In this Mail Call episode, we answer questions about the new PSP re-enrollment fee, data submission deadlines, and pre-assessment accreditation events.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 3, Episode 19: Mail Call!
Recorded: September 1, 2022
Released: September 13, 2022
Host(s): Brian Johnson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager and Kim Swanson, Communications Manager, AASHTO re:source
Note: Please reference AASHTO re:source and AASHTO Accreditation Program policies and procedures online for official guidance on this, and other topics.
Transcribed by Kim Swanson and MS Teams.
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[00:00:00] Announcer: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q & A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials, testing, and inspection with people in the know from exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management, we're covering topics important to you.
[00:00:19] Brian: Welcome to AASHTO re:source. I'm Brian Johnson.
[00:00:23] Kim: I'm Kimberly Swanson and welcome to AASHTO re:source Q&A. Forgot the actual name of the podcast there, Brian? [Brian: What did I say?] Just AASHTO re:source.
[00:00:32] Brian: It was like I was answering the phone. [Kim: It was.]Uh anyway, this to AASHTO re:source Q&A and today on the podcast we are going to answer some questions we received from some customers of ours, people who e-mail me not at firstname.lastname@example.org. That would be a very short show of people who have emailed that e-mail address. But people who have contacted me directly with questions and even though they may or may not be listeners, but I think that our listeners would be interested in hearing the answers to these questions. So, I have transcribed them to shorten them up a little bit and send them to Kim. And Kim's going to go through those with us today.
[00:01:19] Kim: Yep, and this is our, I think our first mail call episode of season three, which it surprises me that it's our first one of season three, but...
[00:01:27] Brian: That is surprising [Kim: It is.]because that's a good filler episode. You normally, if we don't have a if we don't have any guests lined up, we can knockout some questions because I get a ton of questions. [Kim: you do.] I've never really counted how much time I spend just answering questions like phone calls and emails, but it is a considerable amount of my time.
[00:01:50] Kim: I can believe it, but let's dive right in to the first question you sent me that you have been getting and that is I just received a notification about the annual proficiency sample invoices, and it mentioned something about $100 reenrollment fee. If we don't pay that invoice on time. So, what's that about?
[00:02:09] Brian: That is something that a lot of our customers are wondering right now because we've never had any sort of re-enrollment fee when somebody doesn't pay their invoices. Now what we have had before is people get dropped from the Proficiency Sample Program because they didn't pay their invoice, but the enrollment fee is new and it really does take a lot of effort for our staff when this happens, when somebody is negligent in paying their invoice, even though they intended to stay in the program, and then they reach out to us later after they've gone through being unenrolled. Suspended or even revoked for nonpayment to get all the all the effort that it took to get to that point as a lot and then getting back to getting them enrolled, getting them reinstated. Takes a lot of our effort so that's why there's a re-enrollment fee associated with that.
[00:03:04] Kim: Yeah, I will say in my previous life at AASHTO before in the Communication Manager was as an Administrative Assistant. So, a big part of my job was to handle all of the PSP reenrollment. Once we did it, and although we have made progress in making that more streamlined process for staff and for customers, that is really a time-intensive activity. So, for those laboratories that are intending to stay in the program. But just kind of forgot to pay their invoice for us to have to unenroll them. Just reenroll like a week later. Once they realize what had happened. It I mean, takes a huge chunk of your day and week and then realizing you're doing that for 200 laboratories that are in the same position that forgot to pay and intended to pay. That is really a big chunk of time and energy going to that process. So that is why we've introduced that this year of reenrollment fee. So, if you intend to drop then that that's fine and that's you know.
[00:04:12] Kim: We were sad to see you go, but if you intend to stay enrolled in our programs and again AASHTO Accredited laboratories need to stay enrolled in a Proficiency Sample Programs for the scopes that they're accredited for. So that's a big thing as well. So, in addition to having to pay the reenrollment fee, you also may get an interruption in your accreditation status. You might be suspended for some of your scopes, and I don't think any laboratory really wants that.
