Here are some valid questions to ask your calibration service vendor to know you are getting what you pay for or need to ensure your company’s test, measurement, or diagnostic equipment audit trail is secure? Do you need to show or prove to your customers an audit trail? What level of liability or error are you trying to prevent or not be exposed too? You may not be aware that referencing only the ISO 9000-series specifications address quality management and not quality assurance for calibration. The ISO and industry specifications directly applicable to calibration are ANSI/NCSL Z540-1-1994, ISO Guide 25, ISO 17025, and ISO 10012. Please Note: Mil. Std. 45662A was retired in 1995 by the U.S. DoD and ISO 17025 is a quality management system that can be accredited, comparable but different from certification; it encompasses all aspects of the laboratory, not just quality management.
So, a good question to ask your quality manager, “Is our calibration vendor up to date and following the best or required industry practices?” If not, how does that effect the business? It could be affecting your bottom line, especially when dollar for dollar you could be getting more cost savings by improving product assurance and reliability, reducing recall or defective product, and remove doubt or exposure to questionable, underqualified, or unqualified liabilities from inadequate level of calibration.
If your contracts or specifications require compliance to ANSI Z540-1994, ISO Guide 25, ISO 17025 or ISO 10012, you should be receiving “as found” and “as left” data on the equipment you have calibrated, plus statements of uncertainty for all parameters tested. Some calibration vendors don’t provide this information and you may think you don’t need it. However, calibration data is an important tool in process control – and when it comes to ISO accreditation/registration within your company—wouldn’t you rather deal with a “preventive action” than a “corrective action”? Obtaining data will provide you with an overview of process trends in your equipment. (If the trend is toward an “out-of-tolerance” condition, reducing the calibration interval or adjusting your equipment prior to evidence of the out-of-tolerance condition may save you some major headaches, such as recalls and $$$$)
ACCREDITED LAB / SCOPE OF WORK COVERED
Do you need an accredited lab to perform your calibration to comply with QS9000, AS9000, or government agency contract requirement? Field Calibrations is accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 through International Accreditation Service (IAS) as Calibration Laboratory CL-112 which has met the requirements of the IAS Accreditation Criteria for Calibration Laboratories (AC204), which has demonstrated compliance with the ISO/IEC Standard 17025:2005, General requirements of the competence of testing and calibration laboratories. The Laboratory meets IAS program requirements in the field of calibration for the Scope of Accreditation and Certification as stated. See our website for a copy of our documentation.
If you’re already using an accredited lab, have you verified that the equipment you’re having calibrated falls within their scope of accreditation? We’ve been surprised to discover that some calibration facilities are not distinguishing to their clients what services are accredited and what are not. Have you been misinformed? Compliant and Accredited are not the same. Compliant labs have not gone through the formal third-party accreditation audit process, which is not acceptable for aerospace and other stringent quality programs. You may want to ask your current provider for their scope of accreditation and compare it against the work you’re having them perform. Better that you find the oversight than an auditor or even worse, an incident investigator.
WHAT ARE NIST TEST NUMBERS’s
Does your calibration vendor provide you with the applicable NIST test numbers? This is a trick question. NIST traceability is not validated by the application of NIST test numbers to Certificates of Calibration. In fact, according the National Conference of Standards Laboratories, test report numbers issued by NIST are intended to be used solely for administrative purposes. Although they are often used to uniquely identify documents which bear evidence of traceability, test report numbers should not be used nor required as proof of the adequacy of traceability of a test or measurement. It should be noted that nationally and internationally recognized standards dealing with test and measurement quality requirements such as ANSI/NCSL Z540-1-1994, ISO 10012, ISO/IEC Guide 25 and the ISO 9000-series do not require the use or reporting of NIST Test Report Numbers to establish traceability. A definition of traceability appears in the International Vocabulary of Basic and General Terms in Metrology, 1993, Section 6.10. (NCSL Position Statement 96-1, May 1996) Furthermore, a few heavy hitters in the field of calibration (Hewlett Packard and Fluke Corporation) made their own declarations several years ago in an open letter to the NCSL stating that the transfer of NIST numbers was actually an inappropriate use of them. (We can furnish you with copies upon request.)
Have you ever asked your calibration vendor what procedure will be used to service your equipment? Are they using the manufacturer’s procedure, or one they’ve created themselves? There often is nothing wrong with using a procedure developed “in-house”, and in some cases an “in-house” procedure or one derived from another source (such as the US Navy, Air Force, etc.) can be more thorough than one provided by the manufacturer. However, be aware that you may not be receiving all that you think you are. Calibrating to the manufacturer’s specifications does not necessarily mean calibrating to the manufacturer’s specifications following suitable procedures. Some labs abbreviate tests, checking only certain functions they consider vital to the overall accuracy of the instrument—or maybe they perform the “calibration” (i.e. adjustment) procedure only without obtaining the “as found” results first. Again, there may be nothing wrong with either approach if it fits your needs. Just be aware that those quotes you received for what you thought was similar service may be dissimilar in more than price alone.
ALIGNMENTS / ADJUSTMENTS
Does your calibration vendor charge extra to adjust your equipment? Or does your vendor charge for adjustment under the guise of “repair charges”? Except in very rare instances where you will be advised in advance, FCI does not charge for adjusting your equipment. When repairs are performed (always with your prior approval), we detail what was performed on your Certificate of Calibration.
Does your vendor adjust only when an out of tolerance condition is evident? Our staff adjusts your equipment after all “BEFORE or AS-FOUND” readings are recorded whenever your equipment exceeds or nears its permitted limits. We then provide you with the “corrected” readings. We consider that all part our services and think that’s one of the functions of calibration. Shouldn’t you?
Lastly, does your calibration vendor notify you when equipment is coming due for recalibration? How about past due notices? “Exception Reports” listing all equipment found out of tolerance or malfunctioning upon initial testing? Seems to us, these are things that might make your job just a little easier and will help insure the reliability and traceability of your quality assurance program is thorough and correct.
WHY CHOOSE FIELD CALIBRATIONS, INC
It is generally accepted that, “everything with a value is somehow measured to prove that value,” and that proof, accuracy, or reputation of judgement on that worth should originate from somewhere with certain degree of confidence. Calibration is the application of Metrology, the Science of Measurement. The fundamental importance of authentic calibration is to measure accurately and provide certified detailed information and data. Evidence of worth of an item can be skewed depending on the origin of the certified credential it carries; the same can be said for a calibration provider’s credentials as to how they produce their certainty of measurement and supporting data. In the world of measurement, Field Calibrations Inc. has 35 years of experience as a quality service provider and is priced fairly for the high level of detailed service delivered. When you think dollar for dollar, you need to know you are getting great value for accurate, reliable, and reputable service. Our customers have told us they use Field Calibrations, Inc. as a benchmark small business that they measure others by, and we appreciate that kindly.
It is important to know the details of the actual value being received to what you trust the company is being provided versus what the business legal/contractual requirement might not really be receiving. The above questions are good to ask of your current or potential calibration provider, and all should give almost identical answers if you are vetting for an accredited lab. Calibration is a tool to all to ensure the profit center avoids potential exposure to expenses or liabilities it didn’t know existed; accuracy, honesty, and above all else, traceable recorded measurements are the qualities of good calibration recall program.
Contact us at (480) 756-8828 / FAX (480) 756-8829 / email: firstname.lastname@example.org for any additional questions or comments. I thank you for time and hope this has been an informative brief to help you in your decision process.