For example, if analytical results are less than your desired goal, your laboratory should be able to provide you with additional support, such as consulting and auditing to further examine potential hurdles to your goal. For example, if your environmental samples demonstrate unacceptable microbial levels, your lab should offer consulting and auditing services to help you work through processing hurdles and potential niche areas in the facility to ultimately support effective sanitation procedures.
Similarly, if you are having issues with the integrity of finished products, such as a diminished shelf life or abnormal appearance, your lab should have the technical expertise to recommend such key components as raw materials, ingredients and packaging for the development of a resolution plan.
Networking should also be an extension of your laboratory services. Through your lab, you should have open access to a network of resources and contacts that can support you and your organization as needs arise, or simply to keep you informed. Laboratories that are actively involved in industry trade meetings and technical sessions, and have long-standing relationships with industry leaders can provide information and support faster and with more depth. Laboratory partners that uphold and maintain such relationships can more strategically guide you through technological advances and regulatory change.
Effective management is key to any operation that relies on the skills of individual employees. The laboratory business offers many great technological advances, and in some cases, automation; however, it is still founded on the basic skills of the laboratory technician. Make sure that your laboratory partner maintains a strong management presence that ensures the principles of the quality system are maintained, in particular as they relate to employee training and competence, verification of results, and customer service. A committed approach to technical training and support is critical. Moreover, the depth of a laboratory’s technical support should be obvious form its overall knowledge base, and more importantly, with regard to available technical staff. Direct and timely access to trained technical staff for questions and information is directly proportional your ability to address needs as they arise.
Wendy Warren-Serna, Ph.D. is director of technical services for Food Safety Net Services. Reach her at 210-308-0675, ext. 220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.