Factory Acceptance Tests
Project managers and other plant personnel within the food and pharmaceutical industry have been through the same scenario time and time again. A Factory Acceptance Test (better known as an “FAT”) is scheduled at the supplier’s fabrication plant for the purpose of demonstrating that the purchased equipment meets the required specifications. A contingent of the appropriate personnel invest the time and incur significant travel costs, with the full expectation that the equipment will be ready to test and ship soon after completion of the FAT visit. Upon arriving at the supplier’s plant, and after the smoke is cleared, the customer figures out that the equipment does not meet specifications and is far from ready to ship! Since the ship date is at stake, a compromise is commonly negotiated, and the equipment is released for shipment as soon as possible. Once the equipment arrives on site, the installation and start-up is plagued with time consuming completion tasks, modifications, repairs, and other integration tasks………thus resulting in massive delays. The discontented customer’s planned production start-up date is way behind schedule, and they are left to deal with a system that they are less than happy with…………for MANY years to come!
The primary reason why poor FAT performance is so common is that a lot equipment suppliers attempt to spend as little money as possible on truly understanding and adhering to customer specifications and needs, and on testing the equipment before shipping it out the door. Planning for and setting up a proper FAT is very expensive and costs valuable production capacity. Equipment must be fully assembled, set, and interconnected, utilities must be run, the software must be modified to operate in a simulated state while handshaking with the various sub-assemblies/systems, and the entire system must be exercised several days or even weeks in advance of the customer visit to ensure performance specifications can be met or exceeded. Why would equipment manufacturers go through all this trouble when they can attain shipping acceptance by the skin of their teeth at about 10% of the effort and cost? The answer to this question is quite simple. A thorough FAT is actually the least expensive “big picture” investment that an equipment manufacturer can make. The time and money spent in the factory is always going to be far less than the time and money spent in the field trying to work through equipment performance and integration issues. And in the field, you are having to go through all this effort in front of and at the expense of the customer! It all starts with owning up to your quality policy. At Allpax our quality policy is simple and clear……WORKS GREAT, LOOKS GREAT AND IS DELIVERED ON TIME! Shortcuts are not part of our culture. We firmly believe that well prepared, complete and thorough, and transparent FAT’s are a critical part of ensuring ourselves and our customers that we are delivering a product that will exceed performance and quality expectations.