Calibration Outsourcing vs. In House Calibration - Outrageous Costs of Calibration

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Cathy Everett

#1
I work in a company that outsources all of its calibration to various outside sources. What do I need to do in order to be able to accomplish simple calibration tasks in house and save on the outrageous costs of calibration? I am not looking to take away all outsourcing. But calibration of hand tools should easily be accomplished internally unless that is a violation of my ISO 9001 certification. I think as long as my master standard blocks, weights, etc. have been calibrated by an outside source and it is traceable to NIST, I should be ok at doing this, any opinions?
 

AndyN

A problem shared...
Staff member
Super Moderator
#2
Well Cathy, that's an interesting question. From my experience I would tell you that although the figure may seem outrageous it's often because you aren't working with your cal. supplier to reduce costs.

My guess is, especially since you outsource all of it, that you don't have anyone who is (truly) competent to run a calibration system and you are, therefore, at the mercy of the supplier. I'm even going to go out on a limb and say your frequency of equipment calibration is annually or something similar and your lab just loves you for it........(and I don't mean your dog, either.):lol:

It's a bit like taking your car in for oil changes every 3,000 miles - you are actually throwing away good oil! But since you're at the mercy of the oil change folks and the oil makers, you go along with it. Worse still, do you really want to do that yourself???

Calibration done internally could be an option, but you're going to need a lot more than just the few items you listed. You'll have to have some controls over the calibration environment, someone 'competent' to perform the work, maintain a database of records (actually, you should have that anyway), have some documentation of the way to calibrate (or get some industry standards), have a way to deal with adjusting frequency of recall, etc. To go all the way to manage equipment, you should understand concepts such as linearity, bias, stability and uncertainty, not simply traceability.

Without these kinds of core skills/knowledge, it's going to cost lot more.......

It's not a 'violation' of ISO to do it yourself - but your registrar will/should start asking questions.......

Hope this helps (anyone else got some insights........?)

Andy
 

Gert Sorensen

Forum Moderator
Moderator
#3
I think that we first of all need to know a little bit more about how much measuring equipment is in the loop and what kinds of equipment.

Secondly, you need to think about the number of calibration services/companies you are using. Rule of thumb: It is better to be a big fish in a little pond. Most likely you could narrow it down to one or max. two calibration services and receive a better price, plus the added value of a closer relationship.

Thirdly, you should evaluate your equipment based on the earlier calibration certificates to establish proper intervals. This would be very easy to do in cooperation with your calibration service, as part of the agreement to take on all your calibration work.
 

Hershal

Metrologist-Auditor
Staff member
Super Moderator
#5
I recommend a single source for your calibration needs - an accredited cal lab.....still, calibration done PROPERLY is not cheap!

That also goes for internal cal. If it is done properly, it is not cheap. The only difference is that the cost is largely hidden, and the uncertainties are rarely ever calculated.

An accredited lab has metrology professionals. Of course, like any outsourced service some are better than others.

I recommend checking the websites of IAS, NVLAP, and A2LA to find an internationally recognized accredited cal lab that can handle all or nearly all your needs.

Also, get a copy of the the February and May 2005 issues of Quality Digest. One of them has an article "In or Out" that addresses the decision whether to outsource of keep inside your calibration efforts.

http://www.iasonline.org

http://www.a2la.org

Not sure about NVLAP, search for them.

Hope this helps.

Hershal
 

CarolX

Super Moderator
Super Moderator
#6
I work in a company that outsources all of its calibration to various outside sources. What do I need to do in order to be able to accomplish simple calibration tasks in house and save on the outrageous costs of calibration? I am not looking to take away all outsourcing. But calibration of hand tools should easily be accomplished internally unless that is a violation of my ISO 9001 certification. I think as long as my master standard blocks, weights, etc. have been calibrated by an outside source and it is traceable to NIST, I should be ok at doing this, any opinions?
Hi Cathy and Welcome to the Cove,

You got some great advice here....but I am about to play the devils advocate.

