Calibration Standards: Their Impact on You
In day to day life, when we look to purchase things such as automobiles, we consider the cost of maintenance and quality of service. Various car companies have differing levels of warranties, service turnaround, and service quality. Inevitably, when we look to spend our own personal, hard earned money, we look to get the most for our investment. We all understand the initial purchase expense but may not quite fully understand what we get when we have our automobiles maintained and serviced. While there are many choices when it comes to service and maintenance, we would all feel more secure if we knew they followed a known set of standards and processes for your particular make and model. In Landfill Gas (LFG), analyzers are a critical component to day to day operations in the industry. Just as consumers must consider maintenance on their automobiles, owners of LFG analyzers must take extra consideration to how service facilities operate for maintenance and repair of their investments. In this article we will introduce you to the ISO 17025 accreditation for test and calibration laboratories, how this applies to LFG analyzers, and the benefits to owners and operators.
ISO/IEC 17025: An Overview
The International Organization for Standards (ISO) is a non-governmental organization that has existed for over 50 years. ISO has many published standards for operations in many disciplines. At a high level, ISO quality standards help organizations document processes and workflows for operation, variances and/or issues found while executing those standards, as well as planning and execution of improvements based on those findings. ISO/IEC 17025 is the primary standard used by testing and calibration laboratories. Originally issued by ISO in 1999, it was known then as ISO/IEC Guide 25. There are commonalities with other standards such as ISO 9000, but ISO/IEC 17025 adds in the concept of competence to the equation and is directly applicable to organizations that produce testing and calibration results.
The ISO/IEC 17025 standard itself consists of five main sections: Scope, Normative References, Terms/Definitions, Management Requirements and Technical Requirements. The two main sections are Management Requirements and Technical Requirements. Management requirements relate to the operation and effectiveness of the quality management system within the laboratory while technical requirements include factors which determine the correctness and reliability of the tests and calibrations performed in laboratory. The reason laboratories use ISO/IEC 17025 is to implement a quality system enabling them to consistently produce valid results. ISO/IEC 17025 is also the basis for accreditation by an Accreditation Body.
Laboratories use ISO/IEC 17025 to implement a quality system aimed at improving their ability to consistently produce valid results. It is also the basis for accreditation from an Accreditation Body. Since the standard is about competence, accreditation is formal recognition of a demonstration of that competence. A prerequisite for a laboratory to become accredited is to have a documented quality management system that follows the outline of the ISO/IEC 17025 standard.
Landfill Gas Analyzers
Landfill gas analyzers are complex, high tech gas analyzers designed to withstand the rigors of the landfill environment. Owners and operators rely on the accuracy, reliability, and repeatability of their portable and stationary LFG analyzers. The ability of the instruments to consistently read in accordance with their specifications is imperative to complying with environmental and production guidelines.
Manufacturers generally recommend routine factory maintenance to ensure performance within published specifications. Examples for regular maintenance are quarterly for continual or daily use, bi-annual for moderate use, etc. Routine instrument maintenance can be equated to a 15,000 mile, 30,000 mile, or other scheduled maintenance for your automobile. Main connection points are inspected, tubing and hoses looked over, and electronics diagnosed. If any additional items are found, the customer is notified and may or may not elect to have them addressed. One very important item that occurs during factory maintenance is calibration. Calibration of an LFG analyzer sets the baseline for is measuring performance. The factory calibration certificate is also what needs to be kept on record to show instrument performance within the guidelines of the regulation whether they are EPA, local air board, or governing carbon credit or offset agency.
Owners and Operators
How can you, as the owner/operator be confident in consistency and quality of service on your instrumentation? Conduct the necessary research on maintenance before purchasing your instrumentation. Does the manufacturer service facilities have a documented quality system in place? Do they have mechanisms for tracking and executing on areas of improvement? Can evidence be provided supporting published accuracies and calibration certifications? Answers to these questions should play a large role in the decision of which LFG analyzer should be selected. More importantly, the answers to these questions will be “Yes” if the manufacturer and service facilities are ISO/IEC 17025 accredited for the instrumentation.
An accredited service and calibration laboratory will be able to give you peace of mind that your LFG analyzer, that provides evidence of compliance, is functioning to manufacturer specification. Showing evidence of meeting these requirements comes in the form of manufacturer service calibration certificates. Accredited facilities are internally audited on a regular basis. In addition, these same facilities are externally audited by third party Accreditation Bodies to show conformance with quality procedures and maintain performance to retain accreditation.
Apply the information
LFG analyzers are used to take and record measurements of field parameters that are needed for feasibility, development, and operations and maintenance of landfill gas collection and control systems. Decisions based on this information are critical to purchasing, delivery, construction, and reporting. Having confidence in the information provided from your analyzer stems from the quality of service provided. This could be at the instrument is prepared for first delivery, routinely serviced and calibrated, or occasionally repaired if necessary.
So what does this all boil down to? Do the research. Find out how the facilities that service and calibrate your existing or potential LFG analyzer operate. Ask if they have a documented quality system, methods to identify areas for improvement, and the ability to execute on improvements. ISO/IEC 17025 testing and calibration facilities meet these requirements and should be a large consideration when looking at where your maintenance costs are spent.