[00:04:44] Brian: One thing we really don't like doing is suspending accreditation over administrative or payment issues. We'd really like to be able to focus on the quality aspect of the accreditation rather than some of these administrative issues. But what we hope is that this notification helps motivate people to make that payment early so that it avoids those kind of issues. That fee doesn't exist because we were trying to collect more money. It's to encourage payment, hopefully. And if we do have to expend the energy and time to go through this unenrollment reenrollment process, it helps us be able to keep the program running because of all the extra time we spend doing it. But one other aspect of this that people may not realize is anytime these issues happen. It has kind of a trickledown effect on other programs too, so we. We had a meeting yesterday, so we have weekly meetings with my team, the accreditation program and one of the questions that a Quality Analyst brought up in that meeting is.
[00:05:47] Brian: So, we read this notification that went out. At the at 30 days, you know if these labs get unenrolled and we have to go through the suspension process, are we going to do that on the 31st day? And I said no, we're not going to do that because we don't know what's going to happen. Let's say 500 labs or 1000 labs don't pay by that time. Or maybe they paid, and it didn't clear yet. We don't want to go through that effort of creating a file, preparing a, we prepare this documentation that we review and send to the laboratories anytime there's a suspension or revocation and this all takes a lot of time. We would really like to be able to get that number down to zero if possible for this particular activity, but chances are there will be some that don't pay on time and we have to go through this process with and just know that that time spent dealing with that is time that we cannot spend reviewing corrective actions or doing the things that you expect us to do. Having timely responses back to the laboratories when they have questions or addressing anything else that we do with customers. So, it's a real time sync on something that doesn't really need to happen. So, we hope that that we get a positive response and that people jump in action and get those invoices paid and maintain their enrollments on time.
[00:07:26] Kim: Yep. And to pay your invoice online, you can go to payments.aashtoresource.org. I think that covers that that question for that.
[00:07:35] Brian: I think so. Yeah. I think that's enough. We don't. We don't really love talking about payment at a nonprofit. That's like one of our at least say we know it's a, it's a necessity, of course, but it's not our favorite topic.
[00:07:45] Kim: Definitely not. And so, we're going to kind of stick in the proficiency sample theme here with our next question and that is. Can I get an extension on my proficiency samples? What happens if I do not submit the data on time?
[00:08:01] Brian: Yeah, this is a common question we get the answer is no, you cannot get an extension on proficiency samples. The reason why is because that I think we've talked about this before, but you know we've got so many labs in the program, almost 2000 and the aggregate program from around the world that are all submitting their data with this deadline. Once that deadline hits, we closed the enrollment and then all of the results are calculated, and the ratings are all issued on the average. So, if we accept any data, even though it's a lot of data in one labs, data isn't going to skew it too much. So that if it was brought into the fold might not really affect things too much, but we have a lot of labs that are living on the border there between a good rating and a bad rating. So, if you're at one little change and that average or in the standard deviation could throw somebody into a low rating. So, we really don't want that to happen. Plus, if we allow one lab to send the ratings late and that gets around, guess what's going to happen. Ohh, a lot of people are going to be submitting it late and then we've got even bigger problem.
[00:09:09] Brian: So, it's best to stick to the deadline and if you missed it though. This is what's going to happen...first you can figure out what's going to happen by looking at how you did last time. And if you did submit your data last time on that round and you receive satisfactory ratings on the test that you're accredited for, nothing is going to happen. What you do is you figure out why it happened. You write up your corrective action report, file that away so they can get reviewed during your next internal and external audits. Possibly during the management review as well. And then do better next time, you know, take measures to not miss the next round and as long as you did well last time and you do well next time, there won't be any suspension, but it does create a risk for you the next time around because you've just lost one of your chances because it takes two consecutive rounds of no or low ratings to get. A suspension. So just keep that in mind. But that's essentially what happens in that case. When you miss around.
[00:10:13] Kim: Also say if you are a day late, still try to submit that data online because you never know what might happen. But if you cannot submit your data online then don't fax it in. Don't e-mail it in. We can't sneak you in once it's closed online and it is closed to everybody. But there are sometimes where the closing date listed on the website may have a day or two wiggle room, but that is not the official policy and that is not the official procedure for that, it just may happen that it's not closing exactly on that. On that day, it might be the next day. So, you can try it and test your luck and see if that works. But I will say our proficiency sample schedule is available online and we basically have the whole schedule planned out for the whole year. Right now, this proficiency sample schedule is only going to the beginning of January, but pretty soon it's going to be all for 2023. So, you can schedule and plan as accordingly for that.
