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March/April 2010

ASTM International Proficiency Testing: Getting Labs on the Same Page

ASTM’s Proficiency Testing Programs are a way to ensure that the standards developed under the auspices of ASTM International provide the most possible value — and contribute to quality assurance. Committees create PTPs when they or other stakeholders identify a need. A minimum of 30 lab participants is needed to start a program.

The PTP’s aim is to provide participating laboratories with the statistical quality assurance tools that help them assess their performance compared to other laboratories focused on the same standards. The program provides each laboratory with test instructions, methods and an opportunity to compare their test data to results at ASTM.

One of the committees with the longest involvement with PTPs is Committee D02 on Petroleum Products and Lubricants.

James Bover, ExxonMobil Biomedical Sciences Inc., Annandale, N.J., is involved specifically with the D02 ASTM Interlaboratory Crosscheck Program, which is the committee’s implementation of the PTP. “Our program involves over 2,000 laboratories worldwide and covers 22 petroleum products and lubricants ranging from crude oil to jet fuel to waxes, greases and fuel ethanol,” Bover says.

Interlaboratory crosscheck programs provide laboratories with a valuable opportunity to evaluate how their lab performs relative to others in the industry. Bover says the ILCP recommends that laboratories implement quality control charts for their test methods as a means to statistically validate within-lab performance. “Although it is nice to have a repeatable answer in your own lab, if it does not agree with others in the industry, what good is it? We address precision and accuracy at both ends: we encourage using control charts to make sure your own lab is functioning, and we encourage interlaboratory programs to compare your results to others in industry.”

Kishore Nadkarni, a principal of Millennium Analytics, East Brunswick, N.J., is active on D02.94, the Coordinating Subcommittee on Quality Assurance and Statistics.

Nadkarni says the subcommittee was established several years ago and operates somewhat like Committee E11 on Quality and Statistics. However, while E11 is more mathematically focused, D02.94 is focused on applying statistics to petroleum products and, specifically, the relevant aspects of the work of D02.

“We have actually published about seven standards on statistics and quality management, and we have several statistical studies which are consistent with the work of E11 but are oriented to the oil industry,” he says. Nadkarni says the committee has also produced the only standard, D6792, Practice for Quality System in Petroleum Products and Lubricants Testing Laboratories, focused on how to run a lab in the oil industry. He adds, “It is similar to ISO 17025, but was written independently of ISO [International Organization for Standardization].”

Laboratory standards help organizations extract the maximum quality value from standards. Nadkarni explains that every ASTM standard, no matter the topic, includes a precision and bias section, related, respectively, to the concept of repeatability and reproducibility. “The former is the precision you can get within your own lab, and the latter is your ability to get agreement with other laboratories, which, in commerce, is the more important of the two,” he says.

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