Calibration Stickers - Do we have to put stickers on every gage and all equipment?

Jerry Eldred

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I once had a debate with a very well versed quality manager about this issue. He wanted to know why we have to put stickers on all the equipment. His contention was, "why couldn't we just maintain a good recall system"?

An interesting point of view that probably would go over like a lead balloon with an auditor. So I don't recommend that. However, it did evoke a great deal of thought on my part about the whole issue.

The issue is having an effective method to assure that the user of the instrument can not use an out of calibration instrument (past due date). How you do that can take many forms. At my former lab (that factory shut down before I could complete implementation), I connected my recall database to the production control database. When an operator in the factory attempted to perform measurements on an instrument past due calibration, the system would not let them perform the measurement. Having given that manager's comments a great deal of thought, it was my intent to eventually have all measuring instruments logged into the production database. Even portable test equipment used in maintenance. Maintenance or product testing could not be completed on any instrument past due calibration. Once a system like that were fully implemented, it would make calibration stickers obsolete.

Obviously, not every company has such an elaborate system to use. I bring it up to make the point that there are countless methods to fulfill the need to make sure an operator knows not to use past due instruments. I have seen companies color code the epoxy sealant in the handles of torque wrenches. Then there were little cards (about the size of pocket calendars) given to each owner, a supply of them to hand out with each new calibration, large color signs hung all over the factory, and other measures to make sure the operators identified whether their tools were past due or not.

I think you can get pretty creative, and make something that works well for you. You could engrave unique ID's on the tools and keep something posted to assure they can't be used past the due date; You could automate it somehow; you could investigate oil resistant labelling; or many other options.

Jim Triller in his reply above offered another creative method. I don't believe it is implicit anywhere in newer standards that the labelling has to be a 'calibration sticker' on the unit with cal date, due date, ID, etc. That is a convenient standard method that works well for many applications (in those cases, if it ain't broke, don't fix it).

However, there are always the exceptions, and circumstances where creativity has to be applied.



I do have serial numbers engraved on the tools now, but it is my understanding that tools and gages must be identified to show calibration status. One way of identifying the gage as being calibrated is to have a calibration sticker on it. (All of our gages are maintained in a database and updates are made when the calibration tech performs calibration.) Are there other ways to show a gage has been calibrated without using stickers? Or am I way off base and this isn't a requirement?


Fully vaccinated are you?
Several methods have been discussed here - I can only comment is one of the 'intents' here is to ensure folks who use the measuring device know it is acceptable to use. How do they know if its in the calibration period or not.

I was in 1 shop which did machining and there was no way to keep a sticker attached (see Jim Triller's response above) as the fluids would dissolve the label stickem, etc. They had a matrix posted at each station with the appropriate cal sticker next to each device listing. The matrix referenced each device's serial number. The device users could show how they use the listing to ensure they do not use a device which is past its recall date. This was acceptable in a QS facility.

Jerry Eldred

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I agree with all of the above posts above.

I would just elaborate a little and state that calibration stickers are the default. They stand up the best in an audit.

Whenever you deviate from that (and as in your case as well as others, those legitimate cases do exist), you begin treading on thinner ice. My cautoin is that whatever alternate method you use, you have to convince an auditor that all operators know calibration status of their tools.

I think a few details you must cover (perhaps others I miss) include:

-Auditor can't find any instruments past due date.
-Auditor could ask any operator how they know the calibration status of their tools or gages, and they can answer.
-You can demonstrate an effective system that assures both of the above.
-Auditor finds any tool or gage without a sticker on it. They take that tool or gage to someone other than the normal user (but someone woh could reasonably be expected to have access to it), and ask them how they would know whether or not that tool or gage is within it's calibration interval.

I don't believe you are way off base at all. To be more specific to your question. You do not have to use stickers. You do have to be sure the user has an effective method to absolutely know whether their tools or gages are in or out of tolerance. My recommendation is that doing anything other than stickers should be only when you simply can not use them. If that is definite, it is then quite reasonable to create an alternative method. If it were me, I would even expend a little effort to find oil-resistant labelling before I resorted to other methods. There may well be some of those.

