakes. Some of the most common errors are serial dilution errors during the plating set up of samples and interpretation of results. As well as, clerical errors while entering data, including using the incorrect values or transposing test results. Having documented processes and conducting a review of the work, help reduce these common errors.