We close out 2022 by having staff share some of their favorite tips and tricks they have seen in the lab.
AASHTO re:source Q&A Podcast Transcript
Season 3, Episode 33: Favorite Things (Tips & Tricks to Help You in the Lab)
Recorded: December 15, 2022
Released: December 20, 2022
Hosts: Brian Jonson, AASHTO Accreditation Program Manager; 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.
[Theme music fades in.]
[00:00:02] Announcer: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q&A. We're taking time to discuss construction materials testing and inspection with people in the know and exploring testing problems and solutions to laboratory best practices and quality management. We're covering topics important to you now. Here's our host. Brian Johnson.
[00:00:21] Brian: Welcome to AASHTO resource Q&A. I'm Brian Johnson.
[00:00:24] Kim: And I'm Kim Swanson and we have a great episode today. I'm very excited about this.
[00:00:29] Brian: I'm glad to hear that I, as you may be able to tell, I'm a little under the weather today, but not too sick to cover this topic.
[00:00:38] Kim: So, it may not be whiskers on kittens and brown paper packages tied up with strings, but these are some of our favorite things that Assessors and Quality Analysts have picked up some tips and tricks throughout their career here at AASHTO resource and we thought it's a great time of year to share that with all of our listeners.
[00:01:00] Brian: So, who do we have first?
[00:01:01] Kim: First, we have Amy. Amy will be sharing some of her favorite things from quality management system perspective.
[00:01:09] Amy: One of my favorite things is when a laboratory utilizes something as simple as an outlook calendar reminder to stay on top of their quality management system and it can be really tough to juggle and remember all of those intervals throughout the year.As far as standardizing equipment, performing competency evaluations on staff, and signing your staff up for certifications before they expire, so setting those intervals and then including anyone in those e-mail reminders is a really helpful way to just make sure that your laboratory runs smoothly throughout the year.
[00:01:44] Brian: That's a great tip from Amy. It can really change the way you manage things and really lead to great results.
[00:01:53] Kim: Who do we have next?
[00:01:55] Brian: Next, we have Jacob Nance
[00:01:57] Jacob: My tip for labs is that if you have a mechanical aggregate washer set up at your sink, you can use the spray nozzle to clean out glassware like pick anomers from fine aggregate specific gravity or hydrometer cylinders with less risk of losing sample than if you were using a built-in spray nozzle.
[00:02:18] Kim: That was a great tip from Jacob. Thanks for sending that in. Now we our next one is from Jon McCabe, a Quality Analyst and he wants to share one of his tips from the lab.
[00:02:28] Jon: If there's a common step in a test standard that the technicians miss, usually it would be helpful to go ahead and put a sign up on the wall by that test station in order to remind the technician to not miss that step in the future.
[00:02:42] Brian: All right, thanks for that, Jon.
[00:02:44] Kim: And next up we have Bernadette.
[00:02:46] Bernadette: So, the first tip trick for QMS audits. It's obviously super helpful if the lab keeps all. Calibration, standardization, check and maintenance records in one location, either in a binder or digitally with clearly labeled file and directory names. The second one for certain tests like flat and elongated and fractured faces. It can be helpful to save and set aside samples to be used only during assessments, especially if those tests are run infrequently, or if suitable demonstration samples can't be obtained easily in area the third tip or trick I saw for situations that require washing a sample such as a burn off or a soil wash when using a deep sink was to cut a hole in the bottom of a Home Depot or Lowe's bucket the size of your sieves, flip it over and now you've added height inside your sink so you don't have to be bent over the sink washing the samples, you'll be able to see whether you're clogging your screens better and your hands will be relatively free.
[00:03:48] Brian: All right, thanks for that Bernadette and our last one is from Kathryn.
[00:03:54] Kathryn: So, the first tip we have here is for sieve analysis tests. There are tables in the standards showing the mass limits that shouldn't be exceeded for certain sieve sizes. And found it helpful for labs if they post these tables right in front of the balances where the masses are being measured. This way they then they don't go over those limits. Another tip for sieve analysis is installing a series of hooks on the wall at the 5th cleaning area which holds the various tools and brushes the lab may need for cleaning out the course and the fine sieves. It helps the technicians not have to dig through drawers or for those searching for the one brush they really need it's right there and ready to go.
[00:04:42] Kim: Thank you for those Kathryn.
[00:04:44] Brian: Well, being a guest on the podcast is not everyone's favorite thing, so some people send in emails instead, and I'm going to read that in my most nasally voice that I have right now. This is an excellent tip that we got from Paul who's also on our staff. There are sometimes when, uh, somebody's performing an assessment at a soil laboratory that they have bad weather or just not a good location to run a field test like the sand cone. So, one way that people have gotten around that is filled a wheelbarrow with soil and ran the sand. You know, right on top of that, and I have not seen that happen myself, but I could see that being a useful way to do it. Paul, I appreciate your time putting that together.
