There are many reasons why companies use spreadsheets to document and control their calibration devices; spreadsheets are easy to learn and there is a perception that spreadsheets are inexpensive because they are readily available as part of software productivity suites such as Microsoft Office.
So, why switch to calibration management software? While spreadsheets are excellent at performing “what-if” analysis, they fall short if you have large amounts of data, such as multiple calibrations for each instrument, if numerous users need to access the data at the same time or if you want to run complex queries on the data such as calibration tracking. The flat file structure of spreadsheets can create a lack of data integrity, as redundant data storage and complex updates make it difficult to control your information.
The primary driving factor for implementing calibration management software is standards compliance. If your company is seeking compliance with a major standard such as ISO or FDA, you will quickly learn that a shift to calibration management software is to your immediate advantage.
When making the move from spreadsheets to calibration management software, there are several things to consider:
— Are you making the move to attain a certification standard? If so, you will want to identify providers whose software solution will help you meet those requirements.
— What level of calibration management do you need? Some software solutions include advanced features such as R&R studies, MSA and audit logs, while others have more simplistic feature sets and are priced accordingly. There are sufficient choices for calibration software on the market, so narrow the choices down to a solution that fits your budget and corporate/departmental goals.
— Determine how to handle your existing data. Look for software solutions that have an integrated import tool or for a provider that offers import services so that you don’t end up with the time-consuming task of manual data entry.
— The transition from spreadsheets to a calibration software solution presents a learning opportunity for the end user. Make the learning curve as short as possible by selecting a provider with software trainers who have years of experience with their product and in the industry as a whole. You will also want to make sure that long-term support is available to help you manage employee turn-over.
— Look for software that has spreadsheet-like features, such as datasheet grids for viewing/sorting multiple records in a single view and search tools similar to those found in typical spreadsheet applications. This will help the end user transition easily to a superior solution.
— Be sure your data will be protected by selecting a software solution that offers security access measures. Frequent data backups should be performed automatically and security preferences can be set to require password access, user-level permissions, read-only privileges and digital signatures.
Many of the larger software providers have helped thousands of customers like you make the leap from spreadsheets to calibration software. It’s important to select a provider that offers data services such as data collection, organization, migration and verification as well as a data backup and recovery plan. The integrity of your data is key to a successful implementation and proper data migration minimizes transitional downtime. In the end, your company will have a calibration management solution that will serve you for years to come.
About the Author
Devin Brent Ellis is Director of Development and Client Solutions at CyberMetrics Corporation, developer and worldwide distributor of GAGEtrak calibration management and FaciliWorks CMMS maintenance management software.