We’re super excited to announce that our illustrious Technical Director, Will Fardon, has been awarded the AGS Laboratories Working Group Award 2024 for his ‘invaluable work and ongoing contributions demonstrated to the Association of Geotechnical and Environmental Specialists.’
Will is delighted to have been recognised by the Association. He is happy to share his 20+years’ of experience in environmental analysis with the wider group.
He has worked with both public and private sector organisations in the delivery of multiple large-scale projects including national Water Company frameworks, the Environment Agency’s Chemical Investigation Program, large infrastructure projects such the Thames and Coventry Gateway developments, Thames Tideway Tunnel, Luton Airport amongst many others.
One of Will’s key areas of expertise is liaising with customers and colleagues prior to project commencement and throughout to look at appropriate application of analytical techniques and innovation to find cost effective solutions.
His broad knowledge of industry and legislative requirements along with access to modern analytical equipment means he can help define appropriate solutions to real world problems which has been acknowledged by AGS through this award.
Note: The AGS is a not-for-profit trade association established to improve the profile and quality of geotechnical and geoenvironmental engineering. The membership comprises UK organisations and individuals having a common interest in the business of ground investigation, geotechnics, geoenvironmental engineering, engineering geology, geochemistry, hydrogeology, and other related disciplines.
As an environmentally conscious environmental testing lab (easy for us to say), we are focused on becoming more environmentally responsible. Progress to date has been achieved in no small part through the work of our appointed ESG Champion, Gabriela Iacob, who has driven a ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ attitude to how we do things onsite.
It made sense to begin with focusing on efforts to reduce the amount of waste we produce; better not to have to reuse or recycle something that was not necessary to use in the first place!
We’ve made fantastic progress to date:
- We now use refillable cleaning products throughout the site. We colour coded these for each department – leading to some eclectic shopping lists!
- Lighting has been changed throughout the facility to energy efficient LED
- Cold stores now have alarms fitted to ensure the doors are not left open, also helping to preserve sample integrity
- Electric kettles have been replaced in the staff areas with hot water dispensers to the annoyance of staff who have a bigger than average mug
- Paper usage has been reduced as we have moved to more automated and electronic for data processing with the added bonus of fewer transcription errors.
- We have joined a scheme through Sartorius so that our old pipettes can be used for spare parts as opposed to them being fully recycled
- We are tremendously proud to have joined a plastic recycling programme through Elkay. This has been a real labour of love as there’s high potential for contamination; but through this programme over the last year, we have collected and recycled over 750kg of plastic waste that would otherwise have gone to landfill – an incredible volume!
- We have expanded what we are capable of recycling onsite to include batteries, printer cartridges and even old vapes (this is not an invitation to start sending these in with samples)
A day was organised (and then reorganised a few times because of terrible weather) to plant a wildflower meadow onsite; providing bees, butterflies and other pollinators with food throughout the year. On a single day in summer, one acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers, producing 1 kg of nectar sugar. That’s enough to support nearly 96,000 honeybees per day. We also purchased a birdfeeder to attract more wildlife on site including a variety of birds and a cheeky squirrel or two.
As the end of 2023 draws near, we’ve made our State of the Nation Survey live; designed to garner thoughts from the industry about what next year might bring.
We’re not expecting you to gaze into a crystal ball, but we’re sure you’ll have a few thoughts about the current state of the industry and the challenges that might present themselves in 2024. If we get enough responses, we’ll publish findings and drop a few thoughts into social media across January.
The survey will remain open until 5 January, so we hope you find a sometime to participate.
Kaizen is a process of making lots of small, ongoing changes that contribute to more significant overall improvements. From the Japanese meaning ‘change for better’, Kaizen utilises a combination of problem solving, waste identification and standardised working practices to refine and improve existing systems.
There are five principles that kaizen follows, including:
1 Know your customer
2 Let it flow
3 Go to Gemba
4 Empower people, and
5 Be transparent
In the spirit of the fifth principle, we’re sharing our experience of introducing Kaizen to an environmental testing lab.
In December 2022, the operations management team prepared a Kaizen roadmap to run from January 2023 to May 2025. The roadmap was designed to take us through every operational process in the lab and identify waste that could be eliminated at each stage.
The primary aim of the roadmap was to work on our turnaround time performance.
We kicked-off our first Kaizen Event in January 2023 which focussed on Sample Reception, Preparation and Aliquoting processes. It was a great learning experience for everyone at Chemtech and helped us to get to grips with the Kaizen process.
Following the week-long event, we continued refining the process for another two months during which time we eliminated lots of transportation (we have a 30,000 sq. ft facility) and waiting waste. The outcome was that samples were now passed to the laboratory for downstream processing 1-2 days earlier than the previous system.
Taking the valuable knowledge gained during first event (and more importantly learning what not to do again), we moved onto our Inorganics Department, holding a Kaizen Event in each area.
