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Consistent, accurate measurement system key in promoting regional economy

THE consistent and accurate system of measurement is an important platform for boosting the country’s economy and the whole East Africa region.

The government’s decision to establish the TBS metrology laboratory is part of its efforts to ensure that Tanzanians use appropriate measurements.

Speaking at the World Metrology Day held recently, the Head of Metrology Laboratory at the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS), Joseph Mahila said metrology laboratory measurements play a key role in trade, industry and scientific laboratories without which world trade would be thrown into chaos.

“The custodian of national measurement standards is the Tanzania Bureau of Standards’ Metrology Laboratory which was established with the aim of ensuring accuracy and traceability of all measurements in the country,” Mahila noted.

The objective of measurement is to find out the quantitative value of a physical parameter depending on the level of sophistication involved.

The TBS metrology laboratory is an accredited laboratory which has been given the statutory responsibility for establishing custody and maintenance of the national measurement standards related to all physical parameters, at internationally accepted level of accuracy and to disseminate the International System of Units (SI) of measurement by providing traceability to the public via the national measurement standards.

The laboratory undertakes apex level calibration of measurement standards and precision instruments in various fields of measurements such as length, mass, temperature, time intervals, volume including vertical and horizontal bulk storage tanks, pressure, and electrical measurements in DC/ AC voltage at low frequency as well as current and resistance.

Tanzania recently joined the rest of the world to commemorate the World Metrology Day. The origin of the World Metrology Day is the Metre Convention signed in May 17, 1875.

The convention put enabling environment for the world to collaborate in all issues pertaining to science of measurements and its use in industries, business and community.

The decision was reached after learning that each country was using own measurements, thus creating the need to have harmonized measurements.

For example, a kilo of sugar in Tanzania should have the same measurement as that in South Africa.

The objective of having the Metre Convention is to make sure that the whole world measurements use the same measurements thus removing confusion in businesses and other sectors.

In the convention, the whole world agreed to use the harmonized measurements, thus no country was allowed to use measurements without following the set up measurement standards.

Globally, the World Metrology Day is organized by two institutions namely International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) and International Organization for Legal Metrology (OIML).

Tanzania participated in the World Metrology Day event through its Metrology Laboratory of the Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS) carrying the theme Measurements in international business.

He said they are key stakeholders in measurements through the laboratory because it’s the custodian of the national measurements.

Mahila said the laboratory that was initiated in 1982 aimed to help producers to increase quality of the products taking into consideration the set up national standards or international standards with the intention of protecting consumers to using quality goods.

After the signing of the convention, all measurements worldwiare the same with exception of some challenges due differences in equipment used by each country.

He said there are three types of measurements namely the high, medium and low measurement equipment used by each country depending on its needs.

For example, comparison of a measurement of two kilogramme in Tanzania is being made through the Metrology Laboratory then sent to Sweden and the same is done and to other countries and observe the results if they are the same.

Mahilla said metrology laboratory is executed in three groups’ namely scientific measurements, industrial measurements under TBS to test the quality of products.

And the third is legal measurements which are implemented by the Weigh and Measure Authority (WMA) who perform measurements to protect consumers in terms of quantity or business people to get the right quantity from suppliers.

“The WMA oversee legal measurements to make sure consumers and business people get the right quantity and volume of goods according to the value of money,” he said. But WMA sends their measurements equipment to TBS for securing standards before giving to their clients.

This is because they are not the custodian of measurements which is entrusted to TBS in the country through traceability of measurements.

TBS provide this service because has access to international organisations that are mandated to provide international certification standards and from there we provide the services to our customers like WMA who in turn serve directly their clients.

However, there are private companies that deal with measurements but they do this after only getting standard certification from the TBS Metrology Laboratory before serving their clients.

He explained that business and legal measurements are under WMA but only after getting quality assurance and standards of their equipment from TBS before embarking on serving their clients.

On the significance of the measurements on health, agriculture, industries, he said measurements play a key role in ensuring safety in health and food products.

For example in the hotels there are standards set for preserving food in the fridges that should be followed in order to ensure safety of food to consumers.

“Without the standard equipment installed in the fridges and other cold rooms facilities there is huge risk for food to be unsafe for human consumption,” he said.

Another important area is the factories for making medical and health facilities that before starting production for medicines the equipment should undergo and tested their standard qualities.

Apart from the equipment also TBS test the mixture of various chemicals used for making different types of medicines.

“In medical industries they normally begin with measurements in order to identify exactly the quantity needed in each specimen before going for full production,” he emphasized.

In food safety, he said for example in bread making there are standards needed to be met for making quality food products.

In areas where the metrology laboratory received accreditation certificate by observing international ISO/IEC17025 include the area of dimensional, temperature, mass and small volume.

The accreditation certificates were granted by the SADCAS (Southern African Development Community Accreditation Services).

He said the accreditation certificate made the metrology laboratory to be recognized globally, making Tanzania fourth in Africa after Kenya, South Africa and Egypt.

The criteria used to provide the accreditation certificate is to have formal work system, accredited work performance, accreditation of work performance of the laboratory employees and methods used in the metrology laboratory should be accepted internationally.

According to him, when the metrology laboratory is recognized globally its tests and measurements are also accepted worldwide.

Other benefits of using correct measurements is to promote business, give confidence to the service provider as well as protecting consumers against substandard.

The expectation is to expand the outreach of the metrology laboratory services to reach many places only that the move is impeded by lack of sufficient equipment.

For example, in airline companies, we have not penetrated due to lack of equipment because they are very expensive.

Due to this, most airline companies send their equipment outside the country to test their quality standards.

However, he said some airline parts are tested in the TBS metrology laboratory to get quality standards needed for them to operate.

He said they have submitted their requests to the Ministry of Industry and Trade for consideration in this year’s financial budget.

Mr Mahilla said TBS plans to have modern metrology laboratory, adding that a good number of facilities have been shifted to the new building and in three months time their office will be already in the new building.

He said there are special requirements in areas where they have obtained ithibati and there are procedures written that should be implemented before shifting to the new building.

He said the plan to procure new equipment for the metrology laboratory was in place since the beginning but was interrupted by the space at the old building that hindered to implement the plan.

He said currently there is huge response from the people to get metrology laboratory services. For example, in all road projects implemented countrywide, the contractors have been seeking measurements from the metrology laboratory otherwise the projects implemented will be below standards.

One of the advantages of using metrology laboratory services is the guarantee obtained on the accuracy of the services to be provided in almost all sectors where it is deployed.

Some of the obligations of the metrology laboratory is that it is the custodian of the national standards to ensure they comply with international standards.

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Author: BUSINESS STANDARD Report

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