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The Importance Of Factory Acceptance Testing
June 13, 2023
Carrying out a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) is highly recommended as it is always desirable to solve any small problems before shipment to the site where the equipment will be fitted and operate.
Planning for FAT results in the optimisation of the delivery and commissioning process, with important savings in terms of both time and costs for the purchasing company and for the installation team.
There are other benefits to carrying out a FAT including allowing the customer to get close to the machinery before it ships, enabling some basic training to customer on operating procedures, and thinking about spares requirements and maintenance planning for the machine once it is live.
How long does a Factory Acceptance Test take?
FAT testing can take between 1 and 3 days depending on the complexity of the equipment that requires verification and is usually performed in the presence of either a third-party inspector and/or a customer representative for transparency.
What is a Factory Acceptance Test?
The Factory Acceptance Test is a series of testing applied to an assembled piece of new equipment. It takes place at the manufacturing site prior to the dispatch to the factory for installation.
When Is Factory Acceptance Testing Required?
When any machine is being built and has even low-level complexity, it is common to have some minor glitches the first time they run. Ensuring these are caught at the site of manufacturing is beneficial for the purchaser and the manufacturer.
Many industries require a FAT to be carried out, often with their own check list, before the machinery moves to the end site for installation. This is often the case in pharmaceutical companies and those that work under a quality assurance certification.
What Does Factory Acceptance Testing Involve?
Factory Acceptance Testing involves customers, engineers and the manufacturing team working through an agreed check list to ensure build specification is correct and all checks have been carried out prior to preparing to ship. It is time to inspect and test the machine and go through all the correct paperwork that enables the machine becoming operational.
There is almost always a user requirements specification (URS) in place on manufacturing projects and this forms the basis of the FAT protocol.
Steps of a FAT procedure
A typical checklist might look something like this:
Using the URS and including all paperwork required by the buyer – this would be covered in the URS.
Visual inspection and verification
This is the physical inspection of the machine, utilising the documentation and looking at key areas on the checklist such as:
- The machine’s nameplate data
- Specification of individual mechanical and Electrical components
- Mechanical overview
- Piping & Instrumentation Diagram verification
- Verification of Electrical components like sensors, motors driver, HMI, etc.
Individual Components Operation Verification
This includes operation verification of individual systems rather than the whole operation, so showing each element working and showing some operational process to the customer:
The testing check list would include:
- Safety system and alarm verification
- Electrical system like motors, temperature systems, and VFD operation
- PLC and its modules
- The human/operator and machine interface including its software
- Data recording, storage, and display
Machine Operation Verification – testing and running with product
The final part of a FAT is where the machine’s operation is verified. Recreating the actual plant’s working conditions as closely as possible is helpful here, including using the material (packaging, sample production material, etc) used at the buyer’s factory. This is sent in advance to the manufacturer for their own internal testing process prior to the FAT. Sending the material in advance significantly helps to visualize the machine’s performance based on actual parameters and to see if any deviation found can be easily rectified. Accuracy verification can take place at this stage of the FAT. Also, changeover on all formats will be performed to ensure all manufacturing environments are tested. Stress testing the machine like this is key to finding the little snags in manufacturing.
Factory Acceptance Test Cost saving
Carrying out a FAT requires time away from the manufacturing site for key members of the operational team of the customer. These can include the project manager, the operations manager, the plant engineer, and maintenance team members.
This has an impact to the day to day running of the plant and a short-term impact on productivity. This is outweighed by the benefit of having a FAT prior to the site installation as almost all machines will have small glitches that need attended to when first running. Doing this where the team building the machine can address drives efficiency for both the manufacturer and the customer. Often the customer wants to start production as quickly as possible once the site acceptance test is complete. Having the FAT in the process can increase the readiness for production.
FATs With Pharma Hygiene Products
At Pharma Hygiene Products, we work on a process of internal testing of product integrity, product functionality, a full internal factory acceptance test, before we prepare and invite customers to partake in an on-site Factory Acceptance Test. The combined experience of our technical engineering team, manufacturing team, and our sales team; alongside our customers’ own engineering and operations team, ensures that quality of production, quality of the end product, and readiness for producing is of the highest standards.