Setting up a Scale Calibration Service lab - Where to start?

S

Sweetsue28uk

#1
I am currently looking at getting our business setup to offer scale calibration as a service. We have just been accredited with ISO 9001:2008 so the next logical step for us is ISO 17025. However, I have no idea where to start with setting up a lab, what training is required, what software etc. If anyone has any knowledge of scale calibration for Food Stores and can help please get in contact.

Sue:)
 
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T

tomvehoski

#2
Re: Where to start - Scale Calibration

I implemented a 17025 job as a consultant many years back, so my memory is a bit fuzzy. The place I worked with did everything from precision balances, automated weighing machinery, and portable concrete plants - from grams to tons. If you already have ISO 9001, you have a good portion of the management side done.

For training, you first will want to look at getting training in 17025 itself. You may also need things like Measurement System Analysis, measurement uncertainty, etc. There are no requirements for software IIRC.

For a lab you may need to set up things like temperature/humidity control - if it is critical to scales. The place I worked with did quite a bit of work in the field, and I don't recall that it really mattered what the environmental conditions were - I could be mistaken on that though.

You also may need to look at getting government approval if you are working with scales used for commerce - I have no idea of the laws in your part of the world.
 
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A

AmericanSwede

#4
Your main focus should be on getting your calibration process in line. That is to say that you need to describe in your SOP’s (ISO-17025 is fun!):

• Personnel (qualification requirements for those working in the lab)
• Accommodation (minimum requirements for how the lab should look, HVAC requirements, etc.)
• Test methods and validation (how you verify that both your equipment (and your customer’s devices) are calibrated properly)
• Measurement traceability (History trail of all of the validation measurements that you have done on each of your customer’s devices)
• Equipment (which calibrated test equipment you will be using to validate your scales that you sell, and how often they are calibrated and their history trail as well)
• Sampling (If you’ve done a risk analysis and determined that you don’t need to use 100% quality control, and then you’ll have to choose what level of control is sufficient)
• Test items (your “golden” samples i.e. samples that have been rigorously tested/validated to ensure accuracy and which will be used to verify other devices)
• Quality control (how will your customer’s devices be inspected when they arrive, and tested before they’re packed down into boxes - see “sampling” above)
• Reports / calibration certificates (You need to keep track of each instruments test reports, calibration results as well as which customer’s device got which calibration certificate)

Purchase calibration traceability software like “ProCal or Met/Cal” – you’ll save tons of money and time keeping all of your documentation, labeling and devices in order. Met/Cal was an outstanding tool that we used in our advance calibration lab and can easily expand with the business (and if you’re calibrating scales to the food industry in the US) is totally validatable to FDA standards.

Finally, plug these SOP’s and work instructions into your existing ISO-9001 structure and you’re pretty much home. Good luck!
 
S

Sweetsue28uk

#5
Thanks for much for your post it was really helpful. Do you know if you have to go on any training courses just so that we can calibrate scales in Food Stores? I am based in the UK in Manchester. Also do you have any details on Lab setup? Is this something that you do for your role?

Sue
 
D

Daniel Walker - 2011

#6
scales and balances should be calibrated at the place of use in the customer's environment.

Levelness, RFI, altitude are some factors that you can't account for if you calibrate a weighing device at your facility and then transport to the customer.

And transportation can damage something and you wouldn't know it if the scale's not checked at the customer's site.

I wouldn't worry about your lab environment as much as your field calibration procedures. Also be mindful of legal metrology requirements in your area. Commercially used devices need to be certified against a national metrology institute standard. In the states it's NIST Handbook 44. Many US states also require you to be registered as a service agency in order to place retail or commercial devices into service.

Check with your local weights and measures agency. You will have to meet their requirements if you service commercial devices.
 

howste

Thaumaturge
Super Moderator
#7
I'm currently doing some work with a scale calibration lab. All of their technicians have certifications from the states they are performing calibration work in, as it's required for scales used for trade. As Daniel mentioned, you should see if it's required where you are.
 
A

AmericanSwede

#8
After rereading your post again, it’s not clear how you are planning to offer your services to your customers. For example, are customers sending their scales to you, or are you going to do calibration on site? You’ll also have to decide which types of scales that you want to calibrate for these customers. All of them, from small gram scales to industrial food scales in the thousands of kilo range, or just a selected range? The legal requirements may differ quite a lot depending on what you choose, and they may even tell you how shipping and handling needs to be done (for the reasons that Daniel offered).

Have you considered modifying your customer scope based on which types of scales that you’re able to support right off the bat (using the smallest amount of investment possible)? Or perhaps you want to be the “expert” in a particular scale range and focus your business there instead; investing as much as it takes to become the “local expert” that your customer’s are looking for? Have you taken a look at your business risks choosing the one service from the other?

The UKAS LAB 14 document that Harry provided can be used as a guide to which ever type of service you choose.

Summary:
Find out what the minimum requirements are for the calibration services that you want to provide (contact UKAS).
Go over the spectrum of services that you are interested in and weigh the risks verses the payoffs, the investments verses the speed that you wish to roll-out your services, etc. For example, being certified to ISO-17025 may not be required by the UK for the type of customers (scales) that you’re looking to cater for. It could enough for your company to just comply to the main parts of the standard - the ones providing the best payoff.
Don’t go all the way if you don’t have to. Certification is just another business investment that should be weighed against all of your other ones and “Compliance” is just another pathway.

Think things through before starting full speed ahead. Good luck again.
 
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