Is electronic document control as important as some say it is? For one ISO 17025 Accredited Laboratory it has become a necessity to deal with the continual increase of document volume.
Southwest Louisiana (SWLA) Crime Lab is a regional crime lab located in Lake Charles, Louisiana, that serves five parishes, or counties, in its surrounding area. With over 30 years of experience, the lab specializes in controlled substances, blood alcohol, DNA, and fingerprinting.
SWLA Crime Lab is accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB) International. According to the ASCLD/LAB website, accreditation is earned when a lab demonstrates that “its management, operation, personnel, procedures, and instruments; physical plant and security; and personnel safety procedures meet certain standards.” One element of ASCLD/LAB International accreditation is compliance to ISO 17025 standards. ISO accreditation requires a tremendous amount of documentation and organization; it can be a very stressful process.
“In addition to the time and effort it took to maintain our ISO accreditation, we were trying to manage many of our electronic documents on a server that we shared with the local sheriff’s department. Our documents were hard to find, track, and organize,” notes Lynell Benoit, QA Manager of SWLA Crime Lab. “Document revisions were very difficult and tedious to maintain; we wanted a tool to make the whole process simpler.”
A Clear Solution
The continual increase of document volume drove SWLA Crime Lab to shop around for a document control solution. The solution to the lab’s document control needs came directly from an industry forum. “We rely on other professionals in our field,” commented Ms. Benoit. “We chose an electronic solution that was recommended on an industry message board.”
One unforeseen benefit of moving to an electronic system was a shift from paper-based processes to electronic processes. “I had no idea [electronic processes] would be so helpful. Many of our processes are now electronic—so far we track vacation requests, training, chemicals, travel, and performance metrics related to cases and samples. We have plans to put more of our processes into the database. It just makes sense to move in that direction,” said Ms. Benoit.