Interest of metrology
Accessing knowledge often involves a number and the measurement which produces this number is not possible without units, standards and measurement instruments. This is the role of metrology, which is not only an individual discipline of the physical sciences but the base of our daily activities. Like Molière's Monsieur Jourdain who spoke prose without knowing it, we all use metrology without realising. Mr. Christian Pierret presented metrology and its various applications during a communication in a Cabinet meeting on 2 December 1998, entitled "new ambitions for metrology at the service of competitiveness ". The above extract reminds us that measurement is a scientific, economic and social necessity :
Measurement increases knowledge
In fundamental research, metrology is present at every step. It is used to design the conditions for observation of a phenomenon, to build and qualify the instruments required for its observation and to determine whether the results obtained are significant. Rock dating, characterisation of gravitational fields, determination of certain chemical or physical constants all involve measurement activities.
Measurement protects people
- Dosing of drugs or measurement of radiation in radiotherapy, food safety and many others require measuring operations that are vitally important activities for public health. The reliability of measurement instruments in operating theatres or intensive care units is critical.
- The application of labour law involves a system to monitor the hours worked, the noise and lighting levels in professional premises, measurements of ambient atmospheres (mercury vapours, fibres and particles),etc.
- Road safety implies restrictions on speed, alcohol and vehicle braking efficiency as well as measurements to ensure that they are respected.
- Protection of the environment implies statutory requirements on nuisances and the quality of air and water, and involves measurements.
Measurement governs transactions
- All transactions made by individuals and companies involve measurements: dosing of foodstuffs, metering subscriber gas consumption or cross-border counting, petrol at the pump or on the pipeline, retail or bulk weighing, etc.
- Measurement is an essential factor in the relations between customers and subcontractors. In the absence of reliable measurements, it is impossible to guarantee that the subcontracted parts will match the customer's requirements.
Measurement enables our industries to be innovating and competitive
The description of these different applications leads us to make a distinction between fundamental and legal metrology. On the one hand, fundamental metrology is concerned with the creation, maintenance, improvement and transfer of metrological references. This activity is carried out by the national metrology laboratories, prior to any technological application. It is therefore important to remain attentive to the ongoing changes in the fields of industrial processes and applications, especially health and environment related applications. On the other hand, legal metrology represents one of the State's civic missions which consists of guaranteeing the reliability and stability of measurements for commercial or statutory use and preventing fraud. Metrology then becomes a means of economic regulation.
- Competitiveness involves quality, which is the ability of a product to meet consumer and user requirements, and which involves all types of measurement in order to study and satisfy customer expectations (organoleptic measurement in agribusiness, performance measurements for industrial products, etc.). Quality can be demonstrated to customers through certification, itself based on measurements.
- Competitiveness assumes that industry measures and precisely controls the production volumes and the performance of the production tool, and that it minimises the costs of rejects and rework operations.