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Dave K. Banerjea

Metrology

Calibration and Maintenance Combine in the Cloud

A single, centralized database maximizes efficiency, reduces costs, and simplifies regulatory compliance

Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 09:24

In most industries, maintenance and calibration management departments are separate operations that rarely, if ever cross paths. However, in some industries, such as pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing, maintenance and calibrations are often performed on the same assets. As a result, some developers of maintenance and calibration management software have responded by combining the two functions into a single application for both traditional on-premise installations as well as hosted (or cloud) solutions.

Combining the two management processes into a single software solution provides much-needed centralized asset control. Accessing this software in the cloud offers maximum convenience and scalability.

FaciliWorks 8i CMMS software, for instance, is a web-based maintenance management software solution that allows companies to track, analyze, and report on everything from assets and preventive maintenance schedules to work orders, procedures, inventory, staff, and purchasing at a single location or across multiple facilities around the globe. In addition to its asset management functions, the software can also integrate calibration management to allow for functions such as gauge entry, calibration scheduling, tracking gauge locations, retrieving calibration records, producing calibration certificates, and the ability to track the as-found condition of gauges. Preventive maintenance and calibrations can be scheduled on the same asset, gauges can be identified as standards, and calibration certificates can be attached to procedure records. Gauges and assets can even be grouped by department, location, or other criteria, limiting user access to only those records they need to manage while allowing full access to managers.

Although this type of software solution and database can be installed on a customer’s local server, there are even more benefits when hosted in the cloud by the software provider.

Cost efficiency: The service provider hosts services for multiple companies. Allowing those companies to share a complex infrastructure is cost-efficient, and the user pays only for the services he actually uses. Other costs are eliminated altogether or greatly reduced, such as IT hardware, data storage, and software licensing.

Fast deployment: The most basic cloud services can be ready to use in just a few hours or a few days. For more complex software and database solutions, cloud computing lets companies skip the hardware procurement and capital-expenditure phase. It’s perfect for new facility startups, those with limited IT budgets, organizations without in-house IT expertise, and companies that require roll-out to multiple locations.

No software maintenance: Most providers frequently update their software offerings, adding new features and software patches as soon as they become available.

Scalability: If a business is growing or has seasonal spikes, it can scale up quickly because cloud systems are built to cope with sharp increases in workload and in the number of users. Conversely, it is just as easy to scale down when services are no longer needed.

Mobility: Cloud services are designed to be used from a distance, so if a company has a mobile workforce, its staff will have on-the-go access to its systems.

Eliminating the need for IT: With cloud computing, the provider essentially becomes the customer’s IT department. The customer doesn’t have to be concerned about operating system requirements, hardware, drive space, or database systems and doesn’t have to incur the cost associated with these items or spend time on set-up and maintenance. The provider takes care of software installation, software updates, and the secure storage of the customer’s database.

Convenience: Software users additionally benefit because software in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, they can receive automatic software updates without IT involvement, and they can look up information while on the road. Cloud computing also provides easier setup of remote-access accounts for calibration service providers that need to enter measurement data and calibration certificates for their clients.

Security

Some industries must comply with security requirements—such as those for finance, human resources, and healthcare applications—as well as regulatory requirements for medical, pharmaceutical, and defense industry manufacturers, to name a few.

For security assurance, this type of software is accessed through the Internet using a secure connection that encrypts all incoming and outgoing data with secure sockets layer (SSL). This means that the customer’s data are completely encrypted while transmitting via the Internet. This is the same type of technology that online credit card processing, banking, and government agencies use to ensure secure exchange of data via the Internet.

It is also important that a provider uses state-of-the-art data centers that hold an American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) certification. This certification is issued via a third-party audit and is designed to ensure that best practices in hosting security, as well as data center processes and control, are in place. Providers of cloud services have multiple lines of redundancy, multiple layers of defense, and multiple levels of security that a single company usually could not afford on its own.

FDA compliance

When calibration and maintenance management are combined into one system, there is, of course, less software to install, train for, and manage. Additionally, the two functions can be simultaneously validated for FDA 21 CFR Part 11 compliance. The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) require that purchasers of vendor-supplied software perform software validation to ensure that the software functions as designed, and that it works under the purchaser’s normal operating conditions. This can often be quite an undertaking, so performing this validation only once to cover both maintenance and calibration management is quite a boon. Some software providers may offer a validation guide and onsite validation services to further streamline the process, guarantee documentation accuracy, minimize downtime, and ensure the customer is prepared for future audits.

Regardless of how a company’s maintenance and calibration departments interact with each other, having a single, centralized database to control both assets and measurement equipment is not only convenient, but also maximizes efficiency, reduces costs, and simplifies regulatory compliance. Taking it a step further by accessing such a software solution in the cloud allows maintenance and calibration departments to avoid technology hurdles and get their software solution up and running quickly to focus on what they do best.

Dave K. Banerjea is president and CEO of CyberMetrics Corp., a Quality Digest Daily content partner.

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About The Author

Dave K. Banerjea’s picture

Dave K. Banerjea

Dave K. Banerjea is president and CEO of CyberMetrics Corp., developer and worldwide distributor of GAGEtrak calibration management, FaciliWorks CMMS maintenance management, and SUPPLIERtrak supplier quality assurance software.