NMi has a long history, during which weights and measures inspectors have been replaced by approval engineers with expertise in data protection and communication. Until the 1980s, the testing (calibration) and certification of measuring equipment was a government service and a national operation. After its privatisation in 1989, NMi became an independent, internationally renowned organisation focused on customer needs. Here is a brief overview of the development of metrology and the foundation of NMi.
Before 1816, there was very little harmonisation of weights and measures in Europe. Each region and even town in the Netherlands had its own set of measures. Units such as a foot, a barrel, a bushel and a spoonful were therefore interpreted differently in various parts of the country. In 1816, the metric system was introduced. Municipal inspectors, each with his own stamp, were appointed to conduct checks. Some 60 years later, they were replaced by national inspectors.
Weights and Measures Act and Department of Weights and Measures
The inspectors’ work was described in the Weights and Measures Act, which primarily served as a guarantee of fair trade. After several interim improvements, the Weights and Measures Act came into force in 1937. The Department of Weights and Measures, part of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, was tasked with implementing this Act.
Privatisation of NMi
During the 1980s, the government decided to concentrate on purely governmental tasks. It also felt that the expertise of the Department of Weights and Measures should be made more widely available to the private sector. Privatisation followed and the Nederlands Meetinstituut (the Netherlands Measurement Institute) – NMi was created on 1 May 1989. Later a split occurred between the certification institute NMi and the inspection body Verispect. The Dutch measurement standards are being maintained by VSL. Since 2017 NMi has been part of FDI; a Dutch enterprise that enhances the growth of innovative companies and brings new valorisations to the market.
In response to the concept of free trade in Europe, efforts were devoted to harmonising legal metrology regulations, which varied very widely from one country to another. The Non-Automatic Weighing Instruments (NAWI) Directive came into force in 1993. Once a measuring instrument had been approved by one of the European Union member states, it could then be marketed in all the other member states. This saved the time and money spent on duplicating the testing work, which used to be performed in each individual country.
In 2006, this directive was followed by the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID). This directive covered most of the measuring instruments used for commercial purposes at European level.
Further harmonisation and rapid market access is being promoted, also outside Europe, through international standards issued by OIML, WELMEC, EN and IEC, and through international mutual acceptance agreements. NMi is playing a leading role here.
Know what you are measuring
Would you like to know more about metrology? The book De Kunst van het Meten (The Art of Measurement), written by Andrew Robinson (ISBN 9059562607), presents metrology over the years.