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Flow Meter Calibration – means to an end or positive thinking?

Date: 03.10.2008

The need for accountability is upmost in all areas of life, this relates to manufacturing with the expectation that companies will always deploy competent staff and be able to demonstrate their competence to carry out their work. This accountability has lead to an increasing trend in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries towards outsourcing of specific maintenance tasks. Enabling compliance with legislation and management of risk that directly affects their production systems and quality of the finished goods - outsourced calibration of flow meters whether offsite or in-situ is an ideal example of this.
Flowmeters used for batching raw materials into a manufacturing process such as alcohol, purified water, detergent etc need to facilitate formal records in some cases for Customs and Excise, but more importantly ensure quality of output but this can only be assured through regular competent calibration as this is the proof of compliance.
In today’s business climateit’s crucial to maximise plant and instrumentation investment, and flow meters are no exception. During the life of a flowmeter, the performance will change slowly, until the flowmeter in question is no longer accurate within acceptable limits, this can be caused by deposits, aging, user damage or even poor installation. Calibration testing by flow meter experts who understand the mechanics, principle of operation and application requirements is critical,  as these types of provider not only identify irregularities but correct and repair. More importantly, this expertise also provides a platform when working in partnership with the client in predicting future potential issues that could cause downtime and then schedule the calibration and testing to fit in with shift patterns or product peaks. 
Calibration intervals vary across the pharmaceutical industry depending on application and usage, generally once a year is advisable once the meter has been running for a defined time limit and its” footprint” identified, key indicators for consideration are :-
  • Prescribed meter manufacturer calibration interval.
  • Before a major critical measuring project
  • After a major critical measuring project
  • Post Incident
When choosing a flow meter calibration service provider it’s important to review the following questions
  • Experience and expertise of test staff?
  • Breadth of test and calibration capabilities – Industrial Process, Gas, Water, Fuel oil and LPG?
  • Traceability to UKAS or National Standards – verification by Trading Standards or OFGEM depending on application?
  • On site or Return to factory facility?
  • Test medium - Water, oil and air? Gravimetric or Volumetric?
  • Meter manufacturer trained test engineers?
  • Spares availability?
  • Service exchange, flowmeter rental and loan services?
Calibration and testing of flow meters is definitely a must but choosing a partner that enhances the decision to engage an outsourced provider by offering meter intuition, knowledge and expertise is really positive thinking...

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