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ISTA Secretariat, Bassersdorf, Switzerland

A Quality Assurance workshop was held at the ISTA Secretariat in conjunction with the ISTA Annual Meeting 2009. It was successfully advertised and 30 participants from 20 different countries arrived to take part in the three day program.

The instructors included both of the system auditors, Jette Nydam and Mary Jane Kelly from the Accreditation Department of the Secretariat as well as technical auditor, Joel Léchappé, head of the National Seed testing Station – G.E.V.E.S. in Angers, France. Ronald Don, chair of the Germination Committee, unfortunately for all involved, could not take part as a lecturer, due to the other ISTA commitments.
The following subjects were covered using practical and theoretical exercises which involved both individual and group work:

Internal Quality Control – presented by Jette Nydam
Non-Conforming Work – presented by Mary Jane Kelly and Jette Nydam
Technical Issues – presented by Joel Léchappé
General Matters – presented by Jette Nydam
Internal Quality Control is one of the ISTA Accreditation Standards and a good way to give an overview of the performance in the laboratory. Some examples given in the training included the use of half-working samples and spiked samples in purity, ring tests in germination and /or retesting of one sample every week. When enough data is collected, as the group was shown, trends become visible and statistical analysis of the results can be carried out. This will ensure that non-conforming work will be detected and preventive actions put into place to ensure that it will not matter who in the laboratory is sampling, testing or evaluating or which equipment is used. Three exercises on trend analysis given in the morning session were carried over and completed in the afternoon when participants were given further information to solve them. They had to analyse the data, identify a root cause for the problems and come up with corrective actions.
The control of non-conforming work in testing and sampling is also one of the ISTA Accreditation Standards and laboratories must have a policy and procedures in place to deal with it. The participants were asked to design a form for reporting non-conforming work, the root cause of it, corrective and preventive actions put in place and then the follow-up measures taken before the incident could be closed off. Another individual exercise involved deciding on whether or not six different incidents really were non-conformities.

Dr. Léchappé presented technical topics which included errors, corrections/adjustments, uncertainty of measurement, tolerances and conformity of equipment - in this case, balances and thermometers. The several hands-on exercises had everyone busy doing calculations. The group enjoyed the challenges he presented to them and there was much discussion generated.

The General matters subject included four workgroups with following topics: Purchase policy, Follow-up on PT performance, Calibration of equipment, and Management, organization and validation of software. Each workgroup was asked to deal with all of the questions on each topic but then were assigned one of the topics to prepare for presentation to the other groups.
The final hour of the Workshop was devoted to the presentation of a “Jeopardy-style” quiz show. Participants of this game were divided into five teams. Shown on a screen were five main categories each containing five questions. The categories were as follows: ISTA Rules, Orange International Certificates, the ISTA Accreditation Standard, Quality Assurance and Audits. This was a fun, stress-relieving exercise to finish off a busy two days.
The solutions to all exercises were provided in hardcopy format in each participant’s binder. The course evaluation forms were very positive and everyone appreciated the practical examples taken from real life experiences that were used in the presentations.
A workshop excursion to the city of Zurich took place for interested participants. There was a guided tour of 2 hours walk through the very heart of Zurich, finishing at the Zurich’ lake. With perfect Saturday weather a nice lunch was organised on the terrace of the Zurich famous fish restaurant. Afterwards, participants enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere in the nearby China garden and went for a boat tour. Late afternoon was reserved for ‘window-shopping’ at the ‘Bahnhofstrasse’, one of the most expensive streets in the world.
If you missed out on this one, there is another Quality Workshop scheduled for October 19th through 23rd in New Zealand!  Details are available on the ISTA Website.


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