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5 Ways to Protect Yourself and Your Heat Treatment Operations Against Future Audits

20 September 2021 /

Follow these five steps to reduce operational risk, improve compliance and increase the likelihood that your heat treatment equipment passes future audits.

Compliance is closely associated with operational transparency and your ability to provide the prerequisite traceability documents when an auditor comes knocking. 

Of particular note are ISO14001 systems, which require evidence of continual improvement. Whether you’re auditing your own equipment or receiving an external audit, it’s essential that you can prove compliance with updated or enhanced quality and traceability requirements.

What steps can you take to improve your business and pass future audits?

1. Set up planned, preventative maintenance

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. This is never truer than when applied to heat treatment maintenance. Planned, preventive maintenance maintenance (PPM) schedules are quick to set up and can save you significant costs by ensuring that your equipment is operating at its optimum performance, regardless of production frequency.

When viewed through the lens of heat treatment audits, the benefits of well-maintained heat equipment are also clear, helping your machines — and their output — to pass inspection.

Find out more about extending the life of your heat treatment equipment through PPM.

2. Conduct routine calibrations

The benefits of heat treatment calibration extend well beyond compliance. Reduced costs as a result of enhanced energy efficiency, greater productivity through shorter processing times, and increased machine utilisation are just some of the benefits unlocked through routine calibration.

You can read more about the hidden benefits of a reliable furnace calibration process here, but it should be noted that calibration remains a core operational requirement when it comes to your site’s compliance and passing future audits. 

“Every new furnace has to be calibrated before it can be used”, explains Ian Jenner, Director of Control Systems at VFE. “However, if the user wants to maintain confidence in the furnace’s performance then they will continue to calibrate it, with adjustment (and re-calibration) as necessary. Then there are some standards that specify how often a furnace is calibrated, as well as the customers’ own technical requirements.”

For expert help calibrating your heat treatment equipment and staying compliant, get in touch.

3. Install energy-saving systems

ISO14001 systems require continual improvement. For businesses operating these systems today, upgrades capable of increasing energy efficiency can help you to meet compliance as industry standards continue to redefine how much energy wastage is and is not acceptable.

Energy-saving solutions like the VFE Energy-Saving System help businesses to comply with ISO14001 requirements by providing evidence of positive, ongoing change, giving operating teams (and their managers) one less thing to worry about when it comes to external audits.

Learn more about the advantages of energy-efficient vacuum furnaces.

4. Partner with a UKAS accredited organisation

​​As the sole national accreditation body for certification, testing, inspection and calibration in the UK, UKAS accredited organisations are assured to operate to the highest possible conformity standards. 

In the case of heat treatment calibration, a UKAS accredited calibration assures the route of traceability to national standards. Therefore, there’s no requirement for you to make this determination. The uncertainty of the results will also have been determined, which permits informed decision-making around compliance.

Because of this, UKAS accredited organisations can be trusted to deliver those services for which they have received accreditation to the highest possible quality and conformity standards.

We offer UKAS accredited calibrations (UKAS Accredited Calibration Laboratory No.4338) and our vacuum furnaces are compliant with current quality audit systems, including NADCAP, AMS 2750, RPS 953 and ISO 9001:2008. Find out more.

5. Develop your team’s industry knowledge

As you’ll have gathered by now, quality and maintenance managers wanting to reduce operational risk and protect their site against audit fails require a high standard of site maintenance, servicing and calibration. If you’d prefer to develop these skills in-house, instead of partnering with an experienced heat treatment services provider, you’ll want to devise an extensive training plan for your on-site heat treatment teams.

“When discussing heat treatment processes, competency is a much higher bar than it sounds”, Ian explains. “For example, a competent engineer not only knows enough to start doing the work but they also understand when to stop before creating more problems.”

“An engineer competent in furnace calibration procedures is trained, experienced and up to date with advances in the industry and changes in regulatory standards.” Ian Jenner, Director of Control Systems, VFE

Through our dedicated training facility, we offer training modules covering all areas of vacuum engineering:

  • Each course aims to provide essential training to our customers’ heat treatment engineers to ensure that their extensive technical knowledge and expertise are documented for the future.

  • Training is aimed at in-house engineering teams responsible for maintaining heat treatment industry equipment such as vacuum furnaces, vacuum pumps and autoclaves.

  • We offer courses that are specifically designed to give an introductory knowledge into vacuum furnaces and autoclaves, as well as more advanced modules.

  • Courses cover functionality, safety, applications, and are fully compliant with the requirements of Nadcap, AMS2750 E, RPS 953 and ISO 9001:2008.

Training is a long-term solution but it will build core competencies and the resilience many teams will need in order to protect their operations, against future audits and whatever else the industry throws at us.

For short-term solutions — particularly if an audit is imminent or production is at risk — we recommend reaching out to us to discuss maintenance, servicing, calibration, or any one of the other solutions described above.

With years of experience maintaining process control equipment, VFE’s team of heat treatment engineers can find and fix any problems with your autoclaves and furnaces before they cause breakdowns, keeping your operations running — and your auditors happy. 

Get in touch to discuss your heat treatment servicing requirements today.

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