Seeing a bright future for calibration

18 April 2017

At the inauguration of new facilities at Beamex headquarters in Finland, Jan-Henrik Svensson, CEO of the company, talked about the changing role for calibration in the factories of the future.

The rapidly changing industrial environment – the drive towards Industry 4.0, the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), big data and the Cloud – is bound to have an impact on how, why and when calibration will be undertaken in the future. “Big data and IIoT, for example, is resulting in huge amounts of data being made available for analysis to help inform the decision making process,” said Svensson. “Process data is being collected for predictive maintenance purposes, to identify defects and address process challenges.  Data will play a much more important role across all industry sectors and this will require more devices and equipment around the plant to be connected, including calibrators.”

Regulatory requirements are also becoming more stringent across all industry sectors and this is often the driver for better utilisation of available plant data, to help improve traceability and compliance, for example. 

How do these trends affect calibration? Svensson explained more about what calibration is. “It is the measurement of measurement to ensure that measurements are being taken correctly, that their values are correct and remain consistent over a set period of time.  As such, calibration has a huge role to play in ensuring that the being collected is accurate.  

Svensson explained that some industry trends will increase the demand for calibration, while others may actually decrease the number of calibration operations required. “Instruments are improving and many can now be trusted to maintain accuracy for longer periods of time in non-critical environments,” he said. “Overall, however, we are seeing a calibration growth trend.

Another trend identified by Beamex is that calibration is becoming more closely related to maintenance. “This is being driven by trends like condition monitoring and predictive maintenance strategies, which aim to reduce the need for field maintenance. This is leading to calibration and maintenance activities being undertaken together, at the same time, by the same person, in the field.”

The well documented skills shortage is also driving the closening relationship between calibration and maintenance. “There are fewer experts available today. The engineering function has become more generalist, with an increasing reliance on more technologically advanced equipment. More companies are also taking a more risk-based approach to calibration, and are asking questions about how accurate measurements really need to be, and then focussing more attention on the most critical measurements,” continued Svensson.

“Instead of calibrating a specific device we are also seeing a shift in focus towards the entire process. Regulators do not want to know if a single transmitter is measuring correctly, they want to know if the process is working correctly. This has resulted in companies looking at entire loops – safety loops shutdown loops, emission loops, etc – looking at the whole system and not at its individual elements,” said Svensson. He believes that this development will have an impact on how people use technology and solutions in general. “Accuracy and uncertainly of measurement will be on a more on-demand basis, instead of being based on specifications of a certain instrument parameter,” he said.

“Because Beamex focusses on calibration, and nothing else, it is able to develop capabilities much faster to meet the requirements of changing trends. We focus on our customers process to see how we can help improve it,” concluded Svensson. Instead of looking at products, features and capabilities we try to understand the process and deliver a calibration solution that can improve it. We aim to offer configurable technology from standardised technologies that can be easily adapted to meet customers individual requirements. This results in an evergreen solution that can be continuously improved and developed as needs change.”

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