Customers need to be careful when hiring services from metrology services providers. There are many “Ma and Pa” businesses that may be run by technically capable people, but which lack the depth to provide their customers with a full range of support, especially when the unexpected occurs.
The following list from Automated Precision, Inc. (API) gives you a checklist of questions to ask providers.
1. Technical Capability
Does the provider fully understand your drawings and requirements? Can they meet your accuracy requirements and tolerances? Are they quoting accuracy of your project or just the specification of their measurement equipment? Can they provide reports from past projects that are like your job?
Is the Metrology Provider qualified to perform other tasks at your company? These days, many companies like to minimize their list of suppliers, so it makes sense that the metrology provider can provide more than a simple laser tracker job or scanning job. Ask your provider for a list of all their services.
How large is the supplier’s staff? What are their qualifications and experience? Have they provided business resumes for the people coming to your facility? Do they have additional personnel available if the schedule changes? Does their staff have certifications?
What type of equipment do they propose for your project and why? Do they have back-ups in case of equipment failure? Will they bring a back-up to your job or how long will it take to get a replacement? Will they be charging you for equipment downtime?
Has the provider’s equipment been recently calibrated by a certified lab? Will they provide you with calibration certificates? Was the equipment calibrated or certified? This is a big difference and customers should understand the differences. Do they own their equipment or just rent it? What is their standard operating procedure to minimize error? Will they use your equipment if requested?
What type of software do they intend to use for your project? Is it compatible with your downstream systems? Is the provider using the latest version of the software or is it an older copy? Does the software belong to the provider or is it rented or possibly bootlegged? It is important to ensure that software is kept up to date as OEM instrument providers frequently provide updates to 3rd party software vendors. Proper operation of the equipment requires that interfacing software stay current.
5. Back Office Support
Does the provider have sufficient support? Often with smaller firms, the only company representative available to you is the technical person working your project. How available is this person if you have an issue with their report the next week and the technical person that worked your project is on another customer’s job?
Does the provider have a quality manager that reviews all customer projects to ensure quality? If you need help with the provider’s invoice or additional services, do they have these personnel available? How about questions concerning invoices, are the personnel available?
6. References and Customer Satisfaction
Does the provider have a list of references and past customer satisfaction reports? The customer should do their due diligence and check with other customers before hiring a provider of metrology services.
Does the metrology provider have the necessary liability insurance to work at your facility. Is it the minimum amount, or do they have ample insurance in case of the unexpected? Typically, major and expensive decisions are made with the help of your metrology provider.
After a successful metrology services job, customers frequently decide to “do it themselves”. Does the service provider offer plans to sell, lease rent equipment? Can they train the customer with the equipment and software? How about future automation, can they provide programming to interface the measurement equipment with work cells? Do they have engineering support that can interface with customer engineers?
9. Quality Plan
Does the metrology service provider have an approved quality plan? This may be very important to first ensure the necessary level of quality is enforced and documented. Second, if you are audited by your customer, can you be sure the metrology provider’s quality plan will add value to your process?
10. Safety plan
Does your provider have their own safety plan. These personnel will be working on your product or facilities and you must ensure to proper safety controls are in place. Obviously, you want the metrology provider to not only follow your safety rules, but they must also follow their plan that should address working with specialty measurement equipment that interfaces with your personnel and processes.
Just ensuring that the metrology provider has their personal protective equipment is not always enough to keep you out of trouble!