Hopefully the combination of the above replies have covered your question.



Para 4.11.2.d)of the QSR states
"identify inspection, measuring and test equipment with a suitable indicator or approved identification record to show the calibration status."
"NOTE: A serial number tracesble to the device calibration record meets the intent of this requirement."

The standard does not require the operator to know whether or not the gage is calibrated.
IMO, a unique identifying mark and a record of calibration is all that is required.

John C

"approved identification record". I think that's the key, along with Jerry Eldred's 'good recall system'. If you have 98 calibration tools and they all get calibrated on 21st June, then they are all within cal dates until, eg; 21st Dec. Then they all get done again.
The question is not, 'will the auditor buy it?' but 'could it work?', 'does it make a significant saving?' and 'are we sufficiently in control and committed to make it work?'. If the answer to these questions is yes, then give it a try and let us know how it goes. If the auditor shoots you down, then it will probably be because your control is not impressive enough otherwise, to give confidence in this method. So, then just engrave the tools and maintain your approved identification record. Don't worry about labels, in your case, it's probably cheaper to control via the record than having people looking at labels every time they use a tool (which they don't do anyway).
Most smart (which means cheaper) ways of doing things were once considered impracticable.
rgds, John C

Al Dyer

100% agree with Sam. A serial number traceable to calibration records works well.

We are taking it to a level where all personnel are able (and must) access a data base of gages due for calibration (before production on all shifts) and what to do when a gage at the station is past calibration due date.

If we get notice that an operation has a "past calibration" date we know that the calibration system is not effective and then determine the root cause and implement corrective action.



Calibration Stickers

My problem deals with calibration stickers. Our processes invole our tools and gages becoming exposed to heavy amounts of oil. Therefore, the stickers are constantly coming off. Since we run 6 days a week with 3 shifts, and have over 100 tools, I find it almost impossible to maintain that the gages are identified with the calibration status. I'm aware the standard states in section 4.11.2.d that we "shall identify inspection, measuring, and test equipment with a suitable indicator or approved identification record to show the calibration status", but is there another way. Can we state that all tools issued in production are considered calibrated? Any advise would be appreciated. Thanks.

Jim Triller

A method we have used successfully was to engrave a unique number on each tool. We then maintained a matrix of those tools (in this case online but this can work with hard copies as well) where the tool was identified, what it was used for, the date of last calibration and the due date for next calibration. We made the matrices readily available, next to where the tools were maintained to facilitate easy verification. It worked well.


Fully vaccinated are you?
> The standard does not require the operator to
> know whether or not the gage is calibrated.

Correct - it does not specifically require that but I would frown upon a situation where the operator had no idea whether the device they were using was 'legal' to use. Reliance solely upon a recall system is dangerous in my opinion. I admit this is my paradigm - If I ran into a situation where the operator did not know if the device they use is OK or not to use (calibration status) I would expect a much stronger system than just a recall system because of all the failures I've seen in recall systems.

And I have seen auditors require it on the basis of training necessary to do their job. Last summer at Ford operators knowing whether their gages were 'in calibration' was required by the auditors in the QS audit. At a Borg-Warner QS audit a year ago this was also required by the auditors - that's where they had the matrix posted at each bench for IM&TE used there -- operators had to show they knew they have to 'be aware' of the calibration status of any IM&TE they are responsible for using.

The criticality of the measurement is sometimes also important -- I sure wouldn't want someone operating a CMM in a critical machining operation who had no idea what the CMM's calibration status is.

I also admit I've never worked with a company where the operators were not required to know the calibration status of the devices they used.

I have seen auditors cite minors for operators not understanding basics such as "If you are using your caliper and you drop it on the floor, what should you do?" We all know the answer to this, don't we???
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