On-site testing usually takes place in one of two ways: by a trained in-house staff or by a competent, certified third party. Both processes have their advantages and disadvantages. The practicality, cost-effectiveness and the complication of adhering to regulatory guidelines in using either process depend on your particular situation.
On-site Testing with In-house Inspection
Aspects of In-house Testing
There are many facets to having an in-house, on-site testing team and laboratory. Before you make the decision to begin any such initiative, it is helpful to understand the various aspects of such an initiative.
A) Ensuring Staff Expertise
The competency of the in-house testing team needs to be evaluated. The business needs to supply records of competency, educational training courses completed, a description of skills and any other written record of competency for the on-site staff.
B) Calibrated Equipment
All calibration standards must be met and reference materials available for any tests to be performed.
C) Calibrating Standards
The calibrations need to be performed on a regular schedule to ensure accuracy and traceability. The information needed for testing includes the following:
- the identity of the item being tested, and any software used
- an identification number from the manufacturer
- the manufacturer’s operating manual
- calibration records
D) Measurement Traceability
All equipment should be calibrated using the measurement standards of a national metrological institute, taking careful note of all uncertainty. The appropriate environment must be maintained to ensure the correct performance of the calibrations. These conditions could include humidity, temperature, vibration, dust, electrical disturbances, and drafts.
E) Complete Reports
The reports must reflect the national standards, including:
- proper identification of equipment, including its condition,
- a certificate of calibration with pertinent information such as the date and conditions of the testing,
- name of the business,
- method of Inspection,
- calibration results with the units of measurement and uncertainty of measurement,
- identification of the inspector, and
- traceability to national standards.
The records should be maintained for 5 years.
F) Testing Schedule
“Competence is based on knowledge and skills gained from training, experience, qualifications or a combination of these (and in compliance with AS/NZS 3760.) It is an offence under the Electrical Safety Act 2002 to repair electrical equipment unless you have the appropriate electrical work licence,” according to the Australian government standards. Similar regulations are in place in other areas of testing. Equipment testing is usually done every 6 months to one year , depending on the circumstances.
On-site Testing by a Third Party
If a third-party company is responsible for your on-site testing, there are some factors you would want to consider and prepare for.
Before the Visit: A lab may request details about in-house calibration of the equipment they will be testing and the instruments used for calibration at your site.
During the Visit: The in-house calibration systems will be inspected for compliance according to government regulations.
It is helpful to have a plan to support the third-party on-site inspection. As a manager, you can design the experience to maximize the usefulness of the data gained from the inspection.
- Select a project leader. This can be one of your staff who has an overall view of your operations and who possesses excellent communication skills.
- Define the task before the on-site team arrives. What requires testing? Do you want your staff to receive guidelines?
- Identify and address any specific issues you think may be inherent in your operations.
- Confirm that the environmental conditions can be controlled and maintained.
- Discuss and define testing steps to illuminate the depth of the inspection and order of inspection.
- Define the skill sets necessary to proceed with the testing. These include chemical, mechanical, electrical, controls and engineering and skills.
- Determine a schedule for the work. Ideally, testing should be done after hours, not during peak times.
- Make time to view the observations and test point values measured so decisions can be made promptly, in case any equipment requires adjustment or replacement.
- Take corrective actions as needed.
- Verify that the corrective actions produce the results you need.
- Seek out a preventive maintenance (PM) program based on best practices.
Advantages of On-site Testing by a Third Party
There are many advantages to employing a third-party company to perform your on-site testing. To name a few, third-party testers:
- meet the requirements of industry standards,
- help prevent accidents by having the expertise to properly identifying issues,
- comply with legislative regulations,
- accurately keep records for easy reference,
- have the know-how to avoid downtime,
- offer cost-effective solutions tailored to the individual clients,
- have the experience that reduces testing inefficiencies,
- employ staff who have a wealth of experience to anticipate problems, and issues, correct them, and document the results of the changes, and
- have awareness of procedures, regulations and best practices.
Qualities of an Excellent Third-party On-site Testing Company
When looking for a third-party testing company, consider those with:
- experience that stretches over decades,
- great testimonials from satisfied clients who are industry leaders,
- case studies for review,
- strong corporate ethics,
- honest quotes for tasks,
- availability for after-hours testing or testing during off-peak hours to minimize any disturbance in your operations,
- a well-equipped mobile service,
- state-of-the-art testing equipment,
- full equipment replacement in a timely manner,
- a personalized approach to meet your needs,
- willingness to interface with your staff to problem solve any issues,
- connections to regulatory bodies,
- accreditations such as National Association of Testing Authorities, and SAI Global Accreditation, and
- staff training options.
Cost Analysis of In-house Testing and Calibration
The cost of standard on-site test equipment can range from $2,000 to well over $50,000. On top of the cost of equipment, you must also consider the cost of training, operating the testing facilities and purchasing consumables for an on-site laboratory. Because of these factors, it may be more financially advantageous to hire a third-party inspection team, especially if your required inspections are infrequent, such as once a year. In addition, the third-party’s seasoned and experienced inspectors will provide a fresh and expert view of your operations.