Many companies begin managing their calibration activities with an Excel spreadsheet. But has your organization outgrown excel and you could be at risk of missing critical calibrations.

Many companies begin managing their calibration activities with an Excel spreadsheet. Excel is a fine application for its intended purpose as a personal productivity tool, but as for managing calibration schedules and compliance, it soon exceeds its capabilities.   Consider these limitations and risks:

• Vulnerable to mistakes: Data entry errors, both unintentional or intentional are possible. While creating pull down selections and validation of entries within Excel can be done, this will require significant expertise and maintenance. Without an audit trail, there is no way to determine if, when and by whom a change was made to a record. This can open your company to:

•   Missed Calibrations:  When the accuracy of an instrument is critical to product quality or safety it is essential that calibrations are completed on time and results are within specific tolerances. Missed calibration tests can be costly, as they can result in lost batches, fines, or other sanctions.  This can open your company to

•   Compliance risk: The combination of no audit trail, required reason for change or electronic signatures can create both greater compliance risk and overhead. Generating hard copy records and wet signatures reduces productivity, traceability and

•   Collaboration: Excel is not designed to support multiple concurrent users. Sharing amongst users and locations usually requires a shared drive or emailing attachments, serially. This is neither secure or timely which means it

•   Scales poorly: As the use of an Excel based tool expands, not only will the collaboration become more difficult but performance will as well. Excel is not designed to support large numbers of records and queries, consequently updates and reporting all slow down. Even if well crafted, it is

•   Difficult to troubleshoo:. Certainly, spreadsheets can be protected but not easily to the field level or to the role of one type of user. Furthermore, as the spreadsheet evolves over time, there is the risk of lack of or incomplete documentation which affects

•   Business Continuity: Often the Excel based tool was built and is administered by an individual. Lacking both documentation and possibly design specifications, should the author/administrator leave, who will maintain and update the tool?

But there is good news – dedicated calibration management software exists that eliminates these issues. They are designed to be truly multi-user and remove the burden and risk of maintaining and accessing these records across your organization.  Here are attributes found in best of breed Calibration Management Software provides:

•   Automated planning and scheduling – alert the right people, in time for the required tasks,
•   Easy to populate – Seamless easy to use import module from standard excel templates
•   Guaranteed compliance – full compliance with 21 CFR Part 11
•   Paperless – eliminate printed schedules, task lists and the need for wet signatures,
•   Full historical data at your fingertips – consolidate multiple files or need to learn a separate report writer,
•   Automated KPI's and reports – establish role, department and company views, available in real time focusing on the most important activities,
•   Deviation Alerts – pre-configure limits and generate notifications to those most affected,
•   Easy to follow work flows – consistent data entry and work steps accelerates adoption across the group,
•   Cloud or OnPremise – allows for either local setup and control or securely managed in a highly scalable, controlled hosting facility,
•   No software to set up – browser based, so no need to worry about what operating system or software is required on the desktop,
•   Mobile enabled – can access and update information from web enabled mobile devices, anywhere there is internet access,
•   Built-in Training and Documentation – new employees and infrequent users quickly become familiar with the tool, 

Certainly, an Excel spreadsheet costs much less, initially than a dedicated Calibration Management application and in some cases, it is sufficient to support current operations. However, considering the possible lost productivity, short and long term risks and difficulty in timely reporting and analysis, your company may greatly benefit by investing in a modern Calibration Management tool. Reputable vendors can help you and your company assess if the time is right to make the move. You can learn more about how CompuCal has helped companies improve their calibration management here:

Customer Case Studies