How Often Should Equipment Be Calibrated?

by Garber Metrology

If you use equipment designed to measure or manufacture various parts and materials with high precision, you want your equipment to be as accurate as possible. Ensuring your equipment’s accuracy often comes down to calibrating it at the right intervals. As a result, many companies develop a calibration schedule for the various instruments they use for their work.

To ensure your equipment is always accurate, you may want to learn more about the importance of a calibration schedule and how to set the calibration frequency for your equipment.

The Importance of a Calibration Schedule

Understanding calibration frequency starts with recognizing how important it is to calibrate your equipment. When you calibrate your equipment properly, you ensure its measurements are inside a known value’s predetermined range. If the measurements fall out of an acceptable range, you can calibrate the equipment, adjusting the equipment’s measuring system to ensure its results fall into the known value’s acceptable range. By calibrating the equipment regularly, you’ll receive greater equipment accuracy.

Various factors can affect your instrument’s measurements, causing them to drift or fall out of the appropriate range. For example, workplace error, improper handling, operator error and huge temperature swings can all affect an instrument’s accuracy. Inaccurate readings can cause you to discard acceptable parts, run unnecessary tests and perform other production inefficiencies.

Since most equipment needs routine calibration to ensure it delivers accurate measurements, you need to understand how often you should calibrate your equipment. As you develop a routine calibration schedule, you’ll find that different instruments and machinery will have different equipment calibration frequency requirements. By developing a calibration schedule based on your equipment’s unique needs, you can keep it in the best condition possible.

8 Times You Need to Calibrate Your Equipment

Since calibrating your equipment on a particular schedule is crucial to your success, you’ll want to understand the main times you may need to calibrate your equipment. For example, creating a calibration schedule based on a manufacturer’s recommendation calibration intervals or after a predetermined number of uses can help you develop a schedule that keeps your equipment calibrated properly without wasting time recalibrating unnecessarily.

Here are eight times you’ll want to calibrate your equipment:

1. Manufacturer’s Recommended Calibration Intervals

When you want to know how often to calibrate instruments, it’s best to start with the manufacturer’s recommended calibration intervals. Usually, a manufacturer will specify the calibration frequency of their instruments in the owner’s manual. These specifications will tell users how to calibrate their equipment at the right intervals.

However, manufacturer-recommended calibration intervals may not be enough for certain applications. Some equipment may need to be recalibrated more or less frequently based on use or industry standards, so it’s crucial to adjust your calibration schedule as necessary based on the application. Some industry standards that may apply to your equipment include ISO 9001 Registered by NQA and ISO/IEC 17025 and ANSI/NCSL Z540-1-1994 Accredited by ANAB.

2. Following a Potentially Harmful Event

When your equipment experiences a potentially harmful event, such as an object hitting it, the equipment may no longer function properly. If you want to ensure your equipment works correctly, you can calibrate the equipment to check its integrity.

Even if the event didn’t cause a visible physical defect, such as a damaged connector, scratch or dent, it’s still important to calibrate the equipment. While physical defects might not be present, the equipment’s functionality could have been affected. By calibrating the equipment, you can verify nonvisible internal components are working appropriately.

3. Periodically

Many companies choose to calibrate their equipment on a particular schedule, such as monthly, quarterly or semiannually. However, some companies wait even longer, only calibrating their equipment annually or biannually. As you decide how often to calibrate your instruments and machinery, you may want to consider how often you use your equipment and how important its accuracy is when selecting the right equipment calibration frequency.

Here are some of the most common routine calibration periods and information on why companies choose these schedules:

  • Monthly, quarterly and semiannually: When a company chooses to calibrate their equipment in shorter periods, such as calibrating in monthly, quarterly or semiannual intervals, they often need to ensure their instruments are as accurate as possible. The basic idea behind calibrating your instruments more frequently is that there’s less chance your equipment starts operating outside acceptable parameters. Shorter intervals between calibrations usually cost more money. However, the increased expense is worth it for many companies, such as those that manufacture small parts or are in the medical industry, since it ensures their equipment delivers exceptional accuracy.
  • Annually: Annual calibration measurements fall In the middle between short and long calibration intervals. Equipment with a broader range of acceptable values can go longer between calibrations. Annual calibration gives companies a nice balance between the cost benefits of waiting longer to calibrate their equipment and the greater accuracy associated with calibrating in shorter intervals.
  • Biannually: When a company rarely does critical measurements or very detailed work, they can often safely wait a couple of years before recalibrating their equipment. Additionally, if their equipment isn’t exposed to an event that could have harmed it, a company can feel even more confident they can safely calibrate it biannually. By only calibrating your instruments biannually, you can see greater savings since you spend less money on calibrations. However, recalibrating every other year is only safe to do so when you’re confident you’re not sacrificing accuracy.

4. Before and After Major Projects

When you’re preparing for a major project, you should recalibrate the instruments you’ll use for the project. Before the project, send the instruments to a lab or bring in a trained calibration technician to ensure your equipment is calibrated to the project’s needs. After you receive the results, you can be certain your instruments will perform at the optimal level.

After you have your equipment calibrated, you may want to lock it in storage if you can until you begin using it for a project. By storing the equipment in a safe location, you can ensure the instrument’s accuracy isn’t affected before a major project you require it for. When you both test and protect your equipment before a critical project begins, you can be much more confident in the results you receive and take appropriate action based on them.

