There's no need to drag in a computer or software.

Despite what you may think, there are still a large number of companies that have not implemented a quality program into their operations. And there is an equally large number that have done so, but the gage control portion is out of control.

Many people consider such schemes too costly for their small operation and only get involved when they are forced to by their customers. In many cases, they are correct, but the costs involved are a direct result of how the system is implemented rather than what is being implemented.

The requirement that probably causes the most grief and expense is control over the gages and instruments that are part of any program. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, you can start and maintain a gage control program before you get into an overall quality program, and then add it to the quality program at a later date.

Being a simple person, what I will outline is a simple way to get into the game. If you can handle writing with a pen or pencil, there’s no need to start dragging a computer or software into things. When the number of devices under control increases, a computer can be handy but is not a necessity.

Necessary Equipment

The only equipment you need is a three-ring binder and lined notebook paper. You’ll note that, in keeping with current lean quality trends, this is about as lean as you’ll get. Also, you should have some calibration status stickers.

The Plan

Every quality standard requires you to have each device used to qualify, verify or confirm that a component feature or function meets a standard is under control. This means you know what stuff you have, what state it’s in and when it is due for calibration, as well as records that show all the relevant details.

Forging Ahead

Assign a unique tool number to each item in your program. Where sets are involved, such as a micrometer with interchangeable anvils, add a suffix to the main number so each piece is recorded and you know which set it belongs to.

Make up a gage record sheet for each item in your list. It should include the tool number, description of the item, the accuracy you want it maintained to, date and results of its last calibration, and the date it is due for the next one. It also should indicate who calibrated the item whether it was done in-house or by an outside lab.

File the sheets in the binder by their tool number. Complete a calibration status sticker and attach it to the item in question, and you’re good to go.

Each month, review the due date on each sheet to determine what needs to be calibrated that month.

If you don’t want the hassle of checking each sheet every month, there’s an easy way around this. Head up a sheet for each month and when an item is entered into the system, enter the tool number for it on the appropriate month’s sheet when it is to be calibrated. Once it’s done, cross if off with a single line through the entry or a check mark and the date it was done. Enter the tool number on the sheet for the next month the item is to be calibrated.

If you allow employees to use their own tools, they will have to be included in your system. Prefix the tool number with the employee’s initials so you know it is not a company-owned item and where you’ll likely find it.

When any instrument or gage is removed from the system, draw a diagonal line across the gage record sheet noting the date last used and file the sheet at the back of the binder. You could add a note to indicate what happened such as rejected, missing in action, stolen, etc.

You’re probably wondering where the catch is because it can’t be that simple. The only catch-if there is one-is that you have to follow the process on a consistent basis. Other than that, a 1-inch capacity three-ring binder will house a system good for more than 50 items.