Checking In With the Metrology and Calibration Working Group

Checking In With the Metrology and Calibration Working Group

3-minute read
Working Groups: Metrology and Calibration

The Metrology and Calibration Working Group (MCWG) held its annual meeting Aug. 13 through 15 at NASA’s Glenn Research Center (GRC). The annual meeting is an opportunity for members of the metrology and calibration community to meet face-to-face.

“The synergy and relationship building across the agency obtained from conducting a face-to-face meeting are imperative to the success of the working group,” said Ken Mathews, delegated metrology and calibration program manager.

Members share technical problems and solutions, develop cost-savings ideas, and identify issues and concerns within their metrology and calibration programs.

The MCWG meeting began with opening remarks from Jim Free, GRC center director. Free welcomed the group to GRC and also shared his thoughts on the importance of the metrology and calibration program to GRC’s mission success. The meeting included 16 presentations and tours of the GRC supersonic wind tunnel and the Plum Brook Space Power Facility vacuum chamber.

Throughout the meeting, the group discussed a wide array of subjects such as

  • Centers’ special capabilities
  • Best metrology practices
  • Procedure writing
  • Calibration capacity and approaches to reduce outsourcing costs
  • QAAR audit findings
  • Programmable Josephson voltage standard project status
  • Measurement controls
  • Lean Six Sigma practices
  • Z540 implementation efforts

“There was a lot of collaboration and camaraderie,” shared Shawn Britton, the newly appointed co-chair of MCWG.

Charter Update and New Leadership

Two important discussions on the group’s agenda addressed the need to update the MCWG charter and elect a new chair and co-chair.

Each voting member of the MCWG received a review copy of the current charter and was given a deadline to review the document and make recommendations. The final draft of the charter will be completed within six months. The group also will perform an editorial review to improve consistency within the document.

One of this meeting’s top priorities was to solicit volunteers for the recently vacated chair and co-chair roles. Members were asked to volunteer or submit nominees for consideration with the vote to take place following the meeting. By early September, the group had elected Damon Flansburg from Ames Research Center as chair and Britton from Langley Research Center as co-chair.

The meeting also was used to explore the MCWG’s role in Quality Audits, Assessments and Reviews (QAARs). Members discussed ways to improve the overall process by giving guidance to auditors and providing input on trending of potential systemic issues within the program.

Are You Ready for Z540.3?

Early in the meeting, discussions turned to American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/National Conference of Standards Laboratories (NCSL) Z540.3, Requirements for the Calibration of Measuring and Test Equipment. Compliance with this standard is mandated in NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 8730.1C Metrology and Calibration. NASA adopted Z540.3 in 2011 to enhance the quality of calibrations and set a June 2014 compliance date to ensure all centers have enough time to implement the standard. The MCWG is interested in any feedback regarding the revised NPD. Questions and comments can be sent to Flansburg, Britton or Mathews.

The MCWG also formed a smaller specialized task group to help centers become compliant with Z540.3. The task group, led by the Metrology and Calibration program office at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), plans to develop a website with frequently asked questions and also take advantage of center delegates who can reach out directly at each facility to help with the process. The task group conducted a survey to assess each center’s progress and identify needed guidance or assistance.

“According to survey results,” Mathews said, “centers are either fully compliant or well on their way.”

Before concluding the meeting, the MCWG also discussed educational and outreach opportunities for equipment users. Some areas of interest include education on general metrology and calibration processes and requirements for program and project managers, guest speaker opportunities, and compilation of center calibration capabilities for easy reference. Britton wants everyone within the agency to realize that the MCWG members can help with any measurement questions or needs.

“We’re not just the calibration guys,” he said. “We have years, decades of experience, so we may see a way to solve an issue that you didn’t see.”

About the MCWG

The Metrology and Calibration Program at NASA Headquarters is a small group of metrology professionals that champion relevant activities and efforts across the agency. The program is delegated to KSC and is led by Mathews. The Metrology and Calibration Working Group, which has been around for decades, is a function of this program. It facilitates metrology and calibration across NASA and encourages the cross-sharing of information and resources. The group comprises a government metrology and calibration representative designated by a center director and contract calibration managers from around the agency.

Group Photo

The Metrology and Calibration Working Group