In addition to calibrating equipment before a critical project, it’s best practice to calibrate your equipment following the project’s completion. Many companies have their equipment calibrated immediately after a project since the calibration results will tell them if they can trust the equipment’s accuracy.

Essentially, a test immediately following a project’s competition can help safeguard you against potentially inaccurate results, even if you were confident in your equipment’s accuracy before the project. Having your equipment calibrated before and after a critical project ensures no intolerance conditions occurred during any point of the project.

5. As Equipment Ages

As your equipment gets older, you’re more likely to see equipment’s accuracy start to drift faster than it did earlier in its life. When your equipment gets older, you’ll want to monitor it closely, tracking how often your instruments require calibration and taking year-over-year calibration tests. With this data, you can spot when your aging equipment starts to need more frequent calibration.

Once the equipment starts showing more inaccurate results, you’ll likely want to start calibrating it more regularly. Increasing the frequency of your calibration for older instruments can help you catch any performance dips before they start delivering even more inaccurate results.

6. Due to Job Requirements

Some jobs require companies to use certified test equipment that’s been calibrated, no matter the size of the project. The most common requirement for these types of jobs is to have the equipment calibrated annually, meaning that if you had it calibrated within the last year and have the test results, you could likely proceed with the job.

Of course, other jobs have different requirements, so you need to know if you need to take any industry standards or client requests for calibration into account before beginning a job. A job’s unique calibration needs are often affected by quality assurance (QA) requirements, equipment applications and industry regulations. Be sure you take all of these factors into account. By calibrating your equipment on a schedule fitting a job’s needs, you can improve client satisfaction and comply with various regulations and standards.

7. After an Electrical or Mechanical Shock

A mechanical or electrical shock can significantly reduce the accuracy of a piece of equipment. Even if you can’t see any noticeable issues with a shocked instrument, you’ll still want to recalibrate it for accuracy. Microscopic changes can greatly impact an instrument’s efficacy due to the incredibly precise tolerances needed by some types of equipment. When you recalibrate your equipment following a shock, you ensure you can trust the equipment’s accuracy.

8. Following a Determined Number of Uses

With modern technology, you can more easily track how often you’ve used a piece of equipment during a set time. This data can allow you to be much more proactive with your recalibration needs, scheduling calibration tasks after an instrument or machine sees a predetermined number of uses. Instead of calibrating every year or every quarter, you can calibrate based on use, helping you better prevent potential inaccuracies.

Since recalibration often comes down to how many times an instrument or machine has been used rather than how much time has passed since its last calibration, you can more effectively calibrate your equipment. For example, If you were previously calibrating a rarely-used piece of equipment every six months, you might be able to extend that date by paying attention to its use and recalibrating it after a specific number of uses instead.

By recalibrating based on usage, you can potentially extend the time between recalibrations, saving you time and money. Conversely, you can ensure frequently used equipment delivers accurate results by knowing how many times you can use it before it starts delivering inaccurate results. Instead of waiting for a specific amount of time to pass before you recalibrate an instrument, you can set recalibration to occur after a set number of uses, ensuring the instrument’s accuracy doesn’t suffer.

How to Decide What Calibration Schedule Is Right for You

As you put together the right calibration schedule for your company, keep in mind that there’s no one-size-fits-all schedule for companies. Since your company has unique needs and specialized equipment, you’ll likely want to produce a schedule specific to your company. Luckily, you can use a few different methods to determine what schedule is right for you more easily, such as examining your industry’s requirements and taking equipment measurements.

Since the particular industry you’re in might affect how often you need to calibrate equipment, you need to be aware of your industry’s standards. For example, if you’re determining medical equipment calibration frequency, you might notice that you have to calibrate equipment more often, as medical equipment needs to be as accurate as possible for a patient’s safety. Whether you’re determining lab equipment calibration frequency or survey equipment calibration frequency, you must consider your industry’s requirements.

Besides determining calibration intervals by your industry, measuring equipment calibration frequency can help determine the right calibration date. In these measurements, you’ll pay attention to how long it takes for different pieces of equipment to need recalibration, adjusting your schedule based on these results. Additionally, you can track how often you use equipment, with the equipment you use more often likely needing more frequent calibration.

In addition to setting calibration frequency based on usage, you can also take your equipment’s environmental conditions into account. Depending on where you store and use your equipment, you may want to evaluate environmental conditions, such as vibration, humidity and temperature, since these conditions can affect your calibration equipment. You might also base your calibration schedule on your company’s quality program and the acceptable range of measurements.

Contact Garber Metrology for Routine Calibration

Once you determine a routine calibration schedule that works for your company, let Garber Metrology help. We routinely test, calibrate and inspect equipment per industry standards for companies across various industries. When you use our precision calibration services, you can expect your equipment to be ISO 9001 Registered by NQA and ISO/IEC 17025 and ANSI/NCSL Z540-1-1995 Accredited by ANAB.┬áSince we’re a one-stop shop for calibration, you can also expect a fast, industry-leading turnaround time, meaning your company will have less downtime when your equipment needs calibration.

With all of the advantages of working with us, please take a moment to request a quote or contact us for more information.

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