New facility to enhance efficiency, room for state’s Metrology Lab

A move to a new facility, nearly 10 times to the size of the last building will enhance the efficiency and storage room for the South Dakota Department of Public's Metrology Lab.

STURGIS, S.D. — Members of the South Dakota Public Safety’s Metrology Lab team will have a new venue to perform their measurements.

While being out of service from February of this year until mid-August, the Metrology Lab was in the process of meeting the requirements set forth by NIST.

“We had the footprint, we had the building, we just needed to make some modifications,” said Tyler Steen, with  the SD Department of Public Safety.

The move will also enhance the size of the old lab (525 square feet to now at 4,000 square feet) and create more room for storing equipment and customers’ weights, according to Steen.

South Dakota is one of several states, including Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Minnesota.

But first, what is metrology?!

Dps Metrology 5

It’s the study of measurement in other words, the work to make measurement as accurate as possible.

And how does that impact consumers??

If one scale, whether a grain scale, grocery store scale or even gas pump isn’t accurate, it could take away money from that South Dakota consumer.

“It’s that big picture that if you start to have a piece or I’ll just use a hypothetical, steak’s, you know, you could be one ounce off,” said Steen. “Ok, think of all the steaks that are purchased in the state of South Dakota throughout the year. Now you’re off an ounce on every single one, so extrapolate that over time and it can equate to quite a bit.”

With its new building roughly ten times the size of the old one, that was already owned by the SDDPS greater equipment and storage help in this efficiency goal.

“We never had this capability before. We didn’t have any of this equipment in our old labs,” Steen said.

But the building needed improvements.

Construction that began in late 2019 and concluded in December of 2020 cost about $1.6 million. The funds were made available through an appropriation by the South Dakota Legislature.

It largely included implementing temperature monitor systems that if not accurate could throw off numbers.

“That is probably the biggest part of this project,” said Ron Peterson, the State Metrologist. “Each room has it’s own separate HVAC system.”

Those new HVAC systems will keep consistent temperatures in each room, which if not kept at a constant temperature of 18 to 27 degrees Celsius could effect the weight of certain objects. These are world-wide requirements that every Metrology Lab must follow.

In a business of many measurements, there’s little to no room for error.

We do weight carts, we do 1,000 pound weights down to one milligram weights.

“We talk about accuracy and how it can equate to different things, so we’re only allowed this much on this thousand pound weight,” Steen said.

A move and building that could have an almost immeasurable impact.

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