Finding the Right Calibration Service Provider – 8 Important Questions to Ask

It’s critical to have confidence in the equipment that you use to measure and test your products and tooling. This equipment helps ensure the quality and performance of your products, and, therefore, the satisfaction of your customers.

This “measurement confidence” can be quantified by the performance specifications of your equipment, and calibration is the process that certifies your equipment is performing accurately and within specified tolerances. Therefore, it is paramount to find a calibration service provider that will best meet your needs.

Here are 8 key questions that you should ask to determine the most suitable calibration service provider for you:

1.   Is the calibration laboratory sufficiently accredited?

Accreditation is a good indication of the service provider’s calibration quality and competency. Look for certifications like ISO 9001 and ISO/IEC 17025. There are many commonalities with the ISO 9000 standard, but ISO/IEC 17025 adds in the concept of competence to the equation. And it applies directly to those organizations that produce testing and calibration results. Ensure that the calibration service provider has the accreditations that you require.

2.   Is the lab able to calibrate the majority of my key equipment?

Chances are, you have many items which require calibration. It is a strategic choice to go for a service provider that can calibrate the majority of your key equipment, meaning that which is crucial to the continuous operation of your organization. Selecting a service provider that is able to calibrate all or most of your key equipment can reduce logistics complexities and has the advantage of one-point escalation for any issues, thus saving both time and money.

3.   Does the service provider cover all the options, parameters and ranges as per my key specifications?

All instruments are meant for specific purposes. To fulfill these purposes, they must perform within certain specifications and accuracies. Some equipment will include special options to perform specific tasks. Therefore, it is critical to ensure beforehand that the service provider is able to calibrate all the options, parameters and ranges as per your key specifications. List out in detail all of your requirements and discuss them with the prospective calibration service provider.

4.    What is the traceability of the standards used?

Confirm that the required measurement capability is traceable to a national metrology institute like NIST. Traceability will give you the confidence that the equipment used to calibrate your equipment is performing within its intended specifications, as it is part of an unbroken chain of references to national or international standards. This is usually reflected in the calibration report.

5.   Can the provider adjust or repair the equipment if it fails any of its performance tests?

In some instances, you will have equipment which fails calibration, meaning it is not performing within its specified accuracies and limits. What happens then? If the service provider is unable to perform any adjustments or repair, they would have to send it to another vendor that can make these adjustments. This translates into longer turnaround time and additional costs for you. Instead, look for a calibration service provider that also offers repair services.

6.   What is included in the calibration report?

Get a sample copy of a calibration report or a mock-up report to see if the report details are sufficient for your needs. Ensure that information such as your equipment information, traceability, test specifications, tolerances, results and coverage meets your needs, such as customer requirements, audits and regulations.

7.   Is the turnaround time acceptable?

Your equipment is key to your operation, so scheduling and minimizing equipment downtime is important. Check the turnaround time for calibrating your instruments, and remember to factor in time for shipping and possible repairs for items which may be out of tolerance or have a history of failures. In addition, some service providers offer expedited services such as a 24-hour turnaround time or onsite service, both which can reduce downtime from days to hours.

8.   Does the service provider use any calibration inventory management software?

To make your life easier, look for a service provider that uses some form of calibration asset management software. With this feature, you have access to online calibration certificates, asset lists and detail, service history, and work-in-progress. This becomes particularly helpful when you have a lot of equipment to manage, and when your asset inventory is spread across many physical locations.

Are you considering a new calibration service provider? Do you have calibration-related questions about specific test equipment instruments? MAT provides calibration and repair services for a variety of equipment by numerous manufacturers, and we’re available to answer any questions you may have as you review which calibration service provider is most appropriate for your company.

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