By Ms. Kari Hawkins (AMCOM)February 6, 2017
Providing the best support to Army customers starts with setting high quality standards.
Recently, the operations at the Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Support Center at Corpus Christi Army Depot, Texas, were confirmed to satisfy the stringent requirements of the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 international quality standards for metrology and calibration operations. The lab is the fifth Army TSC to achieve full accreditation to the standard.
"It's a major accomplishment that TSC-Corpus Christi made it through accreditation audit with no findings. This is something to really be proud of," said Larry Tarr, director of the Army Primary Standards Laboratory at Redstone Arsenal, which provides the Army's secondary labs throughout the world with primary level, accredited metrology and calibration support in nearly every measurement parameter.
"Accreditation gives us confidence that we are doing a good job for our customer -- the Soldier in the field," he said.
For the 20 employees at TSC-Corpus Christi, the accreditation is confirmation of a job well done in support of CCAD's aviation maintenance and repair mission.
"To achieve accreditation with no findings solidifies this laboratory," said TSC-Corpus Christi laboratory chief Matthew Werley. "The visionary leadership provided from my supervisors from day one was to get this lab accredited. For us to get through this with no findings undeniably has lifted morale, and continues to make all of us strive to do better."
TSC-Corpus Christi's formal accreditation by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation to the ISO/ICE 17025 quality standards set by the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission continues to expand the accreditation of the Army's calibration labs, which are managed by the U.S. Army Test, Measurement and Diagnostic Equipment Activity. USATA is an element of the Aviation and Missile Command at Redstone Arsenal.
The APSL is leading the accreditation effort for USATA. The APSL's Metrology Engineering division has a key role in expanding the ISO/IEC 17025-based quality system to the secondary Army labs, known as TMDE Support Centers.
"Accreditation at TSC-Corpus Christi is the latest in a series of USATA labs that are achieving accreditation in response to the support needs of our customers," Tarr said.
"This started with the accreditation of the Army Primary Standards Laboratory here at Redstone back in 1998. The APSL has successfully renewed its accreditation every year since."
TSC-Corpus Christi joins a list of Army accredited USATA labs that includes TSC-Tobyhanna, Pennsylvania; TSC-Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; TSC-Warren, Michigan; and TSC-Dugway Proving Ground, Utah.
"We are working toward accreditation for USATA labs based on customer requirements for those labs," said Phillip Petri, a senior Quality Assurance specialist with USATA.
"These five labs are all functioning under an enterprise-wide quality management system. The ISO/ICE 17025 accreditation of these labs is a validation of the quality management system we already had in place. It is also confirmation that we meet or exceed all quality standards."
About four years ago, APSL adopted the enterprise-wide quality management system, Tarr said, which ensures Army labs meet the international standards on product quality management and assurance set by ISO/IEC 17025.
The accreditation takes quality management even further, since it is the most important international standard for calibration and testing laboratories. ISO/ICE 17025 accreditation demonstrates that a lab is technically competent, and able to produce precise and accurate test and calibration data using standard methods, non-standard methods and laboratory-developed methods.
"The ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation continues to tell USATA's and AMCOM's story to the rest of the Army," Werley said.
"This accreditation is the industry standard for calibration and it is good both from a business perspective not only with CCAD, but also with USATA. Moreover, it also displays a stamp, so to speak, of the quality of work being done here and benchmarks a standard we maintain constantly. I came from the commercial side of calibration and dealt with 17025 accreditation, and in today's times that accreditation means everything to a calibration lab."
Since TSC-Corpus Christi was the last of the five to go through accreditation, it was positioned to take advantage of information provided by the other labs to achieve 100 percent compliance with no deficiencies.
"We hold teleconferences to share lessons learned enterprise-wide," Petri said. "The findings of one lab impact all the labs. Once we identify lessons learned, we apply them across all labs. It is a huge effort in teamwork.
"What TSC-Corpus Christi accomplished is a culmination of a lot of effort by every single lab and lab chief. Lessons learned from one lab were accelerated across the board for all."
The most challenging aspect of an audit, said USATA chief engineer David Hargett, is providing documentation for test and measurement processes.
"The auditors will ask for information, and you have to know where that information is filed. You have to keep information organized so that you can show the auditors that you have good quality measurements for all the test and measurement processes," Hargett said.
The labs also learned from the experience of the APSL, and with the help of test procedures, data analysis techniques, standard operating procedures and other documentation share through a USATA Sharepoint portal.
"Since the primary standards lab was already ISO/ICE 17025 accredited, we already knew what was required to monitor quality and what it takes to maintain that quality," Tarr said. "When we started the accreditation process for our secondary labs, we could oversee the prep work for the accreditations and help the labs prepare for the auditors."
Petri worked with each of the five TMDE support centers to ensure compliance with all aspects of the standard.
"We focused on the technical aspects of what's happening in the labs," Petri said. "We audit validated technical proficiency in five areas or parameters -- gage blocks, liquid flow, torque, temperature and humidity, and accelerometers. These parameters encompassed most of the operations that we do in the labs."
TSC-Corpus Christi employees provide calibration for more than 14,000 test and measurement parts every year, with more than 12,000 of those parts belonging to the aviation operations at CCAD.
"Some of these items are unique and only exist here at CCAD," said TSC-Corpus Christi chief Werley. "Our technicians not only have to be well versed in regular equipment, but also with proprietary equipment used to support aviation manufacturing and depot maintenance."
Werley ensured employees were informed of the ISO process and ready for the audit.
"They do their job every single day working in every condition," he said. "As for the inspection, our lab performs at this standard every single day to exceed our customer's expectations."
The goal is to work toward compliance for the Army's secondary labs, and accreditation for the labs with customers requiring accredited support. It will probably take another three years to get all the labs fully compliant with the standard.
"It is the wave of the future to achieve compliance," Petri said. "The standardized processes are already there. As we gain more fidelity with the controls of our quality management system, we share better information across our enterprise, ultimately achieving better service to our customers."
As the secondary labs do more work in support of foreign military sales, depots, test ranges and contractor requirements, the ISO accreditations will become even more essential to providing support for military systems.
"In FMS contracts and operations at depots and test ranges, we are seeing more operations tied to an ISO standard," Hargett said.
"ISO accreditation opens our labs' doors for more business. The automotive industry uses this standard and the Department of Defense is moving toward it through our policies and our quality assurance. We want to build quality into our processes and accreditation helps us to accomplish this. The Army and USATA are leading the effort in the DoD for establishing metrology and calibration support compliant with ISO standards."