[00:05:33] Kim: And our admin staff wanted to get in on some of the fun of this episode and they sent in some tips and tricks of their own to help customers of AASHTO resource really get the most of our programs and set off on the right foot. Make sure your contact information is up to date on the website. I know this is really important and when I was in an admin this was a big source of headaches for some laboratories and it's a really simple thing that you can do. So, I second that one, so thank you for sending that in Stephen. They also wanted you to know that you can track your own packages once the corresponding invoice has been paid and FedEx has picked up their packages quotes. You can call our admin staff to assist you if you can't figure that out, but it is accessible on our website. Another great tip is to make sure that you use the forgot password feature if that's what. You if you need.
You don't need to call in and we don't know your password. Staff does not know your password, so if you forgot your password, use the forgot password feature. But if you need the login to be changed. From one person to another, then you will have to e-mail and contact our admin staff and you can do that at info@AASHTOresource.org. Again, I want to thank our admin staff, Sarah, Mark and Stephen, for sending those in and maybe we can get them back on the podcast next time. So, I want to ask you what are some of your favorite things that you want to share with our listeners today?
[00:07:04] Brian: Yeah, I have so many favorite things it's hard to. It's hard to keep them organized, but I'd have to say the one that I think is the most important favorite thing is communication. One thing that we see time and time again and we were just talking about this yesterday and that at a staff meeting for the accreditation program, we look at corrective action and we almost never see people say communication was part of the reason for the problem. And when I read it, I think almost every time communication was probably the biggest issue that occurred.
[00:07:40] Kim: But I think that's also an important step of corrective action communicating with your staff what corrective actions were taken and how to prevent that. So, I think communication all around - I mean, I'm a little biased as a communications manager, but I would agree that is a great tip and I am happy that it's one of your favorite things because I think it is very helpful.
[00:07:59] Brian: I think communication is so important and I think people ought to prioritize is it. I'm always working on it. You're never going to be perfect. That's the other thing, and that's OK, but I love anything related to communication. It's just an interesting topic and I love talking to people and another thing. And then this goes back to what Amy’s favorite thing was is one thing that's changed for me. Also, management is another thing that I really enjoy, but one thing that has made things better it from my perspective as a manager is having regular meetings with staff to communicate with them. So, like we set up weekly meetings with each person that we rise and you know sometimes you don't have that meeting because there's not much going on, but sometimes it's only a couple minutes long and you just say, hey, how's everything going and there's no real big issue to talk about, but it's so important to keep that communication flowing back and forth between people on your team just to stay cohesive. And it just. It's just nice. It it makes everybody feel good. I know it makes me feel good I like to like to hear what's going on and be able to have those moments of communication with people.
[00:09:10] Kim: One of my favorite things is the AASHTO resource Technical Exchange.
I think that's a great opportunity to communicate with other people in the industry and registration for that is currently open for the 2023 technical exchange. And that is in Fort Worth, TX in March, so you can go to our website AASHTOresource.org/events for information on that and my last favorite thing is that we get a break from the podcast as much as I love it, we are taking a break next week, but we will be back in the new year with new episodes.
[00:09:48] Brian: A well-deserved break. Kim has been editing like crazy and producing this podcast and promoting this podcast, and I don't know how you do it. We have so many episodes out there right now. My job usually ends after we hit stop record.
[00:10:04] Kim: And that's when mine starts I feel like.
[00:10:08] Brian: Yeah, it It's a - you put a ton of work and you do a great job and I really appreciate it. But then I hope you do too out there listen. You have no idea how much Kim puts into this, so I hope you're enjoying it. What I am now you've got me thinking about programmatic things and I have to say one other favorite thing that I think people are not fully aware of and that is ash toes daily transportation update. [Kim: OK.] Emails I can't tell you how much I love these things. You know you get a lot of emails. They come into your inbox. And if I don't have time to read today's daily transportation update, I don't mark it as read. I don't delete it; I save it for later when I have time to go back because there's always extremely interesting stories that come out of that thing and it covers so many different topics and transportation. It's not usually materials related, so it's a little outside of our wheelhouse and the professional resources perfect. But I mean if you want to know what's going on transportation industry, like with the state DOT's or federal agencies, or you know there's even other stories too that are just interesting that go in there. You can subscribe to the Daily Transportation update. We should put a link to that if we can on this. Because I, I think if you're if you're not. Getting that, I feel like you're really missing out on some great news.
[00:11:34] Kim: All right, that link will be in the show notes as well. So, thank you for that favorite thing. Anything else before we wrap up our last episode of the year.
[00:11:42] Brian: No, just thanks to you and thanks to everybody else who has checked this podcast out. Well, we you know we started it a few years ago and it's been extremely rewarding. I've gotten to learn so much from our guests and I look forward to more in the new year.
[00:11:57] Kim: We have some good episodes coming up in the new year, so stay tuned for that and enjoy the break from the podcast. Or you can go back and check out another episode that you maybe missed and didn't get a chance to listen to originally when it first was released, so. Enjoy the holidays everybody.
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