The Newsletter

An A.T.E. Solutions, Inc. Internet Publication
Volume 9 Number 19 October 16, 2005


The Testability Director Version 3.2


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Your Opinion
Which of the following is your most important selection criterion for calibration laboratories?
A2LA Accreditation
A2LA Accreditation for Your Measurement Area
Customer relations
ISO Registration
Laboratory allowing your on site audit
Laboratory responding to audit by questionnaire
On-site service
Other than A2LA accreditations
Turn-around time
X - None of the above

You may only vote once, but you may come back and check the results any time by pressing the View Results button.
This Issue's Feature Article

Choosing a Calibration Service Provider

By: Anthony James, Norvada LLC

Product/Service Focus

This issue's focus is Calibration/Calibration Services. You can view and add to our existing list of Test Products/Services, Test Literature, Test Definitions, Test Vendors

 Also View/Participate in the Survey
What's New in Test
  10/11/2005 Teradyne to sell connection systems and focus on test
  10/4/2005 Amkor Test Execs Purchase Kansas Operation
Interviews and Forums
  10/1/2005 T&MW Interviews Glenn Woppman of Asset Inter-Tech
Magazine Article
  10/12/2005 Wherefore ever ramble on? For the Good is lying near… - Design for Testability
  10/3/2005 High-speed probing for superior signal fidelity
  10/3/2005 Instrumentation bus eyes Express lane
  10/3/2005 Verification moves to a higher level
  10/1/2005 Design Meets Test
  10/1/2005 Developing a PXI-Based Flight-Line Test Set
  10/1/2005 Help Me Test My Service! - Evaluating Wireless Service
  10/1/2005 IEEE 1149 expands differentially
  10/1/2005 It’s the Time Thing - Spectrum Analyzers
  10/1/2005 PCB Inspection Shifts to AXI
  10/1/2005 Scan-Based Diagnostics Assists Yield
  10/1/2005 X-ray systems sharpen images
Product Release
  10/16/2005 Agilent introduces spectrum analyzer under $10,000
  10/14/2005 PXI Matrix Cards Switch 2 A
  10/14/2005 Serial pulse data generator with 13.5GHz stimulus capability
  10/13/2005 Router Solutions improve Design for Test
  10/12/2005 Extending Boundary-Scan to Measure Analog Voltages
  10/10/2005 Tektronix Addresses Real-Time Spectrum Analysis
  10/10/2005 VME to VXI Adapter Card Suits ATE Apps
  10/5/2005 National Semiconductor introduces analogue crosspoint switch with 1149.6
  10/5/2005 PXI RF test modules go to 6GHz
  10/4/2005 AEMC® Introduces Sentinel® Current Data Loggers
  10/4/2005 Agilent Technologies adds two models to arbitrary waveform generator family
  10/4/2005 Automatic X-ray inspection from Viscom
  10/4/2005 JDSU Extends VoIP Test Capabilities Of Digital Services Activation Meter
  10/3/2005 Fluke Announces 28x Series of Universal Waveform Generators
  10/3/2005 GÖPEL electronic's Boundary Scan Platform SCANFLEX® completely integrated into Digitaltest In-Circuit-Tester
  10/3/2005 National Instruments Debuts a Distributed LabVIEW
Web posting
  10/3/2005 Memory Management in Arbitrary Waveform Generators
  10/3/2005 Selecting your Next AWG
  10/3/2005 Sophisticated Arbitrary Waveform Generation Requires Sophisticated Hardware
Choosing a Calibration Service Provider
In our modern world of high-level manufacturing and equipment maintenance, and various industries’ increasingly stringent quality requirements, the regular calibration and certification of measuring and test equipment has become an absolute necessity for instrument owners.  However, it is no longer enough to simply pick a calibration laboratory out of the phone book, or simply send the equipment back to the manufacturer – it is important to pick a laboratory which meets your quality requirements, can provide the turn-around time you need, and do it within your budgetary restraints.  Let’s take a look at each of these factors.

Your Quality Requirements
Obviously, the importance of each factor is dependent on each company’s policies and requirements.  For some, price may be a bigger factor than turn-around or quality requirements in determining which calibration laboratory to use.  Whatever the importance, your quality requirements should be the first thing you consider – if the laboratory can’t meet or exceed your company’s requirements, how long the laboratory takes or how much they charge never comes into play.

Here are some questions you should ask yourself:
· “Do I need an accredited calibration?”
If your answer is “Yes”, the first thing you need to look for is a laboratory that has been accredited to A2LA.  But seeing that accreditation logo, certificate and registration number is just the start.  Make sure you request a copy of the laboratory’s accreditation scope – if the lab is accredited, but not in one of the measurement areas you require, then their accreditation doesn’t do you any good.
· “Do I need to use an ISO registered laboratory?”
Over the years, this has more and more become an absolute requirement when picking which calibration laboratory to use – it is also one of the easiest to determine.  Ask your potential calibration suppliers for their registration number and a copy of their registration certificate; and remember to make sure that they have had their follow-up audits!  A six or seven year old certificate and no follow-up audits is just as valid as an expired drivers license.
· “Do I need to audit this calibration laboratory?”
Sometimes, regardless of a laboratory’s certificates and registrations, it is still necessary for your company to perform an audit of their facility, policies, and quality manual.  Before you go jumping on the next airplane, you need to determine whether you can get by with an audit questionnaire, or if an onsite visit is absolutely necessary.  If you can determine everything you need to know from a questionnaire, save both yourself and the laboratory the expense and inconvenience of the onsite audit.  If you feel that an onsite audit is necessary, the definitely contact the lab’s quality manager and get it scheduled.  Keep in mind:  If a laboratory is not willing to schedule an onsite audit, they may not be right for you.

Your Turn-around and Price Requirements
You have found several laboratories which all meet your quality requirements, and all can perform calibration and certification on your equipment.  From here, how do you determine which laboratory to use?  Here is where turn-around time and price – which go hand-in-hand – become important.  A lot of this is subjective, depending on how much money you have in your budget, and how long you can go without your equipment.

It doesn’t do you any good to get your equipment back in two days, if it blows out your calibration budget for the rest of the year; what are you going to do in six months when it all comes due again?

Don’t be afraid to ask the laboratories for cost and turn-around time proposals, so you can perform easy comparisons.  Make sure to have them note any equipment they may need to subcontract, and how much they are going to charge you for handling that equipment.

When reviewing the proposals, if you find any equipment that is decently priced, find out if the laboratory has an expedite service and how much the markup is.

Other Considerations
Along with the quality, turn-around, and price issues, there are some other things you want to consider:
· Customer Service – Is the laboratory staff friendly, responsive and easy to work with?
If you really want to find out how good their service is, send in a single instrument, and see what kind of service you get.
· Laboratory – Customer Relationship – Does the laboratory want to establish a long-term relationship with my company, or am I simply another customer number?
· Onsite Work – Does the laboratory offer onsite / in-plant calibration service?
· Web Reporting – Can I review job status and equipment history, and reprint calibration certificates online?

When it comes to picking your calibration service provider, make sure to take the time to investigate all of your options, and make an informed choice of the best laboratory to meet all of your company’s needs.
Anthony P. James, Norvada, LLC
Next Issue's Product/Service Focus
In our next issue of Product/Service Focus we will cover Automatic Test Equipment/Automobile Test Systems. You can add or upgrade a listing before the next issue comes out.

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