What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is the unbiased assessment by a ILAC Signatory of a laboratory’s quality program and technical capabilities. These organizations are part of an international Mutual Recognition agreement and are assessed to ISO 17011 to ensure their competency. An ILAC Signatory, assesses the laboratory against a recognized standard. Internationally, the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 “General Requirements for the Competence of Calibration and Testing Laboratories,” has been the accepted standard for many years. However, in May 2005, the new standard, ISO/IEC 17025:2005 “General Requirements for the Competence of Testing and Calibration Laboratories,” was adopted. Laboratories accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005 are also compliant to the basic requirements of ISO 9001:2008
Accreditation indicates that a laboratory has demonstrated that it functions within the parameters of the standard. While accreditation is not a guarantee of a laboratory’s performance, it does provide a means for determining the laboratory’s competence to perform particular types of tests or calibrations. The technical evaluation during an accreditation includes a review (by experts in the relevant discipline) of calibration procedures, calibration standards, traceability, uncertainty analysis, actual results, and statistical process control.
Laboratory accreditation has been a requirement in many countries for years. Nationally recognized accreditation bodies have provided customers with confidence in calibration certificates and reports by employing generally established standards set by the European (CEN) or international (ISO) standardization bodies. Accreditation in the United States is voluntary. Nevertheless, as more companies become ISO 9001:2008 certified, accreditation is becoming a more common practice in the United States.
What Is the Scope of All American Scale & Calibration’s Accreditation?
The scope of All American Scales & Calibration’s accreditation is intended to satisfy the traceability and other requirements for ongoing company operations, research requirements, and customer support for time and frequency, dimensional, mechanical, fluid quantities, and thermodynamic.
What’s in it for You?
First, since accreditation involves a third party assessment of a laboratory’s QA program and technical capabilities, it provides an impartial viewpoint of the competency of the laboratory. It also provides an unbiased assessment of the laboratory’s standards, procedures, personnel qualifications, and traceability to an appropriate national laboratory. In the United States, this means traceability of all standards to N.I.S.T. In short, accreditation offers a lab’s customers a high level of confidence in its quality and technical abilities.
Second, because ISO 9001:2008 includes calibration requirements, many companies include accreditation for calibration suppliers as a mandatory part of their QA system. Often, accredited suppliers need only remit a copy of their accreditation scope in order to become an approved vendor. This eliminates the need for time-consuming, expensive audits and other supplier evaluation methods. Further, a customer’s own audits run smoother when accredited suppliers are used.
Third, accreditation has benefits, for international customers. All recognized accreditation bodies have adopted the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 as the basis for accreditation of calibration and testing laboratories Because these accreditations tend to be based on the same standards, countries may enter into Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) whereby an accreditation body in one country recognizes the accreditations done by a fellow MRA signatory in another country. This has the effect of easing some of the barriers that have historically hindered the flow of calibrated instruments across border
What's In It For Us?
Customer demand for laboratory accreditation has been rising for years. With many companies requiring their calibration service suppliers to be accredited, this demand is starting to reach a critical level. By becoming accredited, All American Scales & Calibration is better positioned to serve a wide variety of customers. Additionally, the time and costs associated with providing repetitive audits to numerous customers will decline with accreditation.
Perhaps the single greatest benefit of accreditation to All American Scales & Calibration is the accreditation process itself. All American Scales & Calibration employs some of the world’s leading metrologists. Both the QA systems and the technical operating procedures were thoroughly examined. Issues were discussed and recommendations made and implemented. While the lab was already excellent, it is now the best it’s ever been, and we have independent confirmation that we do what we say we do.
In the end, accreditation benefits both the accredited lab and its customers. Our processes and systems have been validated, our stated uncertainties scrutinized, and traceability established.
Here is a summary of everything you need to know for when buying calibration services:
- Is the laboratory from which you want to buy calibration services accredited to ISO/IEC 17025:2005, or ANSI/NCSL Z540-1? (A statement of conformance is worth nothing. They must be accredited. Use of a logo is usually the easiest way to tell.)
- Is the body that accredited this laboratory a signatory to one of the laboratory accreditation agreements? There are many in the US; Another signatory, ICBO (International Conference of Building Officials) does not accredit general-purpose calibration services. Many other countries have accreditation bodies that are signatories, and they are allowed to accredit labs in any country including the USA.
- Are the measurement parameters you wish to have calibrated listed on the laboratory’s scope of accreditation? Are the ranges of the parameters you have chosen within the scope?
- Have you specified accredited service on your purchase order to the laboratory?
- Do all certificates you received from the laboratory have a logo from the accreditation body, and are there no exceptions taken for specific results? (Tip - also look for a statement that the instrument when received, was operating within acceptable limits, otherwise you have to see if it could have made any important mistakes before it was sent out.)