In-house and Outsourced Calibration

Calibration (or recalibration) is the process of bringing out-of-tolerance equipment down to an acceptable level. Calibration schedules (cycles) are established depending on machine criticality, operator expertise, usage frequency, uptime necessities, statutory requirements, and field of application. When an organization does not have a standard calibration procedure in place, the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) recommendations should be followed.

There are two primary ways of delivery when it comes to instrument calibration – in-house and outsourced calibration. In-house calibration is the term for a business’s decision to calibrate its own equipment. Engineers who have been trained in calibration may not be able to adjust the required instruments correctly. Outsource calibration is the process of sending instruments to a third-party laboratory that focuses on calibrating equipment. Companies may choose between certified and accredited laboratories, typically preferred by businesses for calibration of their equipment. Each approach has advantages and disadvantages, mainly depending on a company’s specific requirements.

 

Choosing between in-house and outsourced calibration depends on the following factors:
  1. Resource availability – Money and Skilled personnel
  2. The complexity of the equipment and field of application
  3. OEM Guidelines on calibration
  4. Operator qualification
  5. Usage frequency
  6. Uptime necessities
  7. Statutory requirements
  8. Calibration risk management

 

Calibration Risk Management:

Improper calibration, or a lack of calibration, can cause significant safety concerns both at and outside of the workplace. Following are a few factors that may cause an instrument to malfunction:

 

  1. Calibration overdue (prolonged use of the machine without calibration): There is typically a set time for calibration from the device manufacturer. Calibration is frequently advised every six months or annually, mainly depending on the instrument and application. When an instrument is used for an extended period of time without being calibrated, its data is not trustworthy. Keeping track of each calibration is necessary to avoid these pitfalls.
  2. Use outside the scope of a Machines’ intended accuracy: Calibration accuracy is a function of the instrument’s manufacturer. If a manufacturer states that an instrument’s precision is ±5%, it cannot be calibrated to operate with an accuracy of better than ±1%. Using the instrument as if it delivered this sort of precision can be dangerous.
  3. Over Calibration: Over-calibrating the instrument, may have a similar effect as being used for un-intended accuracy. Setting a fixed calibration time by the manufacturer is for a reason; over-calibrating instrument can jeopardize their accuracy.
  4. Incorrect Calibration: There is a correct and wrong method to calibrate each instrument. Depending on the instrument it is, in-house experts may sometimes not be familiar with it. In risk-sensitive disciplines such as healthcare or aerospace and military manufacturing, incorrectly calibrating an instrument might have far-reaching consequences.

 

Putting a device in any of the situations mentioned above can potentially put customers and workplaces at risk. Calibrating instruments that are utilized in offices may result in greater scrap, costs, and production delays. Inappropriate calibration of instruments that influence client-made products can result in flaws that necessitate recalls and risk to customer well-being.

Therefore, machine owners shall evaluate the above-mentioned factors prior to deciding on the calibration method. The following section details the in-house and out-sourced calibration to facilitate owners in deciding a calibration approach:

 

In-House Calibration – Description, Pros, and Cons:

Between cost-cutting and costly in-house calibration, there is a thin line. If the firm already has many functions in place that are required to do calibrations, it will be an easy transition. However, performing calibrations isn’t as simple as flipping some switches.

 

Cost with In-house calibration: Setting up an in-house calibration lab might be costly. Employee training, lab equipment, and space are factors that must be considered before diving into this project. Not everyone may calibrate instruments correctly. Third-party calibration labs employ a staff of trained experts who are familiar with industry standards. This process of monitoring employee performance is tedious and requires a significant investment in terms of both time and money. Employees or third-party contractors must be trained to calibrate these instruments properly.

 

Finally, calibration equipment and the facility, while perhaps only costing once, are expensive. The expenses of establishing a calibration lab may range from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. The total cost of purchasing all of the calibration equipment is expected to be about $250,000. The training and employment costs for staff working in and managing the laboratory are projected at around $100,000 per year. It will take approximately $75,000 each year to operate the lab. The amount it takes to set up a climate-controlled lab isn’t included here.

 

Time elapsed with In-house calibration: Depending on the path taken to set up an in-house calibration lab, time may be saved or many hours of labor lost. Training existing staff in proper calibration is a time-consuming process. Many instruments will require frequent calibrations because of this. This implies that 10 to 20 devices will all need to be calibrated simultaneously, which entails 10 to 20 people being preoccupied with another day’s work. Employees concentrating on completing this problematic procedure of calibrating these devices will delay other essential duties.

