It is always surprising when I ask people about their plans for a Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) and they blankly look back at me. I have conducted and helped plan large FATs and there should always be a plan. Because of this, I wanted to take a minute to discuss what makes a good FAT. The FAT has a direct impact on how well commissioning and startup will go!
Consider the following tips as a roadmap to creating a good FAT:
Before you begin, provide a detailed test plan for FAT execution – The FAT is a test of the user requirements in the factory before shipping to the client and should be conducted according to the clients approved test plans and specifications. In order to complete a FAT, certain tasks must be accomplished ahead of time. For instance, if I go to the store without a list, I am almost guaranteed to forget something. I’m pretty sure this is a universal truth. However, if my family plans our meals for the week and makes a list accordingly… I better be getting everything on that list, or else. The plans should be agreed upon by your team and client so that the FAT process is fully understood. Clearly stating all responsibilities, accountabilities, and deliverables in a measurable way is a must.
Engage the operators and technicians – Those who will be using the equipment should have the opportunity to operate it before it goes into production. Regardless of the piece of equipment/Human Machine Interface (HMI)/switchgear/etc. the operators and maintenance crews need to be integrated into the process of production and able to share their perspective. The project team should have good relationships with these crews beforehand to ensure efficient communication, and safety, usability, or application specific specifications should be considered. To keep with my earlier anecdote: If I build a house, I better ask my wife for her input before I give her the keys!
Understand the training that will be required – By engaging the operators and technicians, it becomes easier to identify training needs and what should be integrated into the client’s training programs and standard operating procedures.
Understand failure modes – Any typical or known failure inside of an operational environment should be understood and addressed. These can be listed inside the FAT planning to ensure that all known scenarios are taken care before it leaves the factory. If these are not checked in a safe environment, you may not see these scenarios again until commissioning and startup, or even worse, during normal operation, and be left without the tools to handle them successfully.
Test part replacement and changeover procedures – Many clients don’t run all replacement or changeover procedures inside the factory. These should always be tested in order to realize real world applications of the vendors documented procedures. In this process, you may find modifications to the design not reflected in the procedures that will be easier to change in the factory than in the field.
Be safety aware – The FAT plan should contain a complete review of the equipment from a safety perspective only. Looking for sharp edges, poorly guarded areas, pinch points, missing safety options. Being sure Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures are in place and are not easy to bypass. Being sure sources of energy are understood and able to be controlled in a safe manner, etc. All procedures and changeover procedures should be reviewed for anything the client or other reviewing parties could’ve overlooked.
Take the time to do it right – Do not shortcut this process. This is the best time to safely and cost effectively impact the commissioning and startup from a change perspective. Most times project timelines are very compressed, often at the expense of the FAT, because very few see the impact of this activity on the success of the project. However, this is one of the most important checks that can be done for a project!
Have the right people on the job – Project teams need to understand that these activities are not vacation or simple opportunities to visit remote locations. The teams responsible for checking equipment and completing critical tasks outlined in the FAT should be focused and dedicated to overall project success.
Work with the suppliers – Project teams, clients, and vendors should all be involved in the FAT in order to best understand client needs, maximize efficiency, and satisfy requirements of all parties.
It is a FAT, not a SAT – Not everything can be tested in a FAT, so the Site Acceptance Test (SAT) should be executed as the final testing of the system for real world application. The FAT should test everything from the point of tie-in to the main system. The SAT should be more comprehensive, testing external influences and tie-ins to the equipment. The FAT and SAT resemble each other because they typically follow the same process, but one should not exist without the other.
Does your team need help to realize their goals of a successful project? Do you have questions about how to plan and execute a successful project startup? Reach out to the experts at Hargrove by contacting us at email@example.com.