Invest In Your Projects Success: Budget For a Successful FAT

Budgeting for a detailed Factory Acceptance Test is an investment in your project’s success. If you’ve ever had trouble convincing whoever makes and approves the capital equipment budgets in your organization to invest in a thorough FAT, read on…

Packaging World recently re-printed an article “Roadmap for a successful Factory Acceptance Test” by Paul Zepf, P.Eng., M.Eng., CPP. While his recommendations may add some cost, and the payback may be hard to quantify, your system will start up faster and achieve higher efficiencies when you invest in a detailed FAT. I am particularly adamant about a couple of these recommendations when I work with my clients.

The first item “Provide a detailed test plan” is a ‘no brainer’. I can’t imagine approaching an FAT any other way. In the life sciences industry, the FAT Plan is extremely detailed. In addition to the performance runs, it often includes verification of every wire, sensor, and HMI screen. It is reviewed and approved ahead of time. Such an approach is costly but it reduces risk down the road; an imperative in that world. In a less regulated environment, you still need a written plan. And, as the article points out, the vendor should be totally in tune with the level of testing that will be performed. The better (and smarter) vendors will pre-execute the FAT Plan prior to your arrival. I also create and distribute a matrix showing what parts of the plan will be executed hour-by-hour during the FAT and by whom. I prefer to focus operators and technicians.

Most importantly, I’m a huge proponent of Item 3 “Engage the operators and technicians”. Get your people involved earlier. Have them actively participate in the FAT. Insist that your people set up and operate the machine with vendor oversight. Have them navigate their way through the HMI screens and understand how to respond to alarm conditions. Also, this is a great opportunity to start drafting your operating procedures. If the vendor will accommodate the participation of lead operators and maintenance personnel during debug, do it! Better yet, provide for this activity in the purchase agreement. It is often difficult to get management to approve the costs associated with this level of participation (e.g., travel, wages, time away from ongoing production), but it is well worth the investment. Your people will be more familiar with the equipment, take ownership in it, and be better equipped to troubleshoot it without external support.

Item 11 “Know the difference between a Factory and Site Acceptance Test” provides another valuable lesson. Keep in mind the purpose of the FAT. The goal when you leave is to have confidence that the system will perform in your facility. This is a team effort. It is in everybody’s interest to have a successful FAT. It is more important that it starts up with as few hiccups as possible. Focus on issues that are better solved at the factory than on your floor. It is much, much easier to modify software than machine parts in the field.

Speaking of parts, insist that the complete set of spare parts that you ordered with the machine will ship with it. Inventory them. Some part will fail or get damaged during start-up and you want a reasonable chance of avoiding extended down time waiting for the part to arrive.

This article brings back some vivid memories…both good and bad. What has been your experience?

For the complete article, go here.

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