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

09 December 2008

Andy Mayber, director of Stream Measurement, discusses flow meter calibration and important considerations when carrying it out.

Flowmeter calibration
Flowmeter calibration

The need for accountability is upmost in all areas of life and there is no exception in manufacturing. 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 or detergent, need to facilitate formal records. In some cases this is for Customs and Excise, but more importantly it ensures quality of output. However, this can only be assured through regular competent calibration, as this is the proof of compliance.

In today’s business climate it’s crucial to maximise plant and instrumentation investment, and flow meters are no exception. During the life of a flowmeter external effects will change its performance – either through wear, electronic drift, or poor installation. Wet test Calibration checks by flow meter experts who fully understand the mechanics, principle of operation and application effects are critical. The services of a flow meter specialist not only identifies irregularities but can carryout the necessary repairs and make recommendations on installation issues. 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?
 Understanding of Electronic and Mechanical flowmeter technologies?
 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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