What is 3-Point NIST Calibration and Certificate for Real-Time Shipment Condition Monitoring Accuracy?

October 20, 2021

April 29, 2024


x min read

Sleep does not always come easy for product manufacturers or BCOs. Nor for any other stakeholder in a global supply chain, for that matter. Not when a single shipment worth up to millions of dollars could be a total loss due to a temperature excursion beyond the acceptable range. There’s a good chance technology is tracking real-time shipment conditions, including temperature, humidity, light exposure and more. But how will stakeholders know for certain that the tracking sensors are accurately recording the current conditions? This is where NIST calibration can provide the peace of mind that often proves to be so elusive for professionals in food transportation, pharma production and distribution, and other highly regulated industries that rely on strict adherence to specific natural conditions.

Let’s take a closer look at what is NIST calibration, why having a certificate of calibration to NIST standards is important, the difference between 1- and 3-point NIST calibration, and the importance of NIST calibration in cold chain shipping, an area where governing agencies often require proof of calibration.

What is NIST Traceable Calibration & Certificate?

When defining what is NIST calibration, it’s important to first understand that the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a federal agency formed over 100 years ago to establish and maintain measurement standards for length, mass, time, temperature, and more. A certificate of calibration to NIST standards is the only way to rest assured tracking devices are accurately measuring temperature and other data associated with your shipments.

Here is how NIST calibration works in regard to temperature. A manufacturer sends their device and standards to the NIST. The agency then compares the sensor’s readings in a stable environment against NIST certified standards.If there are differences between the sensor and the standard, the sensor is adjusted to ensure alignment with the NIST standards. Once calibration is complete, the device is returned to the manufacturer along with documentation that states the device is certified accurate by the NIST. That documentation, also known as a Certificate of Calibration to NIST standards, is extremely important for hospitals, pharma distributors, and food logistics professionals as auditors in those verticals may show up and as to see that level of proof.

The device is now traceable to NIST standards. With NIST traceable calibration, any measurements taken with a certified thermometer will have:

  • A continual chain of measurements that leads back to NIST-maintained standards.
  • Known and documented uncertainties for each step in the chain.
  • A quality assurance system in place to maintain that accuracy in measurements is a certainty.

Want to learn how pharmaceutical shippers are staying compliant, reducing temperature excursions & getting real-time visibility to stay proactive? Download a copy of "How Real-Time Tracking of Shipments Support the Distribution of Pharmaceuticals."


What are 1-Point and 3-Point NIST Calibration?

The extent of NIST calibration can be carried out to varying degrees ranging from 1- to 3-point calibration. With a 1-point NIST calibration, the unit or sensor is calibrated to guarantee accuracy at a specific temperature. A certificate of 3-point calibration to NIST standards differs only in the number of data points checked during the calibration process. A 3-point check encompasses a high, middle and low range check, at points determined by the manufacturer/product owner. This provides proof of accuracy over a greater range.  

Importance of NIST Calibration in Cold Chain Shipping

For anyone involved in pharmaceutical production and distribution, food transportation, or any number of industries that rely on cold chain shipping, the importance of knowing what NIST calibration is and its potential impact cannot be overstated. Strict regulations apply in those industries and many others, and agencies and auditors frequently ask for proof of calibration. This is where having a certificate of calibration to NIST is extremely beneficial. Having documented history of calibration will shorten the review process and instill confidence the data is consistent and correct.

Over time, devices used to track temperature, humidity, pressure, vibrations, and shock events will begin to lose their accuracy due to natural wear and tear. Environmental factors such as extreme temperatures, dust, moisture and more play a part as well. Therefore, it is important to have real-time trackers and sensors recalibrated from time to time. The cadence could be set by an auditor or regulatory agency, by industry-accepted standards, or established by the manufacturer or shipper/BCO.

Recalibration ensures the accuracy of measurements, which could save an expensive pharma shipment or a load of fresh produce from being a total loss.

Rest Easy: Tive Trackers are Certified Accurate to NIST Calibration Standards

Pharma manufacturers/distributors and the food service industries have a lot to consider. When it comes to optimizing pharma transportation in a global supply chain, it’s critical to adhere to regulations, especially those associated with cold shipping. This is where using tracking devices for temperature and condition monitoring of shipments in real-time can create a distinct competitive advantage. But how will supply chain professionals know if the trackers used in their real-time visibility solution are truly accurate?

Tive trackers have been tested by an ISO 17025-certified laboratory, and therefore will come with a certificate of calibration to NIST standards. This will satisfy auditors and federal agencies, and provide peace of mind to logistics managers, transportation directors, BCOs, shippers and carriers. They will know with confidence that shipments are being monitored accurately to capture even the slightest hint that can indicate a potential temperature excursion. Having that real-time information and insight can save valuable shipments and help bolster OTIF rates. Let us tell you more about how our world-class trackers work in conjunction with our cloud-based software platform solution to provide the end-to-end visibility and insight needed to optimize cold shipping in a global supply chain. Schedule a demo today.

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