The Importance of Calibration and Special Considerations

Of course engineering tools and machinery must be properly calibrated. It’s so basic, we may not think about why that is.

So why is it? Ask a hundred engineers and you’ll probably get a variation on two answers:

  1. Because improperly calibrated tools lead to rejection, rework, scrap, and waste.
  2. Because your ISO certification may depend on it.

Of course, both answers are correct.

Correctly calibrating your equipment is important because improperly calibrated tools and measurement devices don’t perform exactly as you expect them to. Some examples are as common as a tire gauge that isn’t reading properly. The result may seem insignificant - increased tire wear due to under-inflation. But a torque wrench whose spring is “out of spec” delivers less torque per turn, which can result in nuts that aren’t as tight as manufacturer requirements, leading to potential safety hazards. The less room for error, the more cause for concern.

Calibration and the Bottom Line

Aside from compromising performance, component life, and sometimes even safety, improperly-calibrated tools result in work that is less than optimum for customers. Besides the obvious cost in time, scrap, and rework, as rejections pile up and deadlines are missed, your clients will start to look at your competitors.

It’s been brought up often enough, a technicians’ work is only as good as the tools they use to get the job done. If the tools are worn and out of calibration, then the work they help get finished is likely to be sub-par and in some instances just incorrect altogether. When it comes to hand tools, prevention is the simplest way to improve accuracy. Going back to the previous example, one way to do this is to keep torque wrenches at their lowest possible settings when not using them, which would help minimize wear on the springs. In the case of electronics though, things aren’t as simple.  Digital tools are made of physical materials that wear under ideal conditions, and are typically used under more extreme stresses including excessive heat, humidity, high concentrations of dust, and in the presence of high-voltage electricity.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself, and Your Supplier, About Calibration & Testing

Depending on conditions, hours used, and a variety of other factors, all tools can go off-spec at times – just part of the reason why regular calibration tests are a necessity.

When requesting a calibration, you and your testing supplier should discuss and come to an agreement on some important items. A few things to consider:

  • Do you need only data or is simply “Pass/Fail” acceptable?
  • Do you want an electrical only calibration?
  • What are your accuracy requirements? (Are they calibrated to manufacturer’s specs or do other standards apply?)
  • Do you want all parameters calibrated or just certain ones? (This may affect the cost and time required for the calibration)
  • Do you want the entire range calibrated or only what you use it for?
  • What turnaround time do you need?
  • Do you want to be notified if your equipment needs repair, adjustment, or any “Out-Of-Tolerance” conditions (Will you need a PO if repairs exceed a pre-approved amount?)

These factors and several others can affect the cost of the calibration, turnaround time, and your overall equipment maintenance program. At MATsolutions, we work with our customers to keep their equipment working as accurately as possible, and to avoid surprises regarding their calibration and testing parameters. Contact us with questions about any of your equipment specs, maintenance, or calibration concerns.

About Calibration and ISO Accreditation

If you’re in the group of engineers that answered “why is calibration important?” with “because your ISO certification may depend on it,” we understand.  We know meeting all the requirements of ISO Accreditation is always top of mind for our clients. Our quality program meets our clients’ rigorous demands, and we understand ISO from the inside-out, too. See our ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation information here and know that we’re always here to discuss your needs. Call us at 855-720-5256.