Maximizing the Impact of Factory Acceptance Testing

By Keith Weseli , September 19, 2017


Your equipment is ordered.  The schedule is set.  The team travel plans are made. But are you ready to maximize your experience at the original equipment manufacturer’s factory floor?  This post will review some key points to consider in maximizing the Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) as part of the overall verification process.

Who should attend the FAT?

Organizations make a significant investment of time and resources to get their team to the factories where they purchase their equipment.  There will not be another opportunity to gain the in-depth equipment knowledge that the people who built the machine will offer.  Therefore, a robust owner team should plan on attending.  However, this needs to be countered with the reality that there is only one machine/line/piece of equipment, and you do not want your team stepping over each other, thereby creating more chaos than progress.

With these limitations in mind, the ideal owner FAT team should consist of:

— Owner Lead:  This person should be responsible for interfacing with the OEM on all contractual concerns.  This person does not have to be the technical expert but should be very familiar with the contractual terms that have been agreed to with the equipment vendor.  Having a unified voice is crucial in dealing with equipment vendors, especially with respect to keeping schedules and if there are language concerns.

— Floor Lead:  There should be a traffic cop on the owner’s side during the FAT.  This lead should be coordinating testing activities and planning the schedule daily.  This individual will interface with the vendor technicians and testing crew to make sure that the precious time of FAT is fully utilized.

— Documentation Lead:  A documentation review is a key component of a successful FAT.  With skidded equipment, the time at FAT can be a chance to complete the vast majority of the static verifications that are necessary to deliver the equipment.  The documentation lead should thoroughly review all vendor documentation that will be used to support the verification of Process Requirements (those that have been determined to have the potential to impact product quality) or the product control strategy at a minimum.  Confirming the material of construction of product contact parts is an example of this type of verification that can be completed on the factory floor.  Holding the vendors’ documentation package up to standard prior to shipping the equipment will yield the best results on overall documentation completeness.  The owner documentation lead should seek to establish a relationship with the vendor’s documentation department and provide very specific feedback and real time communication on documentation puchlist status.

— Other parties to consider:  The first three roles are key for FATs of any significant magnitude.  For smaller FATs these roles may be combined (e.g. the floor lead and the documentation lead can be the same person).  As there are a variety of other stakeholders involved in the successful delivery of the equipment, these roles may also be beneficial to have at the factory:

• Process Engineer / Automation Engineer:  This is especially true if the process is not yet fully defined.  If the final control system is not in place for the FAT (e.g. further integration of the equipment with a distributed control system will occur later), it may be premature to send the automation subject matter expert.  However, if there are key process controls or sequence of operations that are part of the overall product control strategy, the presence of owner automation to interface directly with the vendor programmers will help increase the chances that the programming logic meets the desired process needs at the conclusion of the FAT.  Of course, it would be better if this were fully vetted prior to the beginning of the FAT (either through an automation design review or a pre-FAT visit), but this is not always the case.

• Operations / manufacturing staff:  The operations team can review the operating manual provided by the equipment vendor and begin gaining an understanding of the HMI displays and overall system control and functionality.

• Maintenance Engineers / Technicians:  The access to the internals of the equipment will be unparalleled to that at the factory.  Bill of materials can be thoroughly reviewed and confirmed.  The owner’s maintenance representative can have thorough discussions on failure modes and stocking strategies with the equipment readily available to focus the discussion. 


What should be tested during the FAT?

The easy answer would be to say, “Everything!”.  However, the time at the factory is limited so this decision also must be strategic.  At a minimum, the FAT should include the following verifications:

— Confirmation of the as-built condition complying with the design.  This would include drawing walkdowns, tagging verification, slope checks, and automation hardware verification for example.  These static verifications can be built into the early portions of the FAT period.

— Instrumentation loop checks.  While a 100% I/O check is not recommended, it is recommended to conduct at least a sampling to establish some level of trust that an open valve displayed on the HMI is in fact an open valve on the skid.  The level of rigor that is applied to this activity (e.g. is it 10 points, 10% of all points, or 50% of all points) should be commensurate with the overall experience with the vendor’s quality system, performance on the project to date, and the level of risk this piece of equipment/skid has on the overall process.

— Performance tests.  Throughout confirmation, sequence of operation/cycle completion and general material flow would fall into this category.  It is not advisable to attempt every possible performance scenario because in many instances the factory floor is not representative of your actual plant’s conditions.  Tests dependent on clean utilities or HVAC conditions should probably be deferred to a site acceptance test or a later date unless there is specific concern about the equipment’s capability to achieve the desired performance under any conditions.

Do you still have questions about Factory Acceptance Testing? Contact Nathan Temple, Business Area Lead for Commissioning Qualification and Validation at [email protected]

Topics: Qualification and Validation, FAT, Factory Acceptance Test, CQV