Many companies make the same mistake every year assuming their torque tools are accurate and in working order. They also assume factory torque charts are correct and a certified gauge ensures tool accuracy. It’s a hazardous assumption because calibrated power tools frequently are not performing as expected.
Although there are other ways of establishing the tension on a bolt, torque is used most often. Such tools include hydraulic and electric torque wrenches, torque multipliers, and manual wrenches. After the required yearly calibration, tool owners usually get a certificate detailing the particulars which also verifies the quality of the equipment.
Certificates are also needed after turbine assembly. For instance, during mechanical-completion inspections, inspectors with OEMs must work through punch lists. The OEM inspector will look for training records and calibration sheets for the tools used. Also, internal quality reviews conducted by companies will need to see the calibration sheets. What’s more, companies go through a process to become ISO certified and having a documented calibration process is part of ISO procedures.
Most technicians keep the calibration forms handy in a three-ring binder–kept…somewhere. If proof of certification cannot be produced, the technician may be forbidden to use the tool on the job site until it is. That could be a problem for the technician who may have to resort to a manual tool for the day, and accept a significant loss of productivity.
Engineers at Alltite Total Bolting Solutions may have an answer to the problem in an online service that tracks tools, their calibration, and certification. One goal is to get rid of the easily lost certification forms and make them more readily accessible.
For example, the Customer Portal-Calibration chart lists all the tools in a particular facility. “This could be a single wind farm, a region, or all the tools that need calibration for a particular company,” says Alltite CEO Tom Smith (alltite.net). He adds that the program was devised with two sides in mind. On the calibration technician’s side, data and procedures assist with calibrating torque tools step-by-step to ISO standards 6789 and 17025.
Clients, says Smith, see and manage all their calibrations through the online portal. A user name and password lets customers access the data. Customers search by their calibration ID, printed on a sticker placed on their tool at the last calibration. Users might also search by calibration-due date, or the tool and equipment type. Smith says the program can be customized for particular needs.
Benefits are that the company’s quality-control person would see the entire fleet of tools to make sure they are compliant. The paperless system lets users get away from chasing the sheet of paper that usually comes with calibrations.
An alternative method at some large companies is to send equipment to its lab where it’s calibrated and sent back with a folded sheet of paper or calibration certificate. But the wind industry is so wide spread, says Smith, a technician could be in Pennsylvania one week and Minnesota the next. “If he’s hunting down this piece of paper, he’s losing time and money. With this system he can log into the portal, find the tool in question, pull up the certification in standard or metric units, and print or download it. It’s also viewable on smart phones.
The calibration reports show measured and calculated values, such as the torque to pressure ratio, as-found readings, as-left readings (after adjustments), serial number of the wrench, and more. “Another plus is it provides a quality program for an entire organization,” says Smith. “With the online system, it drives consistency across all business units and eliminates variance by having a single quality program. Without something like it, a company with 15 different sites could have 15 different vendors and possibly gaps in their quality program. This program wraps all calibration, certifications, and documentation into a single point which give clarity and consistency to the organization.
The portal also gives an inventory list so companies can allocate their resources. For instance, one site may have half of a company’s torque equipment, when in fact it’s more needed elsewhere. Smith says he’s yet to find a company that can track all its tools, and is 100% accurate. A frequent discovery, for example, is that more than 65% of clicker torque wrenches don’t meet OEM specifications.