Planning On-Site Calibrations

By Jerry L. Eldred

Productivity demands of manufacturing, laboratory testing, or the continuous operation of power plants or critical industrial facilities have created the need to have instruments calibrated on-site; and in some cases in place to calibrate critical instruments that can’t be moved. Having instruments calibrated on-site reduces production downtime and the need for redundant instruments. The bottom line is that often, having instruments calibrated on-site saves money.

Although it is easier to calibrate most instruments at a calibration lab, this growing industry need for on-site calibrations has changed how commercial calibration providers operate. At Tescom Calibration Services, nearly three quarters of the calibrations we perform are done at customer sites by our mobile calibration teams, using traveling laboratory standards.

But there are some fundamental differences between calibrating instruments on-site, and calibrating them at a laboratory. One critical difference is in the planning. Poor planning can make the experience frustrating for the mobile calibration team, and for the customer.

Unexpected changes to the on-site instrument list, inadequate resources and other critical details can make it an all-around difficult experience. But following a few good advance planning guidelines can make it a relatively pain free experience. Following the guidance of the planning tips below will help make your on-site calibration experience a great one.

  • Advance Scheduling. Currently, about 75% of our calibrations are performed at customer sites. This means that both personnel and laboratory standards spend a lot of time on the road, and available dates for on-site jobs often fill up a month or more in advance. So last minute scheduling of on-site calibration work may mean that the right people and instruments aren’t available. Try to schedule on-site calibration jobs at least a month in advance; and for larger on-site jobs, at least two months before the desired date.
  • Accurate Instrument List.  The Tescom mobile calibration team selects a tailored set of laboratory standards and calibration procedures, and plans the schedule for each on-site calibration job using the instrument list provided by the customer. Providing an accurate list of the equipment to be calibrated (including manufacturer, model, description, serial number and required calibration interval) helps ensure that the team brings everything needed to calibrate your instruments, and that the schedule allocated for your calibration work is correct.
  • Instruments That Can’t Be Calibrated On-site. Most common instruments (handheld multimeters, oscilloscopes, calipers, etc.) can be calibrated on-site; but some cannot. Some calibrations require a large assortment of laboratory standards, standards that cannot be transported, or a very stable laboratory environment. Some instruments may also need to be calibrated by a qualified approved calibration vendor. If any of these apply, make these a part of your planning process. If you’re not sure, ask these questions when you contact us.
  • Support For the Calibration Team.  A primary contact person should be available to provide support for the duration of the on-site calibration job. Some key support details that will help ensure a smooth on-site job are:  adequate bench space, adequate electrical power, internet/Wi-Fi Connection, an environmentally controlled area, and keeping the mobile calibration team loaded with instruments to calibrate.

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