A gage calibration system can be successful only if you can readily and easily identify gages and when they need calibration and the key to proper gage identification is a reliable labeling system. Calibration labels communicate critical calibration information to gage operators and gage labeling is critical to compliance with many standards organizations.
Using a perfectly legible and appropriately durable label, any gage and its calibration status can be quickly determined at a glance, eliminating guesswork, improving productivity and reducing costs.
With hand-written labels, if you don’t take special care to write legibly with an appropriate writing utensil, wrap the label in a protective sleeve and appropriately position the label to avoid excess wear, the label becomes stained, smeared and illegible. Hand-written labels result in wasted time in the field, duplication of efforts and a risk of not being ISO compliant.
Using off-the-shelf labels versus custom-printed labels may be dictated by factors beyond your control, such as guidelines from International standards like ISO, internal company specifications or outside calibration house needs.
With high-resolution, custom-printed, laminated labels, none of these issues arise. Printing labels directly from your calibration software ensures legibility, accurate information on the label and consistency with the database and if the labels are a high-quality material and laminated, they are far more durable as well. Custom labels are printed on an as-needed basis; neither materials nor time are wasted. And, if you perform calibrations in the field, there are portable calibration label printers available as well.
Beyond the information included on the label, it is important to consider the other factors that may affect your labeling system as well as how the labels integrate with your calibration tracking system. Here are some points to consider when setting up a labeling system:
Should the labels be permanently affixed or removable?
A bar-coded Gage ID label, for instance, is considered permanent, as Gage IDs rarely, if ever, change. However, even permanent labels can still be removed with some effort and using a product that removes adhesive residue. Other permanent types of labels may be Inactive Gage labels or No Calibration Gage labels.
Calibration labels, on the other hand, are removed and replaced at the time of calibration. Depending on the instrument’s environment, this type of label may need a stronger adhesive, but will still need to be somewhat easy to remove. You should test the label to be sure that the temporary adhesive is strong enough to prevent the label from repeatedly falling off and having to be reattached. Labels that don’t properly attach will eventually end up on the floor or the sole of someone’s shoe.
Calibration Issue labels are used to track cycles and usage information for the instrument. Every time such a gage is issued, the estimated calibration due date changes, requiring a new label. Because these labels are changed quite often, a weaker adhesive is usually sufficient.
Regardless of the types of labels you choose, be sure that the surface for the label is clean and dry and, if possible, slightly roughened to allow for ideal adhesion.
What information must be included on each label?
If the same information is required for all gages in all departments, one standard label type may work; if the amount of information differs, several different types of labels may be required.
Will label color play a role in the labeling system?
Labels can be color-coded to distinguish instruments by department, building, month of calibration, etc. at a glance.
Evaluate the environment in which your gages are used to help you determine which type of label you need.
Should the labeling material be paper, laminate or polyester? A high-quality laminated label will stand up to water, oil, temperature extremes, abrasion and chemicals. Some label printers automatically apply the laminate material over thermal ink printing, resulting in a highly durable product that will stand up to the harshest environments.
Various label types may be required depending on the application: standard adhesive, extra strength adhesive, tamper-proof, flexible tape for labeling over edges or around curved surfaces, etc.
How does labeling integrate with your calibration system?
Many of today’s calibration software programs feature the ability to print labels directly from the software database. The main advantages of a direct connection between the calibration database and a label printer are the minimization of data entry errors, excellent readability and durability of labels and time savings.
Properly labeling your instruments and using a comprehensive calibration management software solution will allow you to effectively track all of your instruments. Your calibration software should include issue/return tracking functionality and if you have a barcode reader and have used bar-coded labels, you can scan the Gage’s barcode, automatically populating the Gage’s information, saving even more time and ensuring data accuracy.
This type of functionality allows you to track each instance of a gage being loaned out or sent out for calibration or repair and its return to the crib; you will be able to locate any gage at any time and run detailed reports to identify which gages are used most often and by whom.
Though a gage label seems like such a simple thing, it is a cornerstone of a successful calibration system. Spend some time analyzing your needs and developing a labeling system that will serve your needs now and in the future.
About the Author:
Dave K. Banerjea is president and CEO of CyberMetrics Corporation, developer and worldwide distributor of GAGEtrak Calibration Management Software and FaciliWorks CMMS maintenance management software.