Q&A with Bruce Cox

Bruce Cox Engineering Corporation


You provide assessments to ISO/IEC 17025 for calibration laboratories. How has business been?

I do assessments now, that’s the main thing, for the National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP), part of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Things are going good. I’m getting busy, going through the process of looking at different companies’ documentation and paperwork to see if they meet the ISO17025 standard. Another accrediting body, a private company, Laboratory Accreditation Bureau (L-A-B), sends me on assessments to ISO 17025. I’ve also starting to do consulting work with companies getting ready for their accreditation as well. Hopefully we’ll get them ready, and they’ll apply and go through the process.

How do they find you?

Word of mouth, really. As part of the assessment business, I go out and try to maintain my technical competence. I attend conferences like the National Conference of Standard Laboratories International—they just had a meeting in Orlando last month. I was down there meeting with people, and many of the people I do business with were at this meeting. You meet with people and they say, “Well, we need to be accredited. We could use your help.” I have been talking with the same companies for several years, and they decided that they were losing business because they aren’t accredited. The conferences have talks and companies set up booths, but I mainly attend for the technical content, as well as the committee meetings. I’m on the NCSLI committee on dimensional metrology, so we had our meeting down there. So word of mouth is pretty much how I meet people. I’m also a member of the American Society of Precision Engineers, which includes a lot of technical meetings about dimensional metrology and dimensional measurement. I meet people on those committees as well. They come looking for me to do an assessment.

It starts out small, but people find out about you and start asking for you. You have to make a decision: full time? part time? That’s where I am now. I’m at the point where I’ve just about got everything I can do. I don’t work as much during the wintertime, because I don’t want to go to the freezing Midwest in the middle of February. It’s not a pleasant place to be, with all that snow! I try to minimize the travel during those times. Hawaii might be good, depending on what they have.

If I hear of any consulting work in Hawaii I’ll send it your way.

Yeah, let me know about that! Fortunately for me, August, September, and October is when most people want their work done. That’s when it’s nice out.

What has changed in the nature of the need to be accredited as opposed to 30 years ago?

The need has increased quite a bit. I was a little surprised at the L-A-B training a couple of years ago. Before I retired from Oak Ridge, I asked the teacher about the need for consulting work in accreditation assessment. He said it has grown 30 percent a year, and I’m trying to to keep up with it.

What is the initial assessment like when you arrive?

You’ll have a lead person there. Next time you’ll be the lead, have someone evaluate you. It’s usually two steps: technical assessment with a lead person there doing the main assessment, while you’re just doing part of it. Next, you do the whole thing and someone’s helping you. Some small companies use just one person doing the whole thing. Most of the smaller companies use just one assessor. For bigger laboratories, like the Oak Ridge Metrology Center, the accrediting body might send two people for four days to get the work done. It just depends on how big it is.

I’ve also recently gone through the training course that the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA) holds. They have more labs than most other people, since they are a larger organization. They want me to be involved in an assessment in November.

Do you get to do a lot of traveling?

I like to do some traveling, but it gets to the point where it’s more than I want to. At least at these conferences usually they’re pretty nice, better locations, like Hawaii. When I went down to Orlando I went and visited and did a “cousin tour” while we were in Florida. I got another assessment coming up in West Virginia. I’m trying to plan for the fall, where the leaves are peaking just right.”

MORE INFORMATION: Visit www.bcoxengineering.com or call 865-617-6906.