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Synchronicity Through Calibration Data Collection

July 30, 2003

As companies subjected to the scrutiny of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) know all too well, it is not enough anymore just to keep and track records and test results. The current crop of calibration software reflects the need for better electronic record-keeping in various process-driven environments, be it to meet federally mandated guidelines or simply to gain more control over automated processes.

For Blue Mountain Quality Resources' customers, which mostly are in FDA-regulated industries such as pharmaceutical and biotech manufacturing, record-keeping requirements first lean toward what they must do. They then look to the company's calibration management software to improve how they work.

Jim Erickson, president of Blue Mountain, contends that Calibration Manager 4's new Satellite module, which was released in June, essentially closes the loop in electronic signature/ electronic record-keeping. Satellite allows users to collect calibration data on notebook PCs and sign off on electronic records in the field or remotely within the plant per 21 CFR Part 11 specifications.

When users "check in" to the master dataset, records are synchronized and automatically updated. All the while, the system maintains an audit trail. The module thus satisfies FDA mandates while enhancing mobile productivity.

Calibration Manager also embodies synchronicity in an enterprise sense by being a Web-based application. "That, in conjunction with it being tied to a Microsoft SQL (Server) database," Erickson says, "has enabled large companies to host it for multiple sites with one location, one implementation. That's really a first for a calibration manager software."

Erickson explains that the software's enterprise capability, offered with the 4e version of Calibration Manager, brings substantial cost savings when validating commercial off-the-shelf software for each user facility as mandated by the FDA. When companies host 4e at a single site, they need only go through the entire validation process there; validation at other facilities is minimized.

The 4e version of Calibration Manager satisifies FDA mandates while enhancing mobile productivity.

Data are not too hot to handle

Collecting and synchronizing calibration data also is a key part of Hart Scientific's MET/TEMP II software. In some environments, however, those might be but secondary functions for the automated system, which, according to Hart Scientific, covers the gamut of temperature calibration by testing and controlling a wide variety of heat sources. MET/TEMP II then can support tracking capabilities by hooking into parent company Fluke Corp.'s MET/TRACK asset management database.

Hart Scientific recently formed the new Windows-based MET/TEMP II package by combining its two previously separate automation systems, Calibrate-it and Generate-it. According to the software's developer, the full-featured application now is an all-in-one package for those who need all of the capabilities. In addition, it offers other users the flexibility to expand their calibration support requirements later without buying add-on pieces.

MET/TEMP II tests thermocouples, resistance thermometer devices, standard platinum resistance thermometers, thermistors and liquid-in-glass thermometers -- virtually any sensor with a resistance or voltage output -- and can work with as many as 100 sensors of varying types and as many as 40 different temperatures at a time. According to Hart Scientific, facilities save hours of time by placing test sensors in a heat source, connecting them to a read-out and entering set-up data into a PC -- they need not calibrate each sensor manually at different points and then document the temperature data.

The software also enables semi-automated fixed-point calibrations. Operators can program soak times in the cell before taking readings or mix fixed points with comparison points in the same calibration.

Calibration reports are created automatically from set-up data and test results. MET/TEMP II's Coefficients and Tables application, which contains utilities for data analysis, can calculate ITS-90 coefficients and residuals for each sensor tested and generate tables with temperature-vs.-resistance, temperature-vs.-ratio or temperature-vs.-electromotive force data. Data can be exported to spreadsheets or statistical analysis software as comma- or tab-delimited text.

By Sue Garrison, contributing editor

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