Conscientious Calibrations

Monitoring your measurements is good for the environment

by Christopher L. Grachanen and Terry L. McGee

Since the 1990s, thousands of companies and organizations throughout the world have been certified to standards published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Some of the compelling reasons why companies get certified include increasing quality, reducing costs, increasing efficiencies and complying with customer mandates.

By and large, the type of certification an organization pursues reflects the activities and services it provides. An organization’s certification may be generic in nature, covering a broad range of business activities, or it may be very specific, focusing on a particular activity, such as providing a testing service that requires regulatory compliance.

In search of ISO

The ISO 9000 series are the standards of choice for organizations looking for accreditation. The ISO 9000 family covers quality management systems and includes ISO 9001:2008 Quality management systems—Requirements and ISO 9004:2000 Quality management systems—Guidelines for performance improvements.

A company or organization can publicly state it is ISO 9001 certified if it has been audited and certified by an independent accredited assessing body recognized by industry as having authority to grant certification.

It must be noted that certification to an ISO standard does not guarantee non-defective products or elimination of substandard service. Instead, it ensures industry-accepted processes and practices are being applied and evidence of compliance is deemed applicable and sufficient.

Section 7.6 of ISO 9001, "Control of Measuring and Monitoring Devices," addresses inspection, measurement and test equipment (IM&TE) calibration requirements to help ensure an organization’s measurement capability is consistent with monitoring and measurement requirements. It also provides evidence of product conformity.

Section 7.6 goes on to state that to ensure valid results, it is necessary to:

  • Calibrate or verify the devices at specified intervals or prior to use.
  • Calibrate devices to national or international standards.
  • Adjust or readjust devices as necessary.
  • Identify devices to determine calibration status.
  • Safeguard devices from improper adjustments.
  • Protect devices from damage and deterioration.

The standard also says "the validity of prior results must be assessed and recorded if the device is found to not conform to requirements. Records of the calibration and verification results must be maintained."1

Greening calibration

It is no wonder that when the question arises as to why an organization needs to have its IM&TE calibrated, the most common response involves ISO 9001 compliance.

But, recently, we became aware of an ISO published standard our company was certified to that contains calibration requirements for monitoring and measurement equipment and that shares many characteristics with ISO 9001—ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Systems—Requirements with guidance for use.

ISO 14001 helps an organization identify the environmental impact of activities, products or services; continually improve its environmental performance; and implement a systematic approach to set and achieve environmental objectives.2 As it turns out, ISO 14001 certification is an important part of our company’s green strategies and initiatives.

But what is required of a company or organization to be ISO 14001 certified? Essentially, it requires an environmentally friendly policy to be in place with assurance that this policy is fully supported by senior management and abided by the rank and file.

What is required

In our efforts to learn more about ISO 14001, we quickly became aware that a legal copy of an ISO published standard can set you back $100 or more. Not wanting to pony up that kind of dough, we continued our search until we came across a detailed preview of ISO 14001, in which we learned that Section 4.5, "Checking Requirements," addresses IM&TE requirements as follows:3

4.5.1 Establish monitoring and measurement capabilities.

  • Establish procedures to monitor and measure the operational characteristics that could have a significant impact on the environment.
  • Implement your organization’s environmental monitoring and measuring procedures.
  • Maintain your organization’s environmental monitoring and measuring procedures.
  • Use calibrated or verified environmental monitoring and measuring equipment.
  • Maintain your organization’s environmental monitoring and measuring equipment.
  • Keep a record of your environmental monitoring and measuring activities.

The fourth bullet of Section 4.5.1 clearly specifies that environmental monitoring and measurement equipment shall be calibrated or verified. Similar to the reasoning behind the calibration requirements of Section 7.6 of ISO 9001, Section 4.5.1 of ISO 14001 helps to ensure the validity and acceptance of measurement results.

We made it a point to share this information with other calibration practitioners within our group who quickly surmised another logical discussion point to better answer an age-old customer question: Why do I need to get my IM&TE calibrated? Because it’s good for the planet.


  1. International Organization for Standardization, ISO 9001:2008 Quality management systems—Requirements.
  2. International Organization for Standardization, "ISO 14000 Essentials," www.iso.org/iso/iso_catalogue/management_standards/iso_9000_iso_14000/iso
  3. Praxiom Research Group, "ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management Standard in Plain English," http://praxiom.com/iso-14001-2004.htm.

Christopher L. Grachanen is a master engineer and operations manager at Hewlett-Packard Co. in Houston. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from Regis University in Denver. Grachanen is a co-author of The Metrology Handbook (ASQ Quality Press), a senior member of ASQ, an ASQ-certified calibration technician and the Measurement Quality Division Certified Calibration Technician chairman.

Terry L. McGee is a metrology engineer at Hewlett-Packard Co. He earned an associate’s degree in electronics engineering technology from the Denver Institute of Technology. McGee is a senior member of ASQ and an ASQ-certified calibration technician.

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