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Mike Richman


Field Report: CMSC 2011

The Coordinate Metrology Society offers a grand vision for metrology’s future

Published: Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - 15:29

From the minute I arrived on site, I knew that this would be a Coordinate Metrology Systems Conference unlike any other. First of all, it was in Phoenix… in July. So, the 100-plus-degree temperature wasn’t unexpected; the humidity, on the other hand, was a bit of a surprise. The evening preceding the CMSC festivities was downright eerie, with a huge thunderstorm featuring massive thunderclaps that rattled the walls of the luxurious Biltmore Resort and Spa.

Although not quite so earthshaking, the events that followed during the next few days showed that the Coordinate Metrology Society, like a powerful thunderstorm, is a force to be reckoned with. The people that run this annual conference have a vision for the future, one that promises to change the way we all look at the art and science of industrial measurement.

From its beginnings 27 years ago, the CMSC has always been a place where measurement professionals can network, share knowledge and best practices, and generally celebrate partnership, teamwork, and the joys of solution-finding. CMSC 2011 was a banner event on all counts, with an all-time high of 47 exhibitors, more than 400 attendees, better than 25 expert white paper presentations, and entertaining social events such as trivia night and the 5 Billion Micron Run/Walk (which inspired 72 people to turn out at 6 a.m.) But beyond all that activity and fun, a far grander vision was also on display at this year’s conference.

CMS-certified metrologists

The vision starts, as most do, by asking a question: What’s the purpose of an annual conference and a professional society? Is it a resource for finding career opportunities? A place to catch up with friends and have a great party once a year? A chance to discover new hardware and software solutions? Yes, yes, and yes… but that’s not all.

A professional society with the kind of drive and energy of the CMS is also about paying it forward and providing something for the future of industry. And in recent years the Executive Committee of the CMS has posed another question: “What role can we play in being the change we seek to make in the measurement sciences?”

Enter the Certification Committee, formed three years ago and now headed by Randy Gruver, a longtime CMS member as well as an instructor and project manager of learning, training, and development for Boeing. The critical role of this committee is to work with rank-and-file users of measurement equipment, along with the hardware and software providers that serve them, to develop a body of knowledge covering the proper use of tools such as laser trackers, scanners, coordinate measuring machines (CMMs), and photogrammetry, in addition to the software that really makes metrology work for industry. Those who pass a standardized examination in these core competencies and others will receive recognition as CMS-certified metrologists.

This rigorous certification program will provide numerous benefits to industry. For equipment users, it’s a way to confirm competency and ensure that an individual is up to date on the current best practices in the field, taught by true leaders on the cutting edge of research and development. For the hardware and software providers, certification means that more of their equipment will be used in the correct manner because properly trained users will be better able to exploit the functions of each tool to the fullest.

Companies in industry will benefit most of all. Not only will these organizations be able to ensure standardized procedures for their existing workforce, but they’ll also be able to reduce the guesswork when hiring new employees. Need a new hire who understands how to use a laser tracker from day one on the job? Just look for prospects with the proper CMS certification, and you can rest assured that your chosen individual will be ready to hit the ground running.

Studying measurement inputs

To provide the best possible certification for the use of this equipment requires a deep understanding of capability, not only of the tools themselves, but also of the human beings that must operate them in the real world. To properly gauge the latter, CMSC 2011 featured a special booth right in the middle of the exhibit hall. “How Behaviors Effect Measurement,” sponsored by Metrologic, ATT Metrology, and the United Kingdom’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), gave attendees an opportunity to use various hardware and software tools to take measurements. The purpose was to see how closely users’ self-assessment of competency matched up with the facts when their acquired measurements were compiled.

A CMSC attendee scans a car body as part of the "How Behaviors Effect Measurement" study. The study highlights the variability in measurement results between those who have an understanding of proper measurement techniques and those who don’t.


According to Keith Bevan, training product development manager for knowledge services at NPL and on-site proctor of the study, the purpose was to “highlight the importance of prework, preparation, and planning to help reduce the potential of variation in the measurement, then to analyze the acquired data to make informed decisions.”

Although the data are still being compiled (we’ll bring them to you as soon as they’re available), early indications are that there’s a significant variance between the results that users think they’re getting and what the data actually show. The reason is simple: We’re not as good as we think we are. Now, that’s a common refrain in all elements of business, but in metrology an individual’s overestimation of his or her competency is particularly troublesome. It’s just further evidence of the crying need for a metrology certification to help eliminate as much uncertainty as possible. Trying to minimize uncertainty—isn’t that what metrologists do in the lab and on the shop floor every day?

The future is now

This was my sixth CMSC, and the distance that the Coordinate Metrology Society has traveled in that short time is astounding. Covering this event is always a pleasure, as there’s never any shortage of dynamic new products on the exhibit floor. But what’s even more exciting is to see the work that the group is continually pushing forward in the realm of certification. I’ve tried to give you a taste of those breakthrough developments here but if you or anyone in your organization is involved in coordinate measurement work, you really must see it for yourself.

CMSC 2012 will take place next July in the great city of New Orleans. As always, it’s sure to be a great, fun, and information-laden event, but I’ll have my eye on further news from the certification committee. It is planned that at CMSC 2012, we’ll have some definitions of the respective bodies of knowledge for each type of certification, along with some specifications on the type of testing for competency. From there, the path to launching the CMSC certification program should be blessedly short. That future event begins now—in fact, it has already begun—with the expressed interest and support from readers like you for this program.

Members of the "How Behaviors Effect Measurement" study include volunteers from Metrologic, ATT Metrology, and the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.


The need for metrology certification is real, as is the urgency. The Coordinate Metrology Society is better positioned than any other group to address this need in the near future. We’ll continue to bring you the details here at Quality Digest. You can also find out more online at www.cmsc.org and through the two publications that we are proud to publish in conjunction with the group—the biannual printed Journal of the CMSC and the quarterly e-mail newsletter CMSC World. If you’re not getting these publications, e-mail me at mrichman@qualitydigest.com and I’ll let you know how to get onto the distribution list.


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Mike Richman