If you are manufacturing an on-demand or vital product in a factory that is far away from your administration unit then you have to conduct a product inspection of the trial order. While the factory has already finished 80 percent of the products and some major changes need to be done. Now that most of your order is not sellable, how will you deal with this loss?
The answer is “by doing the first article inspection”.
While you are doing production or pre-shipping inspections, you should also do the first article inspection too. This will help you to verify any kind of problem in the production so that you can rectify it. Depending on the quality standards, you might have to resort to the first article inspection (FAI). It is also instrumental in limiting the product defect in the completed products.
What is the FIA or First article inspection?
First Article Inspection is the test production run for the first order mass production units. No prototypes or the preproduction samples come under first articles as they were manufactured before finalizing the product design. They do not use the production techniques that are employed during mass production.
A first article means it can be a random sample of the first mass-production unit. It doesn’t necessarily mean it should be the first one to come out of the mass production unit. When you inspect the first article, you will have an idea of what your production staff has understood about the process.
The parts used in the process of making should meet the requirements and the factory should be able to produce the goods in large quantities of the standard you have set.
Sometimes, a common doubt occurs. Should you still need the first article even after you have a pre-approved sample? But you should know which will reflect the reports in the mass production.
So when you are approving a sample before mass producing it can help you understand and gauge the expectations of your client. Apart from that, you will also understand the supplier’s requirements. Pre-production samples can be understood as gold standards for the internal departments and are for reference for production line and QC stations.
These pre-approved samples are made by the R&D department and the staff factory while the first article that you inspect is actually made on the production line.
When you are deciding on a pre-approved sample, the factory staff and the R&D department take extra care as it is mostly intended to represent what you are expecting from the product. But when you look at a first article, it is made by the staff that gives the same importance to the other mass-produced goods.
How should the first articles be manufactured?
They should be produced using the same materials and raw components that are being used for the other mass-produced goods. They should be using the same equipment and machinery that is used for producing these mass units. The factory staff should also be the same who are working in the same production line from the duration of the order.
But why is the approval of pre-production sample, not enough?
This is because the real issues like quality and production shortcomings only reveal themselves when the mass production begins and the first article arrives. The production line is produced thousands of the same product at a time. Hence if there is any manufacturing defect, you need the first article to find out and rectify the production issue.
How does the first article inspection help you?
A first article inspection helps you when you want to abolish the product defects in the second batch of the same order on a production line. It can help clear out any misunderstandings in the process of making the product or if any substandard components or raw materials are being used. It can also help in tooling which can be adjusted for mass production.
It will show you the variation of how an R&D professional works on the pre-production sample and how the production staff works on the mass production of the goods. Above all this, it will help prevent major losses and waste of resources as you are rectifying the mistake within the first batch.
Where else is the first article inspection plan useful?
It may be useful in military and defense, aerospace, automotive, electrical and electronics, automotive, products that have expensive materials that are tough to rework. They also help in those industries where the dimensions and the budgets are critical and the clients want precise products.
However, the first article inspection should not replace pre-shipment quality checks. This is because an additional insight into the product before sending them to the client is always beneficial.