Calibrating and testing inspection equipment

To ensure inspection equipment is fit for purpose, it needs to be calibrated properly and then tested so it remains a useful part of a business’s QC process.

Inspection equipment allows food, beverage and pharmaceutical manufacturers to uphold their product-quality standards. In doing so, they also maintain consumer safety, protect the brand’s integrity, as well as meet laws and regulations.

But before inspection solutions can perform their role in quality control (QC), they need to be “taught” what they have to inspect and given clear tolerance limits. This calibration must be done for every SKU.

However, that’s far from the end of it: regularly testing your inspection equipment’s performance is vital in a properly designed quality management system because like any tools, inspection equipment must be appropriately cared for. In much the same way as the tyre pressure on a car needs to be regularly checked to ensure it’s still at the right level, your inspection equipment needs to be routinely verified to ensure it’s operating within specified standards and, if required by your customers or legally, to demonstrate due diligence.

Because product inspection equipment and applications vary across industries, there’s no “blanket golden rule” that applies to every situation regarding generic testing frequencies. But rather than leave it to “when we remember” – or worse, “when we have time” – establish a set testing frequency routine from the very beginning. As well as ensuring your equipment is doing its job properly, ideally the testing frequency will allow you to isolate all inspected products since the last successful test. In this way, if you have a failed test, quarantining product is straightforward and not a nightmare of guessing. Of course, the more frequent your testing, the smaller the potential size of any failed batches. These are common testing stages:

  • beginning and end of each shift or day’s production
  • changes in production batches
  • changes in machine settings
  • post R&M downtime

It goes without saying that having the right test pieces to run your testing means your equipment’s verification will be effective. Using a test pack on your production lines is simple and can also save time and costs. A test pack is simply a specially prepared item that is known to meet specs. The test pack must reflect the actual product being inspected for the test to be accurate. Do make sure the test pack is clearly labelled and identified (say by using highly visible coloured tape) so it doesn't travel through your production process and into the supply chain, accidentally undetected. Your inspection equipment supplier can help you here.

It’s important to keep accurate records of your testing. This not only shows due diligence, but will support any compliance needs. These records can prove that correct procedures were followed and systems were functioning according to agreed specifications. Make sure your records include:

  • test date and time
  • a unique ID reference (e.g.: serial number)
  • the product being tested
  • the test samples used
  • test result for both detection and rejection
  • test result for any fail-safe devices
  • fault details, if any, and corrective action taken
  • name of the person conducting the test

In the case of a verification test fail, production should be halted and the cause of the error fixed before production starts again.

It is recommended that inspection equipment is calibrated. Calibration is checking to ensure the machine is accurate. This is recommended to be done at least annually by an external party – so is typically done by the machinery supplier.

If you have any questions about when or how to test your inspection equipment, or what test samples to use, the iQVision team can help. You can contact us via email or call 1300 IQVISION (1300 478 474).

iQVision also has a host of information in the resource library, including videos, case studies, whitepapers, brochures, FAQ’s and our blog. They’re all free to download.

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