Calibration Technician Training Requirements? Is there a standard?

G

Graeme

#1
I am trying to find out ...

Are there any standards or other documents that specify the training and knowledge requirements for calibrations technicians, and that are applicable to US industries in general?

I know the Armed Forces have specific requirements, and they operate a couple of schools to train the people. (Been there, done that.) I also believe the NRC has requirements for workers in the nuclear industry. But I am looking for something with broader applicability.

Various government regulations and industry standards require the use of calibrated instruments. In my work we are concerned with the FAA mostly, but also OSHA, EPA and a few others. So I am looking for non-military non-nuclear knowledge-skill-ability models for calibration technicians that would apply to a wide range of industry.

Thanks in advance for any information ...
 
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A

Al Dyer

#2
Outstanding question!

With my limited experience I can only suggest you contact one of the met labs. The one that comes to mind for me it Detroit Testing Labs.

They have been very helpful to me in the past and to date, I have never been led down the wrong path.

I know there any number of the same facilities in different states and maybe some other members can give you some additional guidence.

Good Luck, Al...
 

Marc

Hunkered Down for the Duration
Staff member
Admin
#3
I'm not aware of any nationally or internationally standardized requirements.

Do any of you calibration gurus here have any definite info?
 

Jerry Eldred

Forum Moderator
Super Moderator
#4
My best understanding of that is that the technicians are supposed to be adequately trained and qualified, and you need to be able to demonstrate that to an auditor (typically in the form of training records).

But I have not yet seen a defining document specifying exactly what that training must be. It seems to be a pretty subjective requirement.
 
R

Ryan Wilde

#5
This is actually a very easy question. There are no published standards. Each company is supposed to determine their need for competency, training, etc. and make that their standard. It is a very flawed system, but it is all that we have. There are no degrees available in calibration, so that is out. Some companies require an EET or better, but that doesn't really help much on mechanical, dimensional, or the statistical/quality aspect. But...

In a week or so, there will be voting on the state of the Certified Calibration Technician program from ASQ (whether to make it a professional certification, including a requirement for continued education, or paraprofessional, with a one-time test and you're good for life). I wouldn't expect to see the program up and running anytime in the next year or two, but it seems to be the first move at defining qualifications for a calibration technician. I'm all for the program, but most upper management is dead-set against it (certified techs cost more money). I also lean towards the requirement for continued education, because if you haven't calibrated anything in 5 years, then you have no idea of what is going on now, it is a very fluid field that changes with every new standard a lab receives.

Ryan
 

Jerry Eldred

Forum Moderator
Super Moderator
#6
I'll use this to editorialize a little....

I was trained at the now famous yet defunct Lowry AFB, near Denver Colorado at the PMEL school. It was a great school, and to this day (in my 25 years in the field), it has been treated with equal (and sometimes more) respect than having a technical degree. It is, unfortunately gone now.

But I would go on record as saying that as long as I am involved in hiring calibration people, that is the first thing I look for on a resume.

The "Editorial" part of this is that my (not-too-well-informed) understanding is that the military did away with PMEL to hand it off to civilians for what is perceived to be a cost saving, or perhaps like many civilian companies do, they may have determined to divest of fields not in line with their core competencies.

My contention is that those civilians they had take over the calibration function for much of the military were the product of the PMEL training the military offered. Once all the former PMEL people have retired, they will again be at a losss. And all of the third party labs that rely (sometimes unwittingly) on the expertise given them by PMEL people will be left high and dry, and will need to hire more people with engineering or physics degrees to properly operate the calibration functions.

In other words, it will eventually come back to bite us.

No offense to Non-PMEL people (there are some fine calibration people out there who are not Ex-PMELs).
 
R

Ryan Wilde

#7
Jerry Eldred said:

I was trained at the now famous yet defunct Lowry AFB, near Denver Colorado at the PMEL school. It was a great school, and to this day (in my 25 years in the field), it has been treated with equal (and sometimes more) respect than having a technical degree. It is, unfortunately gone now.
I went to the same school. It teaches the basics of calibration, and even touches on sources of errors, which seems to be the most difficult thing for techs to grasp in the new statistical world of calibration.

The "Editorial" part of this is that my (not-too-well-informed) understanding is that the military did away with PMEL to hand it off to civilians for what is perceived to be a cost saving, or perhaps like many civilian companies do, they may have determined to divest of fields not in line with their core competencies.
(This is the last I heard - as of about a year ago) They 'tried' to do away with PMEL, but it didn't work. The school is now operating out of Keesler AFB in MS. Some labs went contract, but many stayed. But they are sending many fewer people through, therefore the crop available to the commercial community is dwindling.

My contention is that those civilians they had take over the calibration function for much of the military were the product of the PMEL training the military offered. Once all the former PMEL people have retired, they will again be at a loss. And all of the third party labs that rely (sometimes unwittingly) on the expertise given them by PMEL people will be left high and dry, and will need to hire more people with engineering or physics degrees to properly operate the calibration functions.

