National Physical Laboratory: division of mechanical and optical metrology - evaluation report 10
URN No: 90/501
SUMMARY / CONCLUSIONS
Broadly speaking, DMOM has achieved the objectives set at the beginning of its three year programme. These objectives were appropriate in general, but in future should be made more testable and an indication of priority weighting should be attached to each objective. There should be objectives for all areas of DMOM activity, and there should be a target for the percentage of technical milestones to be achieved on time.
Our inquiries suggest that the accuracy, reliability, range and responsiveness of DMOM's calibration activities meet the great majority of customers' requirements. There is some hesitation about giving quite such a positive answer about promptness. Here delays still occur, especially in providing certificates. We suggest that DMOM should reaffirm and keep under review their objective to return artefacts within six weeks of their receipt for calibration, with the relevant certificate. There may also be scope for further delegation of authority to sign calibration certificates. Communications with customers would be improved by sending customers a quality assurance form with each calibration, to give them an opportunity to give feedback on the service they have received.
The quality of the research which underpins the calibration work compares well with that of peers across the field and there seem to be no serious problems in this area. Some of DMOM's equipment, and more especially the buildings in which it is housed, is dated. In ideal circumstances more would be spent on replacements. That might save some maintenance expenditure as well as reducing delays due to breakdowns. Such expenditure, however, is subject to other priorities. We think there may be some scope for devolving research work through EMRAS more actively, and suggest a few interested potential contractors. Subject to these points, we are in no doubt that NPL is the appropriate home for the major primary standards involved.
We have not identified any major areas of work which are being neglected and, so far as we can tell, DMOM seems to anticipate requirements well. There are a number of instances where DMOM devotes resources to 'minority interests'. Our general preference would be for some change of emphasis towards concentrating on a basic programme with increased devolution of calibration work to NAMAS accredited laboratories, or overseas under the auspices of EUROMET. We would not rule out shedding some of the more derived primary standards if that proved feasible. We think that DMOM should review all its services where it undertakes fewer than about ten calibrations per year with a view to possible devolution of those services.
The economic significance of the work and the programme's achievements suggest that the present scale of activity is broadly appropriate. It is consistent with the roughly equivalent level of activity in Germany and Italy.
Although DMOM is successfully encouraging new accreditations under the NAMAS umbrella there is scope for more devolution of this kind. This could be encouraged by a combination of pricing policy, improving the attractions of the NAMAS alternative and refusing calibration work where alternative facilities exist. We make suggestions under these heads.
DMOM's national and international representative work is well executed and useful. Some improvements to communications and feed back with industry might be advantageous and the priority accorded to the national work (eg on BSI Committees) should not necessarily be high.
DMOM transfers technology through advice, training and publications. All these activities are well regarded but they are not always well enough targeted or publicised. In general, we are concerned that such activities as advice and commissioned research for industry should not divert resources from priority work.