Metrology matters

Posted on 14 Jun 2010 by The Manufacturer

The National Physical Laboratory and Dawson Precision Components speak out at MACH 2010 on the importance of metrology skills for a competitive UK manufacturing industry.

NPL are throwing new force behind their metrology training in a effort to highlight to manufacturers just how important the science is to the manufacturing industry.

Metrology, the science of measurement, helps manufacturers and engineers maintain quality and consistency in their products and processes. Excellence in metrology will help manufacturers maintain industry standards, ensure quality and accuracy in production, reduce rework, reduced waste and support productivity.

Most importantly for NPL’s business development director, Tom Ashby however, the metrology training they provide is focused on empowering and enabling the manufacturing workforce to take responsibility for decision making and planning in their work. “Too often manufacturers only understand how to use metrology tools but not how to use metrology as a tool. We want to instil a questioning culture in our delegates so they don’t just trust a measurement result, for instance just dropping a part on a CMM and just trusting what comes out. They need to question that result and take responsibility for it. Rather than constantly going back to a line manager to ask if something is right, they should be able to interpret results promptly and plan a measurement strategy going forward based on that result.”

DPC who have invested in NPL’s Level 1 metrology training for staff across the organisation agree that this frontline responsibility is very important but furthermore, that it reaps real business benefits. DPCs managing director, Simon Dawson, explains “We wanted to move from having just one or two quality inspectors to basically making everyone in the workforce an inspector. Enabling people like this reduces lead times on jobs significantly.” Simon’s colleague Paul Dawson, Sales Director at DPC, has also observed lead time improvement following the training “It improves the workflow and stops jobs getting stuck on inspection meaning that we can move on to the next operation a lot faster. Doing the training has improved customer confidence.”

Level 1 metrology training takes place over three days and costs £700 per head. It is unclear yet what government funding might be allocated to NPL to support uptake of the scheme but companies with a track record of engineering excellence like DCP are eligible to apply for funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering. Mark Prisk, the new minister for business and enterprise, attended MACH and assured members of the press that he was sensitive to industry concerns about support for appropriate skills growth. NPL hope that the new government will take time to gain a real understanding of the technical skills to prioritise when allocating funding. Ashby emphasized that metrology certainly classified as one of the fundamental manufacturing skills “The are certain skills sets that are generic, from design right through to inspection and metrology skills are among these. We particularly look at dimensional measurement and what we call large volume metrology or portable coordinate measuring systems.”

The metrology qualification achieved following NPL training is accredited and awarded by EAL (EMTA Awards LTD) who supply over 70% of engineering and manufacturing qualifications in the UK. For Ashby this accreditation is extremely important. “We want to make our training an industry standard. Metrology issues are often a major impacting factor on production line problems and improving understanding of metrology across the industry will help to make UK production more competitive. Companies like Rolls-Royce and Dawson have recognised this and that is why they have installed measurement excellence programmes.”