Measurement / Quality Exclusives

50 Years of Quality: Circling Back on Calibration

November 28, 2011
KEYWORDS calibration
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In the final installment of 50 Years of Quality, we take a look at how modern technology has transformed the calibration field.



Calibration Made Easier, May 2004

The papers can cram a filing cabinet, bulge a storage box, or fill up a hard drive, and still they keep coming. The records are those slips of papers or kilobyte-eating calibration files that grow by leaps and bounds as each gage goes through its calibration cycle.

“A company can have 10,000 gages on a yearly cycle and that equates to 10,000 certificates,” says Chuck Shaw, general manager of Starrett Calibration Services (Duncan, SC). “Considering they usually have to keep their paperwork for seven to 10 years, well, you do the math.”

Calibration service providers are looking to help ease this paperwork burden and often are turning to the Internet as a simple, cost savings and paperless solution.

Richard J. Bagan Inc. is an ISO 9001 and A2LA calibration lab that launched its Web efforts in the form of a product called Web Track. While other organizations have used the Internet for standard-related activities, especially the ISO series, Richard J. Bagan Inc. was one of the first to use it for calibration activities.

In the 1990s, the company was audited by a customer, a steel company, which was undergoing a cost-savings program. “I didn’t know what they were looking for,” says Dick Bagan, president and CEO. “I went to a purchasing manager’s convention and heard Bethlehem Steel talk about how they developed a cost-savings program that saved them money from reducing search time, among other savings. One plant saved more than $10 million.”

One of the cost-savings ideas led to the company opening up their computer systems to its customers. “It changed our thinking forever,” Bagan says. “We realized that we had to allow customers to come into our computer.”

Driving their thinking, Bagan says, was a need to be a leveraged resource for their customers to help them achieve cost savings. “In today’s world market, manufacturers have to reduce costs to stay in the game, and we try to fill that need,” he says.

The company built a software package, now dubbed Web Track, which is a task management system. Computers can check backlogs, manage task lists and set priorities. It is all Web based and users with a browser and a pin number can see all of its calibration activities, even among multiple plants, to know what is being calibrated and what needs to be calibrated, as well as to store gage histories and certificates.



Size Up Gage Calibration Software, May 2006

Most mid- to high-end gage management software will provide continuous adherence to common industry standards as well as scalability, and reliable product support and services. High-end systems provide a much more robust feature set of functionality, ease of use and report capabilities. “From the high-end you get more bells and whistles, which may or may not be used and sometimes makes the software too ‘busy,’” says Bill Browning, president of Software Technology (Cookeville, TN). “The cost is significantly higher because of overhead and advertising expense. From the low-end you get software that meets the requirements of gage calibration/gage studies, less the additional bells and whistles but at a cost that is significantly less.”

Many low-end packages are simply an inventory system with a log of calibration events and often little data integrity checking. However, there are some low-end packages out there that assist in compliance with current industry standards. But as Devin Brent Ellis, client solutions director at CyberMetrics Corp. (Scottsdale, AZ), points out, “They usually don’t have the resources to keep up with new technologies or changing standards so they are not a good pick for companies looking at the long haul or who are considering a large deployment of a common solution.”

Many low-end programs depend on other systems, such as Excel, to run their program. “There is nothing wrong with using systems like Excel, but you inherit that system’s limitation,” says Robert Fruit, certified quality engineer and Six Sigma black belt at Mitutoyo America Corp. (Aurora, IL). “For instance, Excel has many ways for users to interact with the gage values directly which can invalidate the accuracy of the records. There also can be backup issues when a low-end system creates multiple files for record storage. A high-end system typically uses a database backbone to save its records, which increases security because you must use the gage management program every time you want to work with the records. Backups may be a single file.”

To increase the number of options available, it is not uncommon to find two separate gage management software systems side by side in the same organization. “One takes measurements from a dimensional calibrator and controls dimensional gages,” says Richard Tatlow, managing director of Retriever Technology Ltd. (Tenbury Wells, UK). “The other is linked to electrical instrument calibrators and controls electrical instrumentation.

“Therefore, look for the company who asks a lot of questions about how you do business; they do this because they are interested in a good fit and a long-term relationship.”



Calibration Software Grows Up, April 2010

Most mid- to high-end gage management software will provide continuous adherence to common industry standards as well as scalability, and reliable product support and services. High-end systems provide a much more robust feature set of functionality, ease of use and report capabilities. “From the high-end you get more bells and whistles, which may or may not be used and sometimes makes the software too ‘busy,’” says Bill Browning, president of Software Technology (Cookeville, TN). “The cost is significantly higher because of overhead and advertising expense. From the low-end you get software that meets the requirements of gage calibration/gage studies, less the additional bells and whistles but at a cost that is significantly less.”

Many low-end packages are simply an inventory system with a log of calibration events and often little data integrity checking. However, there are some low-end packages out there that assist in compliance with current industry standards. But as Devin Brent Ellis, client solutions director at CyberMetrics Corp. (Scottsdale, AZ), points out, “They usually don’t have the resources to keep up with new technologies or changing standards so they are not a good pick for companies looking at the long haul or who are considering a large deployment of a common solution.”

Many low-end programs depend on other systems, such as Excel, to run their program. “There is nothing wrong with using systems like Excel, but you inherit that system’s limitation,” says Robert Fruit, certified quality engineer and Six Sigma black belt at Mitutoyo America Corp. (Aurora, IL). “For instance, Excel has many ways for users to interact with the gage values directly which can invalidate the accuracy of the records. There also can be backup issues when a low-end system creates multiple files for record storage. A high-end system typically uses a database backbone to save its records, which increases security because you must use the gage management program every time you want to work with the records. Backups may be a single file.”

To increase the number of options available, it is not uncommon to find two separate gage management software systems side by side in the same organization. “One takes measurements from a dimensional calibrator and controls dimensional gages,” says Richard Tatlow, managing director of Retriever Technology Ltd. (Tenbury Wells, UK). “The other is linked to electrical instrument calibrators and controls electrical instrumentation.

“Therefore, look for the company who asks a lot of questions about how you do business; they do this because they are interested in a good fit and a long-term relationship.”



Quality Online

Visit www.qualitymag.com to listen to the following Q-Cast podcasts on calibration:

Accrediting Your Calibration Lab

Calibration Management Software: Important Factors Manufacturers Need to Know

Critical Calibration: Taking Care of Your CMM

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Quality Manager

Ed Pietila
August 12, 2013
The last whole section: Calibration Software Grows Up, April 2010 is a repeat of the whole section: Size Up Gage Calibration Software, May 2006.

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