» Accredited Calibration: Ensuring your equipment measures up

27 October, 2015

Established just over 100 years ago, Bellingham + Stanley specialises in the design, manufacture, sales and servicing of laboratory equipment for measuring the amount of dissolved solid content and optically active characteristics of liquids.  Based at a purpose built site in Tunbridge Wells, Bellingham + Stanley is a vital part of global water technology provider Xylem.

The company’s array of meters, sensors, analysers and related consumables are used thousands of times every day throughout the world to analyse and control quality in countless industrial applications.  Its customers include many worldwide recognised blue chip companies from the food and beverage markets, pharmaceutical and chemical, automotive and industrial management industries.

Its range of refractometers, polarimeters and laboratory equipment have a number of applications throughout industry, including measurement of dissolved sugar in water (jams, beverages, sauces etc) and testing antifreeze in the automotive industry.  More recently its equipment has been used to test specialist liquids for chemically reducing levels of Nitrogen Oxide in diesel engine emissions, enabling fleet managers to meet the latest European exhaust fumes and pollution regulations.

In any industry, particularly those that Bellingham + Stanley provide services to, the accuracy of testing and measurement is of paramount importance.  Andrew Darkins, Technical Services Manager said: “Production and process facilities throughout the world rely on refractometers and polarimeters for quality, compliance and yield control.  No matter what the make or type of instrument, results are only as good as the calibration regime behind the measurement.”

It is this philosophy that led Bellingham + Stanley to submit its services for assessment by The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) against the international standard ISO/IEC 17025 – General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories.  Following successful completion of the assessment process, the company is now UKAS accredited for the testing and calibration of materials for optical rotation and refractive index.  This has had a positive effect on both the company and its customers, as Andrew explains:

“Bellingham + Stanley is proud to be a UKAS accredited calibration laboratory.  Depending on the instrument type, application and traceability requirement customers are able to make a choice from a range of Certified Reference Materials (CRMs) to verify almost any make of refractometer or polarimeter that they may have.  In addition, all instrumentation manufactured by Bellingham + Stanley is calibrated as part of our manufacturing process before dispatch.  The standard also forms the basis of our on-site validation procedures for commissioning new instrumentation, enabling re-certification and repair services post-sale, and providing our customers with the valuable and reliable audit trail they need to satisfy HACCP and GLP.”

Despite challenging conditions in the global economy, the company has seen a sustained and prolonged increase in sales, which Andrew attributes partly to achieving accreditation.  “Since obtaining ISO/IEC 17025 Accreditation in 2006, there has been an annual increase of approx. 10% year on year in the production of Calibration Standards.”

Owing to a series of multilateral recognition agreements, accreditation by UKAS is automatically recognised as equivalent in 80 economies across the world.  This ‘tested once, accepted everywhere’ approach is particularly important to Bellingham + Stanley, as many of its customers operate in global markets.  Andrew said: “Now that Bellingham + Stanley is a UKAS accredited calibration laboratory we can use the internationally recognized ILAC-MRA marque on all UKAS certified products.  Customers in other countries that are also signatories to the MRA will instantly recognise our UKAS accreditation, and as such will know we meet their own countries’ standards.  In addition to supporting our existing markets, the MRA provides us with the potential to expand our business in to those countries that did not previously recognise or understand the value of the UKAS logo.”

The MRA has had a noticeable effect on both enquiries and sales, as Andrew explains: “Introducing the ILAC MRA marque onto our Calibration Certificates and website has led to an increase in international recognition of our calibration standards, and a subsequent reduction in queries regarding whether we can produce CRMs that are recognised in countries across the world that form part of our international market.  We expect future growth to continue in the double digits as we access and become more accepted by markets across the globe, especially as we further develop our offering by adding new products and improving existing uncertainties.”

As well as widening the potential marketplace and increasing sales, the process of becoming UKAS accredited has brought several internal benefits to the way the Bellingham + Stanley operates.  Andrew said: “Applying for accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 involved a reassessment of the way in which our laboratory dealt with the production of CRMs for refractometers and polarimeters.  Processes that had evolved over time, whilst still meeting stringent technical requirements, were streamlined and incorporated into a computerised record keeping system.  This enabled data to be directly logged from instrumentation during the calibration process, and automated the production of calibration certificates.  In turn this resulted in an increase in efficiency and a faster response time when dealing with requests from customers.”

Far from being a one off event that results in a certificate to hang on the wall, accreditation is a continual process that revolves around a four year cycle.  Kevin Chapman, Marketing and Customer Care Manager, sees this as a further benefit for the company and its customers: “The regular internal and external auditing associated with maintaining accreditation ensures that we stay focussed on improving both our systems and our service to our customers, whilst increasing the confidence in our instrumentation that using UKAS accredited CRMs provides.”

Finally, the company’s image has also benefited through achieving UKAS accreditation.  Kevin concludes: “Accreditation has given our customers the confidence that they can source traceable calibration standards for use on their refractometers and polarimeters.  In turn, this has added a further level of prestige to our already long established brand.”