 

Outsourced Calibration – Description, Pros, and Cons:

For certain firms, in-house calibration is not feasible. There’s no way to ensure the calibration was done correctly without the correct setup and people to do the calibrations. Now that outsourced calibration is a possibility, there are a few things to consider when selecting a laboratory.

 

  1. ISO 17025 Accreditation: Calibrating and testing equipment at an outsourced calibration facility should be done by an organization that a recognized body has approved. This ensures that the calibration is performed to industry standards. The ISO/IEC 17025 standard specifies basic standards for calibrators’ competence. Accreditation is voluntary, implying that the lab takes quality management seriously.
  2. Regulation: Different industries have their own rules to adhere to. A calibration lab should be aware of and follow any applicable regulations, including those of the Food and Drug Administration or the Federal Aviation Administration. Furthermore, the calibration lab itself should observe NIST standards.
  3. Documentation: The calibration of an instrument should be documented and certified by a calibration lab. This not only verifies that the device was precisely calibrated, but it also serves as a company identifier for record-keeping purposes. Since calibrations have to be completed within a certain time period, these certificates can be kept to advise the firm when their next calibration is due.
  4. Quality: When you send a sample to a certified and recognized laboratory, you can rest confident in the result. Lab personnel working in a calibration lab have only been trained to do this procedure, whereas those at an in-house calibration lab may be spread thin across numerous jobs. When looking for a calibration lab, visiting the facility in person might guarantee that they are providing an honest service. A good lab should be tidy; everything should have its own location.

 

Advantages of Outsourced calibration:

  1. Faster turnaround time: Internal calibration takes time away from other activities and delays them as well. Outsourcing processes get increasingly faster with time. All-day third-party facilities solely focus on calibrations. Because in-house laboratories have constraints of personnel and time to devote to calibration, they must complete calibrations more quickly, resulting in a longer turnaround period that may be harmful to business operations.
  2. Lower OPEX: Outsourcing has a quicker return time, which lowers production costs downtime. Because businesses will not need to utilize them as frequently or for as long, rental fees will be decreased. Thousands of dollars may be spent each year on spare and rentals by firms. By outsourcing calibration services, companies can frequently save 10 to 25% on overall operational expenses.
  3. Lower CAPEX: Calibration is not a specialty for most businesses, but it is for third-party calibration services. Calibration service providers invest in more sophisticated equipment, specialists, and temperature-controlled laboratories. Internal calibration laboratories may be restricted by funds. This could compel internal labs to use antiquated technology at the end of its lifecycle. Companies that outsource calibration will have access to cutting-edge equipment to certify their instruments to the highest degree of quality standards possible.
  4. Improved Audit Compliance: Calibrators keep track of their records in a single database, and they frequently provide you unrestricted access to view your calibration certificates at any moment. This helps demonstrate standard conformity during the most important period, which is the quality audit.
  5. Higher Quality: Calibration facilities must adhere to specific industry standards and laws. Third-party authorized laboratories follow stringent testing and auditing procedures for their calibration equipment. These approved labs guarantee better quality control and more precise results. Product recalls might be the consequence of faulty calibrations.

 

It is all dependent on the organization and machine owners when it comes to deciding between in-house and outsourced calibration. A small company with a few products to be tested would not benefit from in-house calibrations. When employees are trained and compensated for their time, calibration equipment is acquired, and a lab has been installed in order to maintain climate control, the business may already be over its head on a $500,000 project. That investment may take at least 12 years before a return or break-even point is achieved. However, a large business that has enough money to invest in the project and instruments to back it may see the investment as worthwhile.

If a firm cannot justify the expense of setting up its own calibration lab, it’s critical that an accredited and reputable calibration facility be hired for the task. The calibration lab should be ISO/IEC 17025 certified, able to fulfill instrument industry regulation standards, and able to provide documentation of instrument calibration.

 

e2b calibration offers industry-leading ISO-certified calibration services. Our labs are ISO/IEC 17025 accredited and operated by a team of qualified calibration experts. Our verifiable services are unmatched in the industry. We are registered with ANAB. We are also ANSI/NCSL Z540-1-1994 certified. We have the NIST Traceable Wide scope of ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation. Contact e2b calibration for all your equipment calibration needs.

 

IN-HOUSE VS. OUTSOURCED CALIBRATION

Should you be calibrating your instruments in-house or outsourced?