We started with combustion methodology (e.g., TOC – Total Organic Carbon and LOI – Loss on Ignition), then progressed to Colorimetric (e.g., Cyanide, Phenols, Hexavalent Chromium), Wet Chemistry (e.g., pH, EC, Sulphides) and Metals extractions.
Each Kaizen Event has two weeks of time dedicated to it, as well as a period of pre-work during which each step of the process is mapped out, and time studies are performed on each action.
Week One is all about planning, taking our existing processes and repeatedly asking ourselves Why? Why do we do the tests in this order? Why do we use X piece of kit vs. Y? Why do we load X number of samples onto an instrument instead of Y? Why do we store consumables in that specific location?
By following what can often be a challenging process and working within the remits of our UKAS accreditation requirements, we are able to redefine our understanding of the work we do and create new optimised processes with a focus on turnaround time and waste elimination.
We then move into Week Two of the event, which we can only compare to the kind of activity you see on Extreme Makeover Home Edition (or Lab Edition may be more appropriate in this case).
We clear out the existing area and then rebuild from scratch, following a Kaizen 5S methodology:
- Set up
During every event we managed to rebuild the process within two days while trying to manage workload and minimise delays. The outcome, however, is that results in the areas in which we have held Kaizen events, are available 1-2 days earlier to the reporting team.
As we near the close of 2023, we have begun to turn our attention to the Organics Department.
We’ve committed to significant capital investment already, but our roadmap is set to take us through to May 2025 and includes:
- Organics Extraction
- Organics Instrumentation
- Metals Instrumentation
However, we have already put more projects into our Kaizen Parking Lot, including:
- a review of our reporting processes post-LIMS implementation
- introduction of streamlined stock management systems
- a revisit to Sample Reception, Preparation and Aliquoting
Our on-time delivery continues to improve (when we don’t have instruments down; see an post from 25 October regarding improvements in this area) and we’ll be focusing on delivering a consistently reliable service moving into 2024.
So, what exactly have we been up to?
2023 has seen a successful UKAS audit against ISO17025 and MCERTS, with a strong focus on continual improvement, culminating in a number of extensions to our capabilities and schedule of accreditation.
Following significant investment in both the lab teams and instrumentation, we have added to our routine service offering (all under Kens watchful eye…)
- 2 new GCMS systems to extend capacity for PAH, SVOC, PCB analysis, with a successful application for the extension of our ISO17025 and MCERTS accreditation for PAHs in Soil.
- Setting up and accreditation to ISO17025 and MCERTS of a new ICPOES methodology for the analysis of metals in soil. Previously based on ICPMS, we have set a new robust soils analysis method on a brand-new instrument, cross validated on our existing system to provide a greater capacity for analysis combined with the faster run time available with OES to allow us greater flexibility in our service delivery and a more resilient service.
- To complement the soils analysis, we have a new ICPMS method for the testing of metals in waters (Groundwater, Surface Water, Effluent, Prepared Leachate and Landfill Leachate) which was successfully accredited to ISO17025, and the purchase of a second instrument to add further depth to our ongoing capacity.
- Accreditation of a new Discrete Analyser to improve scope and automation in the testing of anions and nutrients in both soils and waters. Analysis covered include Chromium VI, Ammoniacal Nitrogen, Chloride, Fluoride, Sulphate, Phosphate, Oxides of Nitrogen and Alkalinity. Accreditation has been conferred on a range of testing (see our UKAS schedule of accreditation for full details)
Doesn’t do to let the grass grow under your feet, so the next set of projects taking us into the New Year include:
- TPHCWG: As well as a recent exercise to re-assess levels of detection in soil, we are also performing a full validation with the intent to obtain accreditation to ISO17025 and MCERTS for our GCxGC method in soil, covering the Aliphatic and Aromatic hydrocarbon bands from C10 to C35. We hope to submit the Extension to Scope (ETS) this year, with accreditation to follow in 2024.
- Re-accreditation of our soils PCB method to MCERTS – following the purchase of some new instrumentation, we’re progressing a submission to re-add MCERTS accreditation to our PCB method in early 2024.
- More automation: in line with our principles of Lean management, continual improvement and efficiency we will this month take delivery of a new robotic titration system which will allow the automation of multiple titrimetric analyses, bring more operational efficiency and capacity.
- More BTEX: another area we’re investing heavily is expanding the instrumental platform for the analysis of BTEX and VPH (C5 – C10 Petroleum Hydrocarbons) with the additional of two new instruments (one in the building and another on its way) so we can complement the growing scope of accreditation in the area of TPH with additional capacity and higher throughput.
- Not content with new methods for routine metals, we’re also putting the new ICPOES to work adding accreditation for Water Soluble Boron and Water and Acid Soluble Sulphates to increase capacity and resilience.
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