Within the paper industry, some measurement operations are accredited. This means that they are approved and meet certain standards. But what does that really mean and how does it work? Here we will tell you about the importance of accreditation, both today and for the paper manufacturing of the future.
Accurate measurements are one of the prerequisites for reliable results. But how can you trust the results, if, for example, you are working with destructive testing? Then it’s not possible to go back to previous samples.
This is where accreditation comes in: a control on operations to ensure they are carried out as intended. That certain standards are followed and – not least – that there is a chain of traceability. That increases the likelihood that the results will be as close to the true value as possible.
Accreditation is a global system that is managed through national inspection bodies. They check and follow up on operations that need to meet certain standards, both nationally and internationally. Accreditation ensures that the operations possess – and will continue to possess – the expertise to perform their duties. This can include everything from lifts and vehicles to healthcare, just to name a few examples. Common to all countries is the concept of creating safe products and services and preventing technical barriers to trade.
In Sweden, Swedac is the body responsible for accreditation. Most countries have official accreditation bodies, a list of those associated with the international organization IAF is available here.
But what does it mean for a measurement laboratory to be accredited? Peter Hansen, responsible for testing and analysis of paper, explains:
“If you send samples to different labs, you can get different answers. That’s quite natural, because all measurement equipment is slightly different. Destructive testing, for instance, is performed on different samples with inherent variation, and lab procedures can vary. In this context, accreditation is very important. It makes the results more credible in a context where it is impossible to say what the true value is.”
Being accredited involves being reviewed and inspected to ensure you are doing what you say you are doing. It means following various standards, and working in such a way that the results are traceable. That gives us a set of statistics, and increases the likelihood of getting as close to the true value as possible.
Sometimes it is particularly important to be accredited. As an example, Peter Hansen mentions destructive testing, which is used in the paper industry. Here, as mentioned, there is value in being able to look at how likely a value is, as it is not possible to be precise about the exact figure.
As the industry is now focusing on new products, accreditation can play a vital role when it comes to applying existing methods to new materials. That’s when you may want to know if a certain material is better and in what way. You also want to be able to refer to good credibility, if this is the case. Then it’s good to be able to compare future paper material with reference materials – and to do so in a credible way.
Swedac uses two audit methods: horizontal and vertical auditing. In horizontal auditing, they study different things from time to time, such as equipment and methods, while in vertical auditing they follow a particular case from start to archiving.
In practice what happens is that Swedac’s consultants visit operations approximately every 18 months. They then review the methodology and the procedures that are followed. Documentation and information management are particularly important. It must be possible to trace everything back for four years, with careful documentation of the entire period from order to delivery. This includes everything from calibrations for standards compliance and in-house checks.
The ability to demonstrate values that are reasonable and close to the true value is thus of paramount importance for future paper manufacturing. That’s why accreditation will play an increasingly important role. Accredited organisations are also part of various testing rings for cooperation. CEPI-CTS, for example, is a European network of certified and accredited labs for the paper and pulp industry. They have testing rings, particularly in Europe.
Peter Hansen concludes:
“For Innventia’s part, the new research programme has just started. Here, accreditation is one of several important parts within the continued research into the paper manufacturing of the future.”