Other Dimensions: Cheap Gage Control

July 1, 2003
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A binder and recipe box can eliminate costly software.

All quality standards require control of the gages and tools used for measuring product dimensions. Many companies believe they need a computer and special programs to handle tool control and verification. That may be the case when there are hundreds of gages to track, but for small companies that have a relatively small number of gages, the cost of sophisticated software-based systems can be prohibitive.

Here is a revolutionary solution to the problem: the 3-RB/RB program. It’s the lowest cost system anywhere. Instead of software, the 3-RB/RB system depends on soft hardware.

The 3-RB/RB system relies on a three-ring binder, a 3 by 5 recipe card box, and paper and cards. Also needed are due date stickers to put on the tools. If a company spends more than $50 for the entire set up, it has gone over budget. Here’s how the system works.

  • Step 1. Make a list of all measuring and gaging tools. This becomes the binder index. Number the tools on the index. These become the official tool numbers for tracking and control.
  • Step 2. Create a form that has columns for the make and model of the tool, tool capacity and calibration cycle. Include a prominent section on the form for the tool number. Also include a place to note traceability and acceptance criteria, i.e., how bad can the tool be before it is scrapped. Set up a calibration procedure box where a description or a procedure number describing the process for calibrating the tool, or an outside calibration lab, can be listed. Other, company-specific information can be added, but below this header information, there should be a vertical column each for date, calibration results and disposition. When completed, these sheets become the Gage Record Sheets, or the history of each tool in the 3-RB/RB system. Tools owned by employees need to be included in the system.
  • Step 3. Complete a sheet for each tool and file it by tool number in the binder.
  • Step 4. Complete a 3 by 5 file card for each tool, giving enough of a description, along with the tool number, to enable anyone to find the tool when needed. Each card is filed in the recipe box behind dividers that list the month when the tool is due for calibration.
  • Step 5. At the beginning of each month, pull the cards from the recipe box for the tools that need to be calibrated that month. Bring the gage or instrument and the card to the inspection department. Calibrate the tool, update the Gage Record Sheet and the follow-up card. Place the Gage Record Sheet in the binder and file the follow-up card under the month the tool is next due for calibration. Put a new calibration date on a sticker attached to the tool, and return the tool to service.

When there are only a small number of tools to calibrate, the 3-RB/RB system allows for omitting the follow-up cards. Make the last entry under calibration results on the Gage Record Sheet the date the tool is due for calibration. Each month, check the record sheets to see what needs to be calibrated.

Once a month, photocopy the Gage Record Sheets if there are only a small quantity, or those that have been updated. This second set is your backup system in case things go astray.

What about items sent to outside calibration laboratories? How are they handled in the 3-RB/RB system? When those tools come back, note on the Gage Record Sheet the date and name of the source, and under calibration results, reference the attached report issued by the calibration lab and keep it in the binder as well.

A company that wants to use the 3-RB/RB system can buy the paperwork, create its own or use a standard word processing program to prepare the forms. It’s possible to run the whole system on a computer, but then the acronym needs to be changed from 3-RB/RB.

No computer or expensive software is required. There is no need to worry about hard drive crashes. No special training is required to implement the 3-RB/RB system. And, no “extortion money” is required for computer program maintenance. What could be simpler or cheaper?

If you’ve understood what you’ve just read, you’re now officially trained in the use of the 3-RB/RB Gage Control Program-2003 Version. Your certificate is in the mail.

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