Calibration Software

Regardless of size, facilities with the need to calibrate instruments can benefit by implementing calibration software. These software products allow an organization to maintain its calibration records, calibration procedures, instrument location, and instrument history in a secure, readily accessible database.

Another advantage of using calibration software is it can alert the operator when an instrument is due for calibration, prevent the use of overdue instruments, and communicate the overall performance of the measurement system.

Automated management trumps the abilities of homegrown software because an Access database or an Excel spreadsheet still relies on someone looking at it periodically to act on what the data is telling them. However, calibration software informs you, ‘This instrument is due.”

The software can send an e-mail to remind operators that a gage is due for calibration, they failed to take action, or the gage is missing. Instrument due-date alerts can escalate through an organization’s hierarchy. For example, if an operator isn’t responding to an alert, the manager can receive e-mail notification that the issue is not being promptly handled.

When an organization is being audited, calibration software can help with both preparation and the audit. With a paper system, locating records can be a daunting task. With a computerized approach, verifying that the system works correctly is the focus, rather than dealing with how the system works.

Calibration solutions are typically able to integrate with measurement system assessment activities and inspection software. Other key features to look for include bar code reading, expansive statistical capabilities, automated printing of labels and certificates, grouping of instruments, and visual representations of instruments.

In general, calibration solutions are moving toward the use of centralized databases to allow multiple users and locations to share data. And, because many organizations outsource much of their calibration needs, solutions are available that allow users to interface with their calibration vendors.

Considerations

When considering which calibration software solution fits your needs, thoroughly analyze prospective solutions by asking questions such as:

  • Will the software help us meet industry or customer requirements?
  • Do we need basic or expansive functionality and features in a solution?
  • How many users or locations will need access to the software?

Organizations should also be aware of factors such as whether or not a solution supports a calibration system directly, integrates with other enterprise systems, offers bar code reading, or has the capability to expand to perform future tasks. Beyond the initial purchase cost, find out how often the software is updated, what type of support is offered, and what additional costs may be incurred, e.g., maintenance activities.

Price vs. Capability

Calibration software ranges in price and capability, and your organization’s situation, size, throughput, and resources should dictate the product selection.

Low-cost solutions are appropriate for small shops in which calibration data is needed for only one location, few instruments need calibrating, and with minimum requirements for industry compliance. These will be stand-alone solutions that offer basic gage surveillance features, calibration and measurement history, and reporting tools.

Mid- to high-end software is appropriate for organizations looking to implement a large deployment of a common solution. Such software will be feature rich and will have advanced statistical capabilities; furthermore, it will enable multiple users and locations to share data through the use of centralized databases or a web-based architecture.

When multiple computers or manufacturing locations require access to calibration data, a system that allows open database connectivity to a central database is required. In laboratory environments, a hosted web-based solution that automatically collects calibration data from instruments may be the answer.

Also, mid- to high-range software will provide scalability, reliable product support, and a focus on continuous adherence to industry standards, such as, ISO 9001 and ISO 17025; with solutions that satisfy the requirements of 21 CFR Part 11 and 10 CFR 50 tending to be more expensive.

Quality Online

Visit Quality Online and type “Calibration Software” into the search engine to find related articles. Among the results you’ll find:

  • “Finding the Right Calibration Software”
  • “How to Choose a Calibration Software Solution”
  • “Size Up Gage Calibration Software”
  • “Successful Software Selection”

Note: This article was based on “Finding the Right Calibration Software”, an article by Steve Wichelecki in the March 2008 issue of Quality magazine.