First Article of Inspection: A Crucial Part of the Quality Control Process

While the First Article of Inspection isn’t the only type of test to perform, it is certainly a vital one during the production of electronic equipment racks. The goal is to ensure that the produced good(s) meet a client’s specifications.

What is a First Article Inspection?

A first article inspection occurs when an authorized person takes one or several parts from the first production run. Those parts are then compared to the client specifications to verify that they match exactly. First Article Inspection (FAI) is required under AS9102 or if a custom requires one before the manufacturing process begins.

At A&J we select a random sample and inspect every dimension and specification of this sample against the drawing.

Pass vs. Fail

Again, this inspection is to ensure that everything meets expectations before your electronic rack production run can continue. And operations pause until a part or the rack in its entirety passes the FAI.

If a component fails, production halts until an engineer or the production floor machinists can find the cause and address it. Afterward, another FAI occurs to assess whether production can resume. These quality checks are exceptionally important in industries with critical applications such as defense, aerospace and medical devices.

A&J follows the guidelines of the Aerospace First Article Inspection Requirement (AS9102B), a standard associated with SAE International. The purpose is to provide objective evidence that all engineering design and specification requirements are properly understood, accounted for, verified and documented. It also serves as a documented quality record for both the supplier and customer to use as a form of accountability.

When Should You Request a FAI?

In addition to the first production run, several other scenarios exist that make a FAI appropriate:

  • A production lapse of two+ years
  • Alterations in the materials, sourcing, tools or manufacturing location
  • A delta or partial FAI can be requested when a specific part of component goes through design changes

Alternatively, it might be unnecessary to perform a FAI if the production batch is small or if the manufacturer is well accustomed to making the part or product you’re requesting.

What Happens During a FAI?

At A&J, our Quality Assurance Manager uses a checklist to maintain thoroughness. And in 2019 we invested in a coordinate measuring machine (CMM) to compare the produced part with their specifications. As always, the goal is to see if they differ and check any variations within a customer’s tolerances.

To validate a product has been correctly manufactured, a First Article Inspection Report is drafted. It usually consists of three forms:

  • part number accountability – used to summarize the part being inspected and any associated sub-assemblies or details
  • product accountability – used for all raw materials, specifications, processes and functional tests as defined in the design requirements
  • characteristic accountability – summarizes dimensions, tolerances, as well as actual measurement results for every part of the original drawing and is often accompanied by a ballooned drawing or bubble drawing

After the engineering package is “released”, all hardware, parts and materials (per the PO) will be included in the FAI package, and as necessary, include an inspection for each item. The executed report is submitted to our customer for approval before production resumes and/or no less than 5 working days prior to expected shipment date. A customer is required to provide rejection reasons before corrections are performed.

A Crucial Component of our Quality Management System

The benefits of a FAI report:

  • Ensure the production process is reliable, repeatable and consistent
  • Ensure that there is a clear understanding of requirements and unique specifications between the customer and the manufacturer. It also helps verify the accuracy of drawings and component dimensions
  • Develop a clear communication process (and potentially future collaboration)

The FAI process helps find potential errors in dimensions, clarify finish requirements and eliminate any design questions around tolerances.

For more information about A&J’s FAI capabilities, please contact us today.

1 Comment

  1. Shammy Peterson

    Thanks for explaining that the first article inspection involves the process of ensuring that the product meets expectations before its production resumes. This must be a good tip for manufacturing company owners who are aiming to provide quality products to their clients. I could imagine them hiring a first article inspection specialist for all their needs.

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