4 Considerations When Partnering with a Calibration Service Provider
2020-02-03 | 8 min read
Keeping your electronic test instruments calibrated is critical to the development of quality products. Downtime due to inadequate calibration means potentially inaccurate measurements, missed project goals, and inefficiencies that can result in being late to market. To ensure your competitive advantage, it’s important to get reliable calibration from a service provider you can trust.
In what follows, we offer four considerations to keep in mind as you work with your calibration provider to get the best possible service for your measurement and test tools. Use these considerations as a starting point when seeking a new service provider or evaluating your existing provider
- Accurate calibration: Achieving the right level of calibration is essential to ensure the ongoing accuracy of your test equipment and to avoid costly mistakes like false passes and product recalls. Not every calibration process and calibration laboratory provide the same level of service.
- It’s important to measure the performance of every warranted specification and each installed option. You typically buy an instrument after checking the measurement performance specifications on a datasheet. As time passes, the instrument’s internal components – oscillators, drift, resistor age, and more – may change. To check for these effects, review your last measurement report to verify the calibration of each specification.
- The service provider performs calibrations with low measurement uncertainty. Measurement uncertainty is an important consideration. Like the variance that occurs when using an instrument to measure a device, variance also exists when measuring your instrument. The lower the uncertainty, the greater your confidence that the equipment is working within its specifications.
- Accreditation is a formal audit of a calibration lab; you need to ensure the lab you’re using can prove it. Accreditation confirms a service provider’s competence in specific measurements. If a lab making measurements isn’t accredited, the level of accuracy is unknown and the risk transfers to you. Accreditation for a specific parameter is important; confirm the lab uses equipment with the latest technology and software to ensure measurement certainty.
- Obtain certificates of accreditation for every measurement parameter. Almost every calibration lab provides a certificate of accreditation, the formal recognition by an authoritative body that an organization is competent. However, you must go beyond the certificate and ask, for example, about RF absolute power — does the provider offer source range 100 kHz < f ≤ 300 kHz or S1 reflection range 50 to 67 GHz? Verify the details of each critical measurement accreditation. If you don’t verify these details, you may find that a critical parameter isn’t within factory specification and therefore, the measurement accuracy is unknown.
- The calibration provider performs accurate adjustments and repairs. While calibration is essential, it’s only part of the process. You will need to make sure that routine adjustments and minor repairs are also included.
- Confirm that your partner performs necessary adjustments and repairs to meet specifications. When an instrument is out of specification, there are two ways to fix the problem — adjust the relevant part or, if it’s broken, repair the part. Adjustments can often return an instrument to specification. A calibration provider that does both delivers enormous value. Those that can’t resolve the issues often ship the unit to the manufacturer for repair; this outsourcing greatly increases downtime and cost.
- Make sure your partner uses genuine parts from the original equipment manufacturer. Unfortunately, counterfeit parts are prevalent in the marketplace. Parts that don’t match the original design of the instrument can cause overheating and early failures. If you’re seeking short-term cost savings, it simply isn’t worth the risk.
- Verify quick and reliable turnaround times for calibration and repair. In manufacturing, every minute of downtime can mean a substantial profit loss. In R&D, each day of downtime can mean a time-to-market delay. Turnaround time is increasingly important in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.
- Make certain that your service partner offers delivery options. There are several ways to shorten instrument downtime. For example, mobile calibration labs can come to your site and provide calibrations and adjustments. While mobile calibration labs are usually more expensive than the cost of sending a unit to the vendor’s lab, the cost is often substantially less than extended downtime and lost productivity.
- Guarantee that your service partner specifies a turnaround time and meets it. Make sure that your service provider offers a specific timeframe that you can depend on to make repairs and calibrations. The provider should offer expediting services and service contracts when you request them.
- Technical support and cloud-based tools help manage your equipment. These may seem like “extras,” but costly delays result from waiting on tools, answers, or guidance. When you have questions, you can’t afford to wait.
- Assure that you receive cloud-based support. Cloud-based tools should offer you direct access to create, manage, and view real-time updates of your service cases and equipment. These online resources may also provide calibration-due alerts and other useful tools.
- Access to technical support that works for you. Confirm that you have 24/7 access to a searchable database or personalized technical support team when you need it. It’s important to get a complete picture of the support you will receive to keep you moving forward.
Setting clear expectations of your service requirements will help you get the calibration, repairs, and support you need to keep your business and processes running smoothly. Robust service helps deliver superior results whether you’re trying to get products to market faster in R&D, increase product quality, or reduce costs in manufacturing.
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