Calibration Part 2: Supporting accuracy supports the bottom line

ABB’s Trevor Dunger examines the legislative pressures of calibration and how improving technological progress is driving calibration standards.

Legislative pressure

Last time we explored the importance of accurate monitoring and control regime in turbulent economic times. As well as contending with financial pressures, companies are also under growing pressure for more measurement accuracy emerging from the legislative arena too.

Environmental monitoring under the Environmental Permitting Regulations (EPR) is a great example, with companies in the process and water industries now required to establish and maintain effective monitoring of their emissions of air and water within extremely tight margins of error. Slip up here and companies could face prosecution, fines or even lose their license to operate.

Technological progress

On a more positive note, improving technology is also playing a role in driving calibration standards, because more accurate calibration is called for as the measurement accuracy of the instruments being tested improves. The existing IEC 61298 standard states that the measuring equipment for process measurement and control devices should display a measurement uncertainty that is four times better than that of the device being calibrated.

Back to the bottom line

Calibration can be a difficult and expensive challenge as the cost for supporting some plant-based instrumentation can be 10% of the original purchase price on a yearly basis. Nevertheless, calibration is essential, so the key thing is to get the right regime in place to ensure that the investment in testing is not wasted.

When should you calibrate?

The right time to calibrate a specific piece of equipment will depend on the type of instrument and the criticality of the job it’s doing. There are some common situations that typically call for calibration, such as:

• With a new instrument
• At time intervals specified by the manufacturer or regulator
• After a specified number of operating hours or usage cycles
• When an instrument has had a physical shock or vibration that might potentially put it out of calibration
• Following sudden changes in the weather
• Whenever the output appears doubtful.

Who can help?

Suppliers and laboratories offering calibration services in Britain are accredited by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).

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