SBS - The Best Value in QMS software

Tape Measure Calibration - I asked if I had to do nominals, was told no!



Recently had pre-assessment audit and auditor says we must calibrate our tape measures as they are used as an in process inspection tool to measure length of material. The measurements we take are not critical measurements. If a piece is to be 6 " long, we have no tolerance to check to....

BUT the person 'calibrating' the tape measures does not need any formal training... just check the tape measure for deterioration and measure a calibrated block to see if it measures the same. When asked if I had to do nominals, was told no, just pick a length and check that. no difference on length to check no matter what the length of the tape measure?

Any one else have history with tape measure calibration?

Elsmar Forum Sponsor


We use hard 160mm scales to measure stitch length. These were "calibrated". Our instructions are written somewhat like this.
1. Get in new scale
2. Measure gauge blocks to confirm accuracy
3. Put on calibration sticker
4. Check scale visually every 90 days for things like bent, broken, numbers worn off.
5. New calibration sticker

I know, I know lame as can be but it works when you come across an anal non pragmatic auditor.

Jerry Eldred

Forum Moderator
Super Moderator
I am probably somewhere halfway between being a non-pragmatic auditor, and a practical type, as I have many years in calibration/metrology, and also some background in QS9000/ISO9000 and other quality systems auditing. So take my answer from that context.

From a quality systems perspective, it sounds like you have an ambiuguous requirement in your quality system.

You require the lengths of material to be checked (implying that you do care about length), and yet there is not an allowable pass fail criteria. It seems there needs to be a management decision as to whether they want to apply some pass/fail criteria (i.e.: if you measure what is supposed to be six inches, how much deviation is allowable?)

I am not in your process, so I don't understand what the spec truly ought to be. But in my humble opinion, I would suggest that you set some pass/fail limits on your measurements, make that your tolerance. If you already have gauge blocks, no further investment needed. But another method, depending on what tolerance you decide to certify your tape measure to (I recommend about ten times tighter than whatever spec you assign to your pass/fail criteria for the process measurement), would be to get about a 36 inch straightedge ruler (metrology grade) from one of the good dimensional instrument manufacturers. Use that as your standard. The manhours to check a tape measure would be less.

The other question that comes to mind is... is the measurement you make a deliverable? That is, do you measure to be sure a correct amount of material or whatever is supplied to the customer that you agreed to provide, based on that measurement? If that is the case, then you most definitely need to calibrate. But if, on the other hand, that measurement is only a 'convenience' measurement that does not have any impact on product quality in any way (including providing a dimension agreed to provide to the customer), then I would recommend not calibrating. But by al means, document those details, and place a NO CALIBRATION REQUIRED label on each and every tape measure. You can buy those labels quite cheaply from companies such as Brady labels.

It does come back to that age old question as to whether or not to calibrate. Calibrate if the measured parameter assures you provide something quantitative to your customer, or if there is safety or reliability or quality of the product based on that cal. Don't cal if none of the above are impacted by the measurement.

Hope I have been of help.

Our primary measuring device in use on the floor is the 16' tape measure. We were also requested to present evidence of calibration based on results of our pre-assessment audit. I purchased a "starrett" 16' tape with a long form cert., I then compare the two and record the results. Our tolerance is 1/8".
I was also asked for a MSA on the tapes. That too was enlightning; No two people could come up with a reading close enough to record. After lessons in the proper use of the tape I was able to put together a presentable MSA.
Lesson Learned; Make every attempt to comply with the requirement, it may be beneficial.


Tape Measures

We use tape measures more than anything else so they are calibrated monthly against a calibrated 36" steel rule. We take three measurements: 6", 12" and 24" but locations that sell larger items use different measurements when calibrating.

Al Dyer

Can a tape measure be calibrated or is it "verified" to a traceable standard?

I guess it comes down to the discrimination required for the measurement taken. Nobody would use a tape measure to discriminate a thousanths?????



Staff member
Super Moderator
A number of our accredited test labs and inspection agencies use tape measures (such as the ones they buy from Home Depot or Lowes) for various measurements. Al, yes, a tape measure can in fact be calibrated. However, I think it is silly and a pointless waste of money.

I tell our accredited inspection agencies that I certainly agree with having an accredited calibration lab check the tape ONCE when it is new....but if it is not damaged, then it is unlikely to change. The exception is the tab on the end which will start to slide around and throw you off by as much as 1/4 inch.

Remember, a tape measure is pretty much useless below 1/8 inch resolution anyway. It is useful for longer lengths, but not for small resolution. Also, thermal expansion will throw you off. Put another way, if you are in MN or in AZ....the thermal effects, plus the resolution and parallax issues will give you a large uncertainty value, especially if you are trying to read under 1/8 inch at almost any length.

It is obvious to me that the auditor in this case has no Metrology training or experience.....I would complain to the AB, and ask why the auditor was auditing something where the auditor is apparently not competent (AB term for proficient).

Just my thoughts.....