[00:11:16] Brian: One other thing about the about this particular round is that we are definitely going to have a session with John Malusky once that report comes out because it's the first round of the combined aggregate proficiency samples. So, we want to get a wrap on how the results turned out, how the customers dealt with the change. And kind of give a breakdown of what happened [Kim: Yep.] this time around.
[00:11:46] Kim: We're recording this at the very beginning of September by the, by the time that this episode is released, it's going to say the final report for aggregate gradation and gravity will be coming out shortly around the time that this episode is released. So yeah, we should be expecting a follow-up in the coming weeks for talking to John and seeing what's happening with this proficiency sample. So.
[00:12:08] Brian: That's right. Today is actually the close date when we're when we record it, it's the closing date. So, if you're hearing this and you did and you're saying, oh no, I need to check on that. It's too late.
[00:12:17] Kim: It's too late. I will say the unmodified, emulsified asphalt. Closing date is later this month, on September 22nd. So, if that is important to you, just letting you know there. I think that's all the questions we had regarding PSP. So, let's transition into more of an accreditation question and this is why did I receive an e-mail reminder about addressing my laboratory’s nonconformities for an assessment report I did not have yet?
[00:12:46] Brian: Yeah, that sounds like a bit of a riddle. Basically. What happened is we have this pre-assessment submittal process that the assessment team uses. They've been following one procedure for a while and that worked, OK. But you know we've got this system that we've used this accreditation event system that we've used in our customers of use for a while, and it seemed like a good way to collect that preassessment information. So, what we did is we changed from using the old method to this new method using an old system that people are more familiar with and one of the unanticipated. And I think this is on me for not noticing that this would be a problem. Is that we have these automatic reminders that go out to laboratories when something is due in the accreditation events system, and it is the language in the alert is geared toward addressing nonconformities in an assessment report? So they were, the customers were getting this boilerplate notification that says, you know, you have to submit your corrective actions. But because this is actually pre-assessment.
[00:14:00] Brian: They didn't have a report issued yet, so there's no nonconformities to address, so it's very confusing message for people to get. So, I wanted to let people know that that is a problem that we are working on right now. Well hopefully by the time this comes out, this is already addressed and you're not seeing this anymore. But what we did to address it is our IT Manager was able to determine that we can send isolated notifications for these preassessment accreditation events, and I sent him some wording to use, and it'll be geared directly to that, so it'll eliminate confusion. People will know what it is, and it'll be better. So, this is an example of us addressing problem that we had with corrective action. And we've got our quality manager is involved. So, we reported it to Tracy Barnhart, and she issued a request for a corrective action report from me and from our IT manager. So, we're working on it and. And I wanted people to know about this one in particular because I know some people have seen this and have given us some feedback. And thank you to those who did report this back to us because a lot of these automated notifications, we don't see them. I don't get copied on all of them. So, I don't know exactly what they say all the time. So, if there's a change that resulted in unanticipated problem, the only way we can correct it is if you let us know about it sometimes. So. So don't feel bad if you see something and you're like, oh, I don't really like this. Just let us know so we can fix it, because we want to get it right
[00:15:35] Kim: Alright. Well, I think that covers today's episode of Mail Call. Was there anything else that I didn't ask you about all of these three topics today, but you want to impart some more wisdom on our listeners?
[00:15:49] Brian: No, I think that was good. And these are these are good ones. And I hope people do continue to ask us these questions so that we can... not just answer it for you, but when we get when we could talk about on the podcast that gives us an opportunity to answer these questions for everybody. You know, it's not so much that it saves time, but it just gives us an opportunity to give a more comprehensive answer to people. And I can't call every lab in the program and go over this with them individually, but. To be able to do it this way I think is really helpful and a lot better than just getting an e-mail response.
[00:16:20] Kim: Alright, well thanks for answering those questions today Brian. And thanks to our listeners for tuning in today.
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