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Develop a Routine Schedule for Calibrating Precision Measurement Equipment

Precision measurement equipment is a crucial part of any manufacturing operation. Production lines must be able to measure their products reliably to ensure quality and address waste, but to do that, quality assurance technology needs oversight of its own. Consequently, measurement equipment calibration should play a key role in any facility.

The Importance of Routine Calibration

About 72% of manufacturing executives say ongoing critical material shortages pose the greatest challenge in the industry, so manufacturers must reduce their waste. That means optimizing your quality control processes to find errors and determine their source. However, you can’t do that effectively without having confidence in your measurement equipment’s accuracy.

Improved equipment accuracy also has financial implications. Some laser measurement tools can cut costs by 50% by reducing waste and enabling more precise controls. Regular calibration will ensure you can achieve those benefits over a longer period.

This calibration must happen along a site-specific schedule because each facility uses equipment differently. OEMs offer guidelines for measurement equipment calibration, but the rate you use these tools will impact their wear. Something not used frequently may not need regular calibration, but items used in high volumes will.

How to Develop a Measurement Equipment Calibration Schedule

Optimizing measurement equipment calibration means determining the ideal schedule for each tool you use. Here are six steps to follow to develop timelines for your facility.

Create a List of Your Equipment

The first step in creating a calibration schedule is to compile a comprehensive list of all the measurement equipment you use. Skyrocketing industrial real estate demand highlights the fact that manufacturing operations are growing, and many facilities must manage multiple production lines. That leaves you with many measurement technologies, making it easy to overlook some equipment if you’re not careful.

Creating a formal list of every precision measuring tool in your facility will ensure a fitting calibration schedule for each assembly line. Record each asset by a unique identifier like its serial number, then organize the list by type. This will give you a clearer view of how many things you have and how much you use each. Refer to this data throughout the rest of these steps to make the most informed decisions.

Review Relevant Regulations

Next, consider whether your tools fall under measurement equipment calibration regulations. Laws may not dictate specific requirements for quality control equipment, but many industries must uphold general standards. Non-legal industry standards like ISO 17025:2017 may also hold you to specific calibration practices and allowances.

A product’s more likely to meet particular calibration standards if its quality concerns end user safety. More tightly regulated sectors like medical manufacturing may also face higher requirements in this area.

Look through applicable regulations to see if your measurement equipment falls under these guidelines. These requirements and recommendations make it easier to determine acceptable calibration schedules. Even if none apply to you, they can provide a helpful baseline for your own standards.

Consider Usage, Age and Risks

The next step in determining a measurement equipment calibration schedule is to look at age, usage and risks. These factors affect how often you should calibrate each tool but vary by facility, so it’s important to quantify them carefully.

Older equipment should receive more frequent calibration than newer tools, as well as machines you use often since they’re more likely to fall out of acceptable error ranges sooner. Any items that would cause safety issues if they produce unreliable results likewise deserve higher priority.

So many factors can affect a tool’s reliability, so it’s best to look at your specific usage data. If a piece of equipment fell outside acceptable ranges in its past few calibration tests, you should calibrate it more frequently, regardless of manufacturer recommendations.

Assign Calibration Criticality for Each Tool

After you’ve followed the previous steps, you’ll have enough information to assign a calibration criticality score for each asset. This score represents how crucial it is for each tool based on its risks, age, usage and regulatory requirements. Plan to calibrate the most critical equipment most often.

What scale you use for these scores doesn’t matter as long as you apply the same scoring method across all measurement equipment. An easy way to approach it is to assign a score from one to 10 for each category, with higher numbers representing more criticality. Tools with the highest overall scores should have the shortest maintenance cycles.

Use these scores to form reliable calibration schedules. Keep third parties in mind when looking at specific timelines and dates. Some assets may require accredited calibration, and you must account for your accreditors’ schedules.

Design Calibration and Documentation Protocols

It’s important to remember that your measurement equipment calibration schedule should include more than just when to calibrate each machine. You should also provide specific documentation on approaching and recording these processes.

Even high-tech tools rely on the people who use them, so you should tackle human error in your calibration schedule. These mistakes stem from factors like interface design and communication, which more thorough documentation addresses. Write specific, easy-to-follow steps for calibrating equipment to standardize the process and prevent errors.

You should also standardize the documentation process. Having everyone record the same type of data and organize it in the same database makes it easier to detect trends and discover potential maintenance issues. Standardized documentation will also help reveal if your calibration schedule should change.

Enforce the Schedule

Finally, remember to enforce your calibration schedule. That begins with assigning employees specific times to measure each machine. You can also promote higher compliance by making it easier to stick to these timelines.

Internet of Things (IoT) technology can be helpful in this area. IoT sensors can track operational data and alert employees when these signals suggest a need for repair. Using systems like this to notify workers of calibration timelines can address these issues before they become larger problems.

Measurement Equipment Calibration Needs Routine Schedules

Measurement equipment calibration is critical for effective quality control. You must create and adhere to an asset-specific routine to make the most of these processes.

These six steps will help you develop a schedule to keep your measurement equipment in top condition. This allows you to trust your quality control processes, helping you reduce waste and enable ongoing improvements.

Author: Emily Newton – Editor-in-Chief