Best Practices for Instrumentation Calibration

In a perfect world, your instruments would function in your facility just as well as the day they left the factory. The realities of operating a busy facility make that impossible, but instrumentation calibration can help. In fact, it’s necessary, especially if your plant is required to meet stringent calibration verifications and certifications. Most plants conduct instrumentation calibration during annual shutdowns, but if you forget to schedule this vital service, the consequences could range from annoying to dire.

Why is Calibration Important?
Failure to calibrate air monitoring, flow, level, pressure, and temperature equipment properly could result in unsafe operating conditions, product quality issues, explosions, or gas leaks. It’s also
important for your bottom line; accurate readings lead to better-functioning facilities and increased product quality. The most common instruments checked are pressure, temperature, flow, level, and gas detection sensors.

Best Practices
Over the decades, we’ve established best practices for calibration that will keep your plants running safely, efficiently, and reliably.

Don’t Wait. Many plants have instruments calibrated annually. Critical devices that affect plant safety, however, should be calibrated quarterly. It’s crucial to check fixed gas detectors more often since failure could lead to hazardous conditions or even explosions.

Keep Checking Your Sensors. It’s never a good idea to “set it and forget it,” because there are so many variables that affect the measuring ability of sensors. The physical installation may be causing erroneous signals or noise in the system, or the PLC/DCS scaling of the device may not match how the device is set up. These variables should be checked by simulating the device’s output when calibrating it. Sensors don’t have an expiration date, so you can run them until they fail, but calibrating at timed intervals is wise.

Document Your Efforts. To achieve the necessary certifications and verification standards, you’ll need the right paperwork on hand. Make sure you or your calibration technicians are documenting their work and labeling accurately.

Choose an Experienced Calibration Partner. Interstates checks each device against NIST traceable reference equipment and adjusts as necessary. Our experienced technicians can handle all your calibration needs, including fixed gas detection units and flowmeter calibrations. In addition to calibration, we can remove and reinstall devices, saving your team time and effort. We also provide you with proper documentation for all your recording needs.

What are the Benefits?
Regular instrumentation calibration benefits your plant in three main ways:

1. Compliance – Certain insurance providers, organizations, and governing bodies require certifications and verifications.

  • CARBs required calibrations in ethanol and renewable energy facilities to sell products to the state of California
  • Environmental sensors on water discharge and air discharge (baghouses vents) are sometimes required for environmental reasons
  • Facilities with PSM (process safety management) require checking sensors critical to their process
  • Facilities that process food must comply with FDA regulations

2. Safety – You owe it to your employees to keep them safe and protected at work. Regular calibration promotes a safe, healthy workplace and can give you peace of mind.

3. Quality – You need accurate measurements and data to make a quality, reliable product. If your temperature sensor measurement is off, what will that do to your final product?

The entire process can generally be completed in under a week, depending on the size of your facility. Interstates will help you determine your needs, establish clear goals, and define a calibration strategy aligned with your schedule. As the annual shutdown season commences, make sure your plant is slated for this essential service.

For more information on instrumentation calibration, email or call us at (712) 722-1662.