Your calibration system needs to be tailored to your product. Are you building rocket parts or shelving for retail store displays?

My reason for asking....are you measuring and holding tolerances that are truly critical, or are you measuring parts that have +-1/32" tolerance, and .001 out of tolerance will not effect the use of the part.

I do in house calibration of micrometer and calipers. I have a set of "master" blocks that are re-check anually by an outside lab and traceable to NIST. I have a tolerance set on my gages of +-.001. Tools are calibrated in the enviroment they are used. This system works well and is cost effective - but - we make parts for cabinets, shelving and brackets.

Hope this helps a bit and doesn't confuse the situation.
 
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Ken K

#7
But calibration of hand tools should easily be accomplished internally
I personally would not use the word "easily" while describing internal calibration. It can be done and quite frequently is, but there is quite a bit of work that needs to be done to do it right.

Everyone gave good advice so far. CarolX makes a very valid point. Do some research and after you have all the facts I think you'll still be using an outside calibration service. An auditor could make you life miserable if he finds anything wrong with your system.

Good luck.
 

andygr

Inactive Registered Visitor
#8
For the basic tools ( scales, verniers, micrometers ect) you can look at it from a pure cost stand point. What is the cost of a set of masters and the time it would take to perform the calibration vrs the current cost charged by an out side source. If you only have a few pieces of equiment the cost and maintance of the masters would offset any savings.

This calibration work of basic equipment is well with in the skill of a good inspector and can save a good deal of money (plus provide real time sanity checks as needed)

As the precision and complexity of the equipment goes up I belive you will see that the use of external sources becomes more economical that supporting the calibration inhouse.

As far as audit concerns mentions above I have seen as many findings from the use of outside sources as mistakes from internal opps performing calibration. As with anything good trainign and instructions and you will pass any audit.
 

skappesser

Inactive Registered Visitor
#9
You are right about the cost of outsourced calibrations - many people do not know that the profit margin for most calibrations performed by a commercial calibration lab vary between 50% and 75%!

ISO 10012:2003, "Measurement management systems - Requirements for measurement processes and measuring equipment" is a good guide for setting up internal cal lab. NCSLI's Recommended Practices (www.NCSLI.org) are a good resource too. Having worked in the calibration industry for 22 years I can also advise you to get some training, a calibration consultant, or hire an experienced calibration technician. It is not a skill set that can be self-taught and the resources needed are not going to be "cheap".
 
C

Cathy Everett

#10
Thanks so much for all of the comments, some I agree with and some I don't but isn't that great about living in America, the ability to have that freedom instead of always following the path of least resistance. While I agree at this point, that in the past the company did little to work with the Calibration houses locally to reduce costs, realistically there are so few of them here, the options are limited with reducing costs.

For 90% of the calibration that is done on over 350 pieces of measurement equipment, I already have just two sources. My question was really based on the fact that out of the 350 pcs. of equipment, at least 250 pcs. are the handheld calipers, micrometers, drop indicators, etc. that I felt the cost savings could be made by performing the calibration internally. For vision systems, optical comparators, surface plates, temperature and vacuum gages to mention a few, my intent was to continue using an outside source.

We work in a clean room environment which is temperature and humidity controlled so that aspect of the calibration process would not be an issue. Having a database that holds the records, documents the next calibration due date, and actually has the capability as well of printing out a calibration certificate, I believe would cover me on that part of the puzzle.

Having master gage blocks traceable to NIST that would not be used for any other purpose except for performing calibrations should cover the traceable to an approved national standard.

I think the part I am lacking would be the actual how-to, at what frequency, to what increment I believe would be the last part. I previously worked at a facility where 98% of their calibration was done in house and I was instrumental to getting them ISO certified so I know it must be acceptable.

Where does one go for the how - to's ??? I think having a competent employee here capable to perform this as part of their job function is in place, I just need to be able to furnish them with workable procedures.

Thanks again for everyone's input!:thanx:
 

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