Are you considering performing calibrations yourself or outsourcing them? Then this blog is definitely of interest to you! Which option is the best, and which factors should you consider? We will be happy to tell you all about it.
Anyone who regularly works with measuring equipment must have it calibrated. Calibrating the instrument can ensure that the deviations are within acceptable margins. Calibration can be a legal requirement but is also essential to guarantee product quality and to ensure that processes run efficiently and safely. Calibration is also part of preventive maintenance. But how do you determine whether you should outsource calibration or whether it is better to do it in-house?
Whether it is better to calibrate equipment yourself or to leave it to an external specialist depends on various factors, and the factors can also influence each other:
We will explain each factor in more detail. Deciding whether to calibrate yourself or outsource the task is about finding the right balance between special needs, cost, efficiency, and practicality.
Before making a good decision, you need to have an overview of the number and type of instruments that need to be calibrated. The number of instruments obviously affects the time you spend calibrating, and the type of instrument determines the expertise and facilities required for calibration.
Most companies see an increase in the number of instruments that need to be calibrated. This may be because the company is growing due to stricter (control of) requirements from quality systems. These can be internal requirements but can also result from company certification. When making your decision, consider whether this will still be the right choice in a few years.
If there are only a few instruments to calibrate, but you already have the expertise and facilities for this in-house, then calibrating yourself can be the best choice. If you lack the facilities and expertise and have few instruments, it is often better to outsource calibration to the supplier or another external party.
If there are many instruments to calibrate, building facilities and expertise may be interesting, or maintaining them if you already have them. Whether this is the case depends, among other things, on the following factor: type of business operations and time.
Each measuring instrument is used differently by each company. Calibration is critical for product safety in one company, and measurement results must always be available and traceable. In another case, recording whether the instrument is within or outside of specification at the time of calibration is sufficient. The time required to calibrate an instrument is also determined by the nature of the business operations. Some businesses prefer to calibrate as many instruments as possible at once, while others prefer to spread the calibrations out as much as possible over the course of the year. This can be freely chosen at times, but it is often a logical consequence of the type of business.
For example, companies in the process industry frequently work with maintenance stops. The installation is paused here for planned maintenance. During this time, all of the installation's instruments are calibrated. Stopping the installation at other times to perform calibrations is then undesirable.
Some companies operate 1 large plant. In that case, all calibrations will have to take place in a short period. Others run several independent installations side by side and can spread the maintenance more by servicing 1 installation at a time. In that case, the workload is more spread out.
So business operations determine the timing and the time available. If you have to perform many calibrations in a short period, ask yourself if you can free up enough skilled employees to fulfill all those calibrations without other processes suffering. In addition to performing the measurements, time is also needed to assess the results and record them correctly. The system you work with will determine the amount of time you spend on this administration. Make sure you schedule enough time so that calibrations do not have to be rushed and mistakes are made. If you can automate calibrations, it makes them less error-prone and more efficient.
To be able to make good plans and determine when to calibrate the instruments, it is therefore beneficial to have an understanding of the instrument's location (machine, installation, work bus customer location, etc.) and how it is used, in addition to an overview of the number and type of instruments.
Of course, the available budget plays an important role. If you want to outsource calibration work, you can get quotes and determine if it fits within your budget. The quality of the quotes will depend on the information you can provide yourself. It is also helpful to have the instrument overview as complete as possible. It also helps you avoid surprises during the execution. In this way, you can prevent, for example, costs for additional work.
Suppose you want to perform calibrations in-house, in addition to the cost of calibration equipment and maintenance. In that case, you must also consider the hours spent on calibrations and keeping records of them. This also includes keeping the knowledge and expertise of the staff up to date.
Part of the calibrations can often be carried out well in-house. At the same time, it is relatively expensive to set up and maintain all the facilities yourself for another part. You can opt for a mix, where only part of the calibrations is outsourced.
Calibration is a profession that requires expertise. You can learn some things in a training course and others in practice. There is often a lot of knowledge in the heads of employees. In part, this is unnecessary. Recording and calibrating information about the instruments makes it easier to train new people quickly.
If you want to perform calibrations in-house, ask yourself whether you have or can get sufficient expertise in-house. If you wish to outsource calibrations, ask yourself how you evaluate whether your supplier has enough in-house expertise.
Each option has its own risks. If you opt for in-house management, you must ensure the facilities and competent people are available. On the other hand, if you manage it yourself, you can shift the calibration time more efficiently, and you may not lose the instruments for as long. When you outsource calibrations, the risk can be that you become too dependent on a supplier.
What should you look for if you decide to outsource the calibration work?
If you outsource calibration, you want the quality of it to be good. Companies that perform calibrations can be certified for this under ISO 17025. Certification under this standard is also called accreditation. Accreditation may only be done by special authorities. In Europe, every country has its own accreditation organization. The Netherlands has the RvA, Germany DAKKS, and England the UKAS. An accreditation issued by one government can also be accepted in another. This is then registered with the ILAC. If you have a foreign supplier, it is essential to check whether their accreditation is also accepted in your country.
A supplier can be accredited by quantity and measurement area. For example, a supplier may be accredited to perform pressure calibrations in the measurement area 0...10 barg. This supplier is not accredited to perform temperature or pressure calibrations up to 100 bar. These kinds of details can be found on the scope document of the supplier. This document can be requested from the accrediting organization. It states per accredited quantity and measuring range with which accuracy the calibrations can be carried out. You can use this document to check whether the company has the right in-house expertise.
In addition to this standard for performing calibrations, a supplier may have a variety of other certifications that may be relevant. Think of ISO9001 for general quality management and different industry-specific standards for working in aviation or pharmaceuticals.
It must be clear how the calibration data will be handled and who manages it to outsource calibrations. Ask yourself: Who keeps the overview of the calibration work? How is the calibration data stored and communicated? Who checks whether the calibration results are satisfactory and how do you record this? Sometimes you can agree that your supplier enters the calibration data into your software, so you always remain the data owner. If you want to be able to analyze trends, it is also essential that the data is available.
Whatever choice you make, calibration software always makes the job easier. All data is available centrally, so you always have insight into the calibration status of your equipment. You also have the current instrument overview available.
You can also synchronize all this data via an API with other systems, such as an asset management system. This saves time and prevents errors when transferring data. With a system like AutoCal+, you control your data completely. You can also automate the calibrations. This makes you less error-prone and more efficient.
Before you decide whether to outsource or perform the calibrations in-house, ensure you have a good overview of the instruments to be calibrated. In that overview, you record how many instruments you have, what kind of instrument it is, and when it needs to be calibrated.
From that overview, the expertise, facilities, and capacity needed to perform the calibrations will be determined, and based on the instrument overview, a supplier can also provide a good quote.
Now that you have a complete overview of the costs, required expertise, facilities, and risks, you can decide whether it is better to outsource the calibrations, not, partially, or completely. Calibration software can be very useful in both cases.
Curious about what professional and user-friendly calibration software can do for your organization? Then feel free to look at the website of AutoCal or contact us without any obligations.
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