In other words, it will eventually come back to bite us.

No offense to Non-PMEL people (there are some fine calibration people out there who are not Ex-PMELs).
The only contention that I have with PMEL school as a deciding factor is that it still leaves a lot to be desired, as it does not fit the military need to have kids that understand statistical processes. A commercial lab is now basically required to know these, and the only way to learn it is to either take classes or beat your head into a wall learning it yourself (note how my forehead is strangely flat - I am a self-taught case). At this point I try to hire either an ex-PMEL (that can learn statistics) or someone with a lot of statistics (that can learn how to apply them and has an aptitude for being anal-retentive about following a written procedure). I've even gotten to the point at times to hire someone that can be taught, with the key factor being that they have to have the strange overactive ethics that seems prevalent in good calibration techs.

Ryan
 
G

Graeme

#8
Memories, memories ...

Jerry and Ryan,

You bring back memories and shared feeling talking about Lowry and the PMEL school. I am not a graduate of the full course, but I have been through some of it. When I started as a civilian employee at an east coast Naval Shipyard (now closed ...) I went through a joint Navy & Dept. of Labor four-year apprenticeship program. Part of that course included taking some blocks of the course at Lowry, so I spent most of the summer of '84 out there.

I heard some time ago that when Lowry closed, Community College of Aurora took over the PMEL school. That school now has an Associates in Applied Science in Metrology program with electrical and physical/dimensional metrology options. But ... do they have the same standards and staff? In addition, for many years the Butler County Community College (Butler, PA) has had an AAS degree program in Metrology.

Butler County Community College
Community College of Aurora

I, too would look for PMEL school (or the Army TMDE school) as an initial qualifier, or government (civil service) work as an "Electronic Measurement Equipment Mechanic". (Since I used to be one, I guess I can't complain about bureaucrats using several $64 words where a couple of 50¢ ones would do!) As you both mention, though, much more is needed in today's environment. I would also look for additional statistical and scientific education beyond the service schools. The military schools don't teach more than they have to, because most of their calibration work is in production or field labs. (Organization level or below, or Type-III and Type-IV labs.) At those levels, the rule is verbatim compliance with the written procedure. That was still largely true even at the depot-level Type-II standards labs in the Navy system, although the occasional original thought was allowed and sometimes even encouraged. :) For instance, there are a few calibration procedures out there which I still have the original draft notes for...

As for my quest for "standard" training information, it looks like everyone is confirming what I already suspected -- that everyone is on their own. I am going to wait until after the AQC next week before compiling a report for the bosses, just in case more data filters in.

Thank you to everyone,

Graeme
 
K

Karl Keefer - 2007

#9
What is the Standard?

It's not just Electronic Fundamentals leading to PMEL 3-level qualification (Lowry or Keesler AB graduate), but what seems to carry the weight is getting and working at a 5-level or 7-level for a few years in a military lab.

Military PMEL experience was, for me, a combination of self-study and on-the-job training to work fast and effectively through all kinds of hardware, manufacturer, user, system, and personality problems. You learn to pump out 10 foot benches of Simpson 260's/Fluke 77/87, a mountain of torque wrenches, or calibrate a synthesizer that needs to push the limits of the labs' accuracy with carefully guarded K-8 standards. T.O's often need fixing so that they work with substitute standards, or to eliminate the possibility of a mis-interpretation by QA person doing a spot-check. I made money fixing T.O.'s more than once.

What the USAF PMEL's have that most commercial labs don't/can't have is a widely-travelled group of Quality Assurance inspectors (who used to be AGMC inspectors, now?) who are picked from an already smart/motivated bunch. These guys know how to solve problems (and spot problems you may not have recognized).

Some of the Civilian Lifers (Chief Assini, for example) who I worked with at Norton and March AFB, had an endless number of breakroom stories about the beginning of AF PMEL program in the late 1950's. Yes, they smoked on the bench, so they could keep working. Good times.

I don't know what commercial .org could afford to screen, recruit, train, and place 2000 people in labs around the world like the US military does. Once, I tried to figure out the capital investment directly applied to my enlistment and the fraction of the lab and base that made it possible. I couldn't get the number below about $300K direct and another $200K indirect. There were 30-something direct laborers in most of my IIb labs with another 10 supervisors, supply, scheduling, QA, safety, etc. The real numbers weren't available to me in the early 1990's. This is how the DoD is able to spend 100's of Billions of dollars.

Karl (graduated as E-4 over 6, woo hoo!)
 

Jen Kirley

Quality and Auditing Expert
Staff member
Admin
#10
Welcome to The Cove, Karl!

Training and experience like yours and Graeme's makes it possible for calibration people to be "on their own" as preparation for conforming to standards goes. I'm not aware of any preparation source that equals what I received, and did while as an HT (USN). Now, after many years away from discharge I am enjoying the subtle respect and appreciation for my service within my civilian work because I am surrounded by like-minded people. It's like slipping into a hot bath--aaahhhh.

Best to you!
 
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