How do I specify an A2LA calibration?

At Alliance Calibration, we often receive requests for an A2LA calibration. The truth is, there is no such thing. A2LA is an accrediting body, not a standard for calibration. What these clients mean to ask for is an ISO 17025 calibration.


This common mistake is understandable. Calibration is a niche, technical subject that can seem complicated even without all these acronyms. To the layman, it could seem like A2LA and ISO 17025 are the same.


We're here to help you get a solid understanding of what differentiates A2LA — the accrediting body — from ISO 17025 — the calibration standard. By the time you've finished reading this article, you'll know just what to look for when getting calibration performed on your equipment.


What is an accrediting body?


Accreditation is a process that tests an institution for quality, competence, and accuracy. The practice is used across numerous industries. Universities, for instance, need to be accredited to prove their legitimacy before students can receive financial aid. Products like food, pharmaceuticals, and medicinal cannabis need to be certified or accredited too.


The agency in charge of accrediting is called an accrediting body. An accrediting body isn't the same as the standards themselves, nor are they necessarily the ones to set them. Instead, they act as the authority that tests an organization's competence for the specific task at hand.


American Association for Laboratory Accreditation — known as A2LA — is an accrediting body. It is a 501(c)3 nonprofit accreditation body that is internationally recognized. A2LA provides accreditation services for multiple industries. Their expertise includes cannabis, environmental bodies, and, of course, calibration.


A2LA is just one of several accrediting bodies that serve calibration labs. Another is ANAB, which is the body that accredits Alliance Calibration. Other countries have their own unique accrediting body.


There is a mutual recognition agreement between major geopolitical regions that aligns the accreditations across all accrediting bodies. According to this MRA, all the accrediting bodies hold the same weight.


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What is the ISO standard?


The International Organization for Standardization is essential in the world of calibration. Its name says all there is to know about its role. The body sets the standards in industrial, commercial, and technical settings. Standards set forth by the International Organization for Standardization are accepted internationally.


The International Organization for Standardization is referred to as ISO. The near acronym is also a reference to the Greek word "isos," which means equal. The name ISO is a nod to the organization's mission to maintain equality in standards across the nations.


An organization like ISO is part of what makes calibration effective across the board. They essentially serve as quality assurance by setting the standards. An accrediting body like ANAB audits a lab and confirms that the lab has the technical competence to meet the ISO standards.


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What does ISO 17025 mean?


There are ISO standards for dozens of industries. They exist for things as technical as calibration and medical devices and as simple as a date and time format. ISO sets the standards for country codes, currency codes, and language codes. It offers the international standard for environmental management, food safety management, and energy management.


Every ISO standard has its number. For example, ISO 9000 is quality management, while ISO 45001 is occupational health and safety.


When we refer to ISO 17025, we're referring to the standard for calibration. As one of the ISO standards, ISO 17025 is recognized internationally. To be considered technically competent, a calibration lab should get ISO 17025 certified by an accrediting body.


ISO 17025 was introduced by ISO in 1999. Initially it was called ISO/IEC Guide 25. Since then, it has been updated twice — once in 2005, and once in 2017.


All ISO standards undergo review periodically. Each review has better defined the standard to test the technical competence within the calibration lab.


How ISO 17025 relates to the A2LA


If you were to ask for an A2LA calibration, you'd be asking for a specific accrediting body, not a standard. Remember, A2LA is just one of several accrediting bodies that are used in the United States. Other options, like ANAB are equal in their abilities. This is ensured by the international mutual recognition agreement.


As a business seeking certified calibration, the accrediting body is not what you need to specify. Instead, you should be looking for calibration that meets the ISO standard. When a lab calibrates to the ISO 17025, you'll know that they provide competent testing and calibration. It doesn't matter which accrediting body provided the accreditation. What matters is that it was done at all.


How to tell if a lab is accredited to the ISO 17025 standard


By now, you can probably infer that Alliance Calibration is ISO 17025 accredited. We are in the Cincinnati area and provide services in all thing's calibration. That includes load cell, torque, force, meter, dimensional, and electrical.


But if you're outside of Cincinnati, what should you look for? Well, a lab should have their certificate of accreditation on display for the public to see. For instance, we have a copy of ours on our website and in our front office. We also post our ANAB accreditation elsewhere so customers can always see it. We have chosen to provide calibration services for the contiguous 48 states. Our accreditation does not limit us geographically. This means you can ship your items to Alliance Calibration if you are not located in the Cincinnati area.


The certificate is provided by the accrediting body. It shows our name and address and has a line-item listing of the types of calibration which we're accredited. The certificate also has a signature from a member of ANAB, as well as an expiration date. When you're checking on a lab for accreditation, make sure their certificate of accreditation hasn't expired.


Remember, the specific accrediting body doesn't matter as much as the ISO 17025 standard. You should be looking for a lab that is ISO 17025 accredited, bottom line.

You may also want to read:


The role of ILAC in Accredited Calibration

What is the difference between A2LA, ANAB, L-A-B and ISO 17025?

How To Read a ISO 17025 Scope of Accreditation


Phil Wiseman

Phil Wiseman

Phil Wiseman is Chief Marketing Officer at Alliance Calibration. He earned a B.S. in Chemical Physics from Centre College. Phil is an ASQ Certified Quality Auditor and ASQ Certified Manager of Quality/Organizational Excellence.

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