The importance of instrumentation and calibration

How important is instrumentation in production?

Instrumentation is an indispensable part of any production unit. A pharma business for instance, needs among others, thermometers to check the temperature of the storage space for the ingredients and scales to weight the quantity of each substance before combining to make the drug. Similarly, a bakery factory, needs a hygrometer to monitor the humidity in their storage units, thermometers for the ovens etc.

These instruments are essential in production because they ensure that the product is produced and stored under the right conditions.

Why calibrate?

The accuracy of measurement devices degrades over time. If you don’t calibrate, you cannot guarantee that your instruments are providing the right readings to your control or batching system. In other words you cannot know how accurate your process is.

It makes sense to know what you measure and how regardless of the product. And if you work with expensive ingredients you need to know that your batches are correctly measured to ensure product quality.

Making sure that your instruments measure correctly is critical to your process. But knowing all of your history is also critical to successfully manage your instruments. Keeping track of all historical data including readings, adjustments and deviations is essential when trying to establish best practices for interval adjustments.

Let’s see through an example the impact that instruments have in the production process.

Example: Deviation Management

When you find a deviation or out of tolerance, you have no information to determine when the instrument actually drifted outside the tolerance limit. It could have been during the installation back into the process when you calibrated it 12 months ago or the week before the current calibration. Potentially this instrument could have been feeding incorrect data readings to your control system for 12 months. The QA team may have to look over all affected batches for the past year to ensure that this one single instrument could not have affected the quality in the production process.

So now you have re-adjusted the instrument and you want to put it back in the process. Before you do that, you need to review the effect this adjustment could have on the production. Putting the adjusted instrument back in the process could affect the product quality now that different readings are being fed to the control system. This is an important step of the deviation management process that demands attentiveness and time.

The deviation management process comes at a price. As well as being a very costly exercise in itself, there is also the potential of product recall. Moreover, if you are in a heavily regulated industry chances are you will need to make this public knowledge. This could have a negative effect on the share value and the company’s public image.

The advantages of calibration management software

The good news is that if you have calibration management procedures and a calibration software you can minimise the cost of similar events.

  • Know the last time you calibrated and you can take actions about the products up to the last calibration.
  • The fact that you can give an estimated timeframe of the problem gives credibility.
  • You can use historic data to estimate and update the calibration time of your instrument to save money and time.

Read more about the advantages of calibration management software

The physical equipment might be the most expensive part of the production process but it can’t work properly without the instruments. Instruments are the driving force of the process and ensures the quality of the product. To maintain product quality, never underestimate the importance of instrumentation.

Manage your instruments and make sure that you are always within compliance with a calibration management software like CompuCal.

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