UKAS Accreditation: From Status Quo to Status Quality

In July 2016, after a process spanning over 2 years, we gained our first UKAS accreditation and became the first UK consultancy experienced in carrying out acoustic emission testing on wind turbines to gain an accreditation according to ISO 17025:2005 for testing to Edition 3 of the IEC 61400-11 [1] standard.

In late 2012 the IEC TC 88 committee published the third edition of their 61400-11 standard for assessing the acoustic emission of wind turbines. In early 2013 the British Standards Institute (BSI) published this standard completely, without amendment, under their own branding, showing the full endorsement of this standard for British use.

We have been carrying out acoustic emission testing of wind turbines to the previous editions of this standard (as well as other methodologies) for over 20 years; testing turbines from smaller several kilowatt turbines using a simplified methodology to multi-megawatt machines with detailed tonal analysis. Despite this we had avoided becoming accredited for this testing. This was in part due to the perceived effort and bureaucratic complexity of the required procedural and administrative documentation, and in part due to a lack of dedicated systems and staff.

The culmination of the publishing of Edition 3 of the standard, the general internal drive for improved quality control, efficiency and standardisation within our company led to Sylvia Broneske (senior consultant with many years of turbine testing experience and having previously worked for Enercon) and Robin Woodward (consultant with experience carrying out tests according to Edition 2.1 and 3 of the standard and a driving force to improve quality within Hayes McKenzie) embarking on an effort to achieve the daunting task of becoming accredited.

Sylvia became the head of a dedicated turbine testing department formed in 2014 whilst Robin took on the role of quality manager and soon found himself immersed in the jargon encrusted world otherwise known as quality management systems. Together they spent two years trying to impress upon the Hayes McKenzie family the importance of quality control, standardisation and documentation. Despite some initial resistance, and a lot of grumbling, all consultants eventually started to see the wisdom and many of the procedural documents are now adopted across all of our consulting work.

Along the way, much sage advice was gathered from Kiran Mistry of ANV and AV Calibration, whom had recently joined our primary acoustic calibration laboratory to administer their accreditations, and whose great experience in the area was unreasonably tapped into by Robin to assist his initial blind stumbling (and later partially sighted swimming) through this process for which he had no training or experience, but just enough enthusiasm (or stubbornness) to reach the light at the end of the tunnel.

In late 2014 we purchased a bespoke integrated turbine testing system from DELTA, based on their noiseLAB Wind software. This system showed great promise providing a Wi-Fi based system with live turbine feeds, interim assessment results and a complete post-processing and analysis package. As one of the first commercial users of this retail system our accreditation effort was put on hold for the next year whilst the turbine testing department spent many, many hours drilling down into the workings of this system, working closely with DELTA to iron out some initial teething problems and ambiguities with the system.

At this point a particular mention should be made of Andy Mileham our equipment technician at the time (who sadly left us just before our accreditation was granted), who worked wonders with the system, turning the pile of parts provided by DELTA into a slick, robust and very user friendly hardware setup. His many hours on the phone to various Danish technicians and consultants will not be forgotten when we rock up on site, flick the power switches, and everything just works.

In late 2015 the DELTA system reached a stage where its accuracy and reliability were mostly assured, with the software analysis tested as part of a Round Robin verification process instigated by a group of German consultancies in which we participated (for more information on this Round Robin see here) in which Rob Shepherd, the deputy head of department played no small role carrying out countless data-processing runs through the system to fully understand its input and output variables. This allowed us to continue our efforts towards accreditation, with the drafting of our technical procedures based around the use of the DELTA system.

April 2016 saw our preliminary assessment (and first visit) from UKAS where they highlighted the areas in which our quality management system was lacking and answered a few queries which Robin still had regarding our specific requirements according to the ISO 17025:2005 standard. A frantic 2 months following including an internal audit, management reviews and finally our Initial Assessment from UKAS in June 2016. This assessment visit brought up only a handful of improvement actions which were quickly rectified and in July 2016 our offer of accreditation was received.

This was a fairly long and gruelling process for all involved, dragging us into the world of detailed documentation, traceability and quality assurance, but we made it, and are proud to have achieved what we have. We look forward to providing our industry renowned expertise to our clients, old and new, with the added confidence and quality assurance of accredited services.

[1] IEC 61400-11:2012, Wind turbines - Part 11: Acoustic noise measurement techniques(2012)

by Robin Woodward

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Date Posted

31 Jul 2016

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