Customers in the European theater of operations have long known that the Army Oil Analysis Program-Mannheim Laboratory Center at Coleman Barracks was a top-notch laboratory with a highly trained and professional staff. But now, it's official. The laboratory just received its ISO 9001:2000 certification.

"The International Organization for Standardization 9001:2000 certificate proves that an organization's Quality Management System has been certified against a best practice standard and found compliant," explained Akwasi Edusei, an AOAP-MLC quality management representative. "Issued by a third-party certification body, the certificate lets customers know they can trust that the organization has implemented the necessary internal processes to meet obligations."

The certification of the MLC to the international standard was the outcome of a successful assessment by an independent third party: the TAfA"V SAfA"D. Edusei explained the steps that the laboratory undertook during the long process of certification qualification:

1. MLC management obtained and read a copy of the standard to familiarize itself with the requirements and to determine if the standard suited the needs of the organization.

2. A Quality Management Representative was appointed by top management and trained.

3. MLC selected an accredited independent certification body (TAfA"V SAfA"D) and a date to conduct the certification audit.

4. A Quality Management Handbook and a Quality System Procedure were developed. The handbook describes the policies and operations of the MLC, and it provides an accurate description of the organization and the best practice adopted to consistently satisfy customer expectations. The QSP describes the processes of the organization and the best practice to achieve success in those processes.

5. The management system was implemented. During the implementation phase, MLC worked according to the procedures that were developed to document and demonstrate the effectiveness of the management system.

6. MLC opted to have a preliminary evaluation of the implementation of its management system by TAfA"V SAfA"D as well as an obligatory internal audit by the MLC Quality Management Representative. The purpose of these evaluations was to identify areas of non-conformance and allow the laboratory to correct those areas before the date of the accredited certification process.

7. After MLC had implemented the management system and prepared it for certification, the laboratory was ready for the accredited certification.

8. The AOAP-MLC successfully passed its accreditation Feb. 28.

The AOAP Program Manager Nick Mikus, stationed at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., has fully endorsed the efforts of the MLC and is developing and implementing an initiative to bring all AOAP laboratories worldwide into full ISO compliance within two years using the MLC as the program baseline.