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Meet product requirements with an FAI checklist

A digital checklist makes it easier to detect deviations during initial sample inspection, thus avoiding costly production delays. Learn how you can avoid the common downfalls while conducting an FAI inspection. Meet all product specifications on time, every time by using our free form that you access online or save as a pdf.

What Is a First Article Inspection Checklist?

A First Article Inspection (FAI) checklist, is used for the examination of a product part before it’s mass-produced. In the sampling process for acceptances of production parts and products, the first article inspection is an elementary quantity. This involves checking whether a product from the first production run meets design requirements.

However, quality managers also perform initial sampling when there is a 2-year production backlog or when there are significant changes to the product, including design, manufacturing source/process, manufacturing location, tooling/materials, or computer program that affect fit, form, or function. Typically, a checklist is used for the initial sample inspection.

In the resulting FAI report, responsibilities for product characteristics are documented. Such checklist used in testing can reduce costly production delays by ensuring that manufacturing processes produce a result that meets design requirements.

This article addresses the following:

1. Requirements of an initial sample inspection

2. Causes for an initial sample inspection

3. Commonly made FAI mistakes

4. What a AS9102 FAI is

5. The importance of an initial sample checklist

6. The benefits of a digital FAI checklist

industrial robots ensure product meets requirements

What Are the Requirements of a First Article Inspection?

To effectively test a first article sample, the conditions must be the same as those for mass production. Initial samples are important for obtaining approval for the product’s production, delivery, and as a series part. For this purpose, the initial sample must originate from a test production run:

  1. From the final production site
  2. With a production time of one hour to one shift
  3. Include the agreed quantity
  4. Complete under standard conditions

Furthermore, the initial sample inspection should ensure the following items correspond to the final series status indicated by the client:

  1. Employees
  2. Materials
  3. Tools, manufacturing and testing equipment
  4. Processes and process settings (e.g., speed, pressure & temperature, cycle times, etc.)
  5. Environmental conditions

When is a First Article Inspection Required?

There are various scenarios under which contractors must conduct an initial sample inspection to meet their obligations to the customer. They all relate to factors that have an impact on the product (part):

  • For a new product (part) that has never been shipped
  • When troubleshooting a product (part) that has already been released.
  • In the case of an overhauled product part due to changes in specifications or drawings.
  • When designs or materials other than those approved are used.
  • When new or modified tooling, additional or replacement tooling (except prototype tooling) is used.
  • When tools have been overhauled or repositioned.
  • When tooling repairs are made.
  • When manufacturing processes or methods are changed
  • When tooling or manufacturing equipment is moved to another facility
  • When tooling or manufacturing equipment has come from another plant
  • When services, materials, or suppliers have changed
  • When tools that have been shut down are re-released (over 24 months)
  • On recommissioning of tools shut down due to quality problems

Techinically, first article inspection forms aren’t a requirement of product production. Instead, they are a tool for engineers and manufacturers to use while they inspect their prototype for missing or defective variables. For example, if the product dimensions didn’t meet the design specifications. Every time a variable changes, such as moving locations, switching materials, or when manufacturing methods have been changed, this process needs to be repeated to ensure that the product or product component is still ready for mass production.

What Are 3 Commonly Made Mistakes While Planning a First Article Inspection?

Since the first article procedure is a critical part of every manufacturing and engineering process, it can be helpful to know some of the commonly made mistakes so you can avoid them and their costly consequences. As promised, here is the list of three mistakes to avoid:

  1. Product Components Aren’t Tested Enough
    Because the first letter in the acronym “FAI” can be misleading, people often think they need to inspect their product component only once before signing it off. This is not good practice. One test round simply does not provide enough data sets to make a reliable or even informed decision about the product’s quality. It’s recommended to repeat an inspection at least thirty times before approving it for production.
  2. Repeated Features Are Only Listed Once
  3. Oftentimes, a part has more than one feature. This could look like coating requirements or the need for more than one screw hole on a single surface. Since there is so much that goes into the product design, it’s not uncommon for these specifications to get lost in translation. However, this oversight can be easily avoided by employing the use of a ballooned or itemized drawing.
  4. Not Including Dimensional Specifications in the Product Blueprints
    Since the person who designs the product and the one who makes it are often two separate people, thorough documentation is needed to avoid mistakes and ensure the product meets its intended specifications. Not including dimensional requirements and not listing repeated features are one in the same problem: it’s the failure to properly record design specifications so that they may be reproduced to the same effect. However, that’s why producers will write first article reports, as these issues are often caught during the inspection process.

What Is AS9102 FAI?

A first article inspection in the aerospace industry is based on the 9102Rev B, a document that ensures the manufactured component complies with legal regulations. Although helpful to use, the 9102 inspections are not required for certification. However, it can aid in meeting customer expectations and limit the risk of product recalls after the initial testing phase. In addition, investing the time and money in a diligent, thoroughly researched FAI plan can go a long way in preventing colossally expensive and disastrous mistakes.

FAI inspections are especially important in industries where product failure can compromise the safety of employees and civilians in the vicinity of a potential malfunction. The importance of conducting an FAI in the aerospace industry was no more evident than in 1986 when the space shuttle Challenger exploded only 73 seconds into its flight due to faulty O-ring seals.

The space shuttle Challenger tragedy is a prime example of how a first article inspection plan can prevent 3.2 billion-dollar catastrophes as well as the unnecessary and regrettable loss of life.

What Is the Importance of a First Article Checklist?

There are so many reasons why a first article inspection becomes necessary, even after the initial inspection. All the better if a checklist can be used to document the evaluations more clearly. In addition, the following are examples of what FAI inspectors will have to pay attention to and examine:

  • Are there any errors?
  • Can the agreements with the buyers be kept?
  • What is the product’s quality?

With the help of a checklist, no check will be forgotten! In addition,

  • Larger tasks can be divided into smaller subtasks
  • In case of illness or absences, you can easily show colleagues what to do
  • Stressful situations are avoided because everything that needs to be done is on the checklist.

brown pencil and piece of paper with a plan for a first article inspection

What Are the Benefits of a Digital FAI Checklist?

With Lumiform’s mobile app and desktop software, quality auditors can streamline their FAI documentation and reporting. This improves product quality and avoids costly production delays

With Lumiform, problems are reported in an instant and corrective actions are quickly assigned to responsible colleagues. Easy communication with all team members and third-party vendors enables internal processes to be improved and emerging defects to be resolved up to four times faster. In addition, with the powerful inspection app, quality inspectors can:

  • Convert any custom paper list or excel sheets into a digital first article inspection form within minutes using the flexible form builder.
  • Get started digitally quickly and securely thanks to an extensive library of free FAI pre-made templates.
  • Perform any initial sample inspection on site with the super intuitive mobile application as a team.
  • Automatically generate a report containing all audit results and send it to stakeholders.
  • Discover inefficient areas in production more quickly thanks to extensive analysis and thus continuously improve audit processes.

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Engineer uses a FAI checklist to ensure product meets specifications
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