Current Problems of Independent Laboratories in Europe

  1. French College of Metrology
  1. Pavel Klenovsky

Published Online: 3 FEB 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470611371.ch22

Transverse Disciplines in Metrology

Transverse Disciplines in Metrology

How to Cite

French College of Metrology (2009) Current Problems of Independent Laboratories in Europe, in Transverse Disciplines in Metrology, ISTE, London, UK. doi: 10.1002/9780470611371.ch22

Author Information

  1. General Director Czech Metrology Institute Okruzni 31 638 00 Brno Czech Republic

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 3 FEB 2010
  2. Published Print: 1 JAN 2009

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781848210486

Online ISBN: 9780470611371



  • foreign direct investors;
  • calibration labs;
  • proficiency testing;
  • european commission;
  • internal cross-subsidy


In the context of this paper, by independent we mean those labs which are not associated with manufacturers of goods or providers of services (largely different from those associated with calibration and testing), inclusive e.g. national metrology institutes (NMIs) as well. It can be argued that the rise of independent labs can be traced back to the advent of quality management systems in companies resulting in high demand for measurement operations such as calibration and testing. At the same time it gave rise to accreditation in 1990s. As a result, metrology labs (calibration and testing) have had ever since to demonstrate formally their competence to generate correct measurement results – these results have far reaching consequences for any economy. The core issue here is how to ensure traceability of measurements in a coherent and recognizable way which is closely connected with the matter of technical competence of those providing this traceability. Nearly at the same time the effects of globalization and liberalization have set in to change the background for their operation working towards elimination of technical barriers to trade as a main priority. In the course of these developments various stakeholders in this area, where the labs themselves, regulatory bodies, manufacturers, accreditors, certification bodies and service providers have produced measures to maximize their benefits and minimize the associated costs. The interplay of all the involved conflicting interests can be demonstrated on the recent amendment of ISO 17025 standard setting down requirements for laboratories. The most challenging changes have already been in place for some time and this resulting “post modern” situation can therefore be subject to more detailed scrutiny. The aim of the paper is to discuss the character and the implications of those changes and to propose some proposals to improve the situation from the view point of independent labs especially.

We are now living in a world where the cheapest products of even a doubtful quality eventually seem to get the upper hand, arguably a result of continuous reductions in various types of safeguards (e.g. various forms of testing) aimed at securing their quality being sacrificed at the altar of lowest possible costs (at any cost) under the buzzwords of globalization, liberalization etc. It puts the quality-related issues where metrology plays a significant role under enormous pressure. More and more information is coming in as evidence of shortcomings in this area – we are even getting an impression that quality in general is poorer now than tens of years ago despite vast financial resources spent on various third party assessments. Globalization is a fact of life, at least at the moment, but approaches should be explored how to use these resources in a better way to be able to get at the core of quality of a given product. Furthermore, the center of gravity in various assessments and testing should move from objects “as delivered to conformity assessment bodies” to objects “as customarily delivered to customers”. Such a step providing for an ideal impartiality would necessarily imply an involvement of public funding which is a problem but things are bound to head in this direction. The area of metrology as a whole is no exception with the luck of possessing a tool able to deal with this problem effectively and the metrology community should do its best to bring it to life, e.g. based on information provided by this paper.