Thread starter Similar threads Forum Replies Date
T Tape Measure, the right device for 2 or 3 decimals accuracy on prints General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 8
K Using a Tape Measure for +/- 1/16" Tolerance - Large Welded Assemblies (6 to 12') Inspection, Prints (Drawings), Testing, Sampling and Related Topics 12
Q Validating Tape Measures used to Measure Product Conformity to Requirements ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 9004 Quality Management Systems Standards 7
J Tape Measure Verification - Starrett 72" certified steel rule General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 16
C Get 2 soda cans and a tape measure Funny Stuff - Jokes and Humour 10
D Gage R&R on one tape measure to represent all identical tapes Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 1
H Five Foot Caliper vs. Tape Measure - Tolerance issues General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 5
K Re-validation of EtO sterilization after change of tape Other Medical Device and Orthopedic Related Topics 1
R Tape Measures NOT used for Inspection or Testing Measurement Uncertainty (MU) 12
I Batch Numbering for medical tape EU Medical Device Regulations 1
AnaMariaVR2 DIY Fixes Don't Meet CGMP: FDA Slams Manufacturer for Fixes Involving Tape, Rubber Ba Pharmaceuticals (21 CFR Part 210, 21 CFR Part 211 and related Regulations) 0
Q Sampling Plan for Paper and Tape Industry Inspection, Prints (Drawings), Testing, Sampling and Related Topics 7
L Product numbers & sources for ASTM D3359 adhesive tape Inspection, Prints (Drawings), Testing, Sampling and Related Topics 1
A Japan - Medical Device Classification for Autoclave Tape Japan Medical Device Regulations 6
I Cleaning Validation for Durapore Tape Cutting Machine EU Medical Device Regulations 2
C Carton Boxes for Surface Mount Tape and Reel Manufacturing and Related Processes 7
D Gummed Water Activated Packaging Tape causing Mildew? Manufacturing and Related Processes 6
P PMMA IRK304 Resin and EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) Tape causes a Stain Mark Manufacturing and Related Processes 3
P Metal Tape Plating Process - CQI-11 Required? IATF 16949 - Automotive Quality Systems Standard 2
P Exempt from Calibrating our Tape Measures and Micrometers ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 9004 Quality Management Systems Standards 32
Q PPAP for Materials - Rolls of adhesive tape, rolls of films and sponge material APQP and PPAP 5
D For Reference Only or Calibration/Verification - Tape Measures for cutting bar stock ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 9004 Quality Management Systems Standards 26
P Tape Measures (again) Gage R&R Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 7
N Sufficient measurement of length - 4:1 TUR - Basic 25ft tape measures Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 4
Z Industrial Standard on Accelerated Ageing test for plastic carrier tape Reliability Analysis - Predictions, Testing and Standards 8
B Steel Measuring Tape - Can a Steel Measuring Tape be excluded from calibration? ISO 9000, ISO 9001, and ISO 9004 Quality Management Systems Standards 38
J Pressure Sensitive & Gummed Tape IMDS Reporting RoHS, REACH, ELV, IMDS and Restricted Substances 5
Scott Catron Tape-less digital video camera buying advice After Work and Weekend Discussion Topics 4
T Calibrating or Verifying Metal or Steel Tape Measures General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 195
A Tight Control Limits - Tape & Reel Process, the process of packaging ICs Statistical Analysis Tools, Techniques and SPC 27
J Measuring Tape Repeatability and Accuracy - Types of tapes - ECIII, ECII and ECI Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 1
L Generic Accuracy of a 100 foot Tape Rule General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 10
P Need Tape Spec for MSCH 62 Full Tape Wrap & MSDC 13-B Spot Tape Various Other Specifications, Standards, and related Requirements 3
J Verbage to cover tape measures General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 6
Icy Mountain Reasonable calibration? 50 foot measuring tape and other basic M&TE General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 25
D Gage R&R required on 6" rules, tape rules, verniers or micrometers? Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 4
R Gage R&R for measuring tape for some wire length inspection Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 2
L Tape Measures & Scales - Part Tolerance - Gage R&R Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 24
R Calibration of Tape Measures used for reference General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 13
G Steel Tape Rules - Does the length of the leads have a significant impact? General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 21
D Calibration of Tape Measures used on our production floor - What are 'Best Practices' General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 42
M How to measure a plastic cap General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 19
C First Article Inspections - 'how to measure' General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 11
lanley liao Question regarding the calibration of monitoring and measure equipment. Oil and Gas Industry Standards and Regulations 3
J Should a Class 1 medical device with an option to measure body weight be considered Class 1m? EU Medical Device Regulations 0
M Gage R&R and right way to measure Gage R&R (GR&R) and MSA (Measurement Systems Analysis) 16
P How to measure DPPM in Chemical batch manufacturing Quality Tools, Improvement and Analysis 1
silentmonkey How to measure severity if my product is designed for emergency use and failure would result in death? ISO 14971 - Medical Device Risk Management 9
A Looking for a third party to calibrate our measure equipment - South Carolina General Measurement Device and Calibration Topics 6
J Validity / outcomes measure for custom made medical device ISO 13485:2016 - Medical Device Quality Management Systems 2

Similar threads

Top Bottom