What is a FAT?
FAT refers to Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) tests, which are conducted at the product development site or factory, performed by the engineers and designers, with members of both supplier and client parties present.
Testing is done prior to delivery and installation. It determines if certain components, certain equipment, or an entire system as a whole, runs as it should, and meets all requirements. Very often these days this will include both hardware and software. Testing aims to identify any potential issues, mistakes or bugs and rectify them before that equipment is sent to the field or site for installation.
Why we do FATs?
The old proverb that a stitch in time saves nine really holds true in industry. While it can be tempting to rush to start-up in the shortest time possible, the investment in a solid Factory Acceptance Test pays huge dividends. Rushing to start-up, taking shortcuts, or bypassing the FAT typically results in many engineering mistakes and problems that will need to be fixed later in the field, where they will be significantly more expensive and time-consuming to deal with.
In addition, there are great contractual uses for Factory Acceptance Testing. For example, when you have a thorough FAT documentation, that can be used as a template for the Installation Qualification portion of the validated process or installation. FATs can also be used as a contractual tool for owner or client sign-off on an agreed scope of work.
Thus, it is clear to see how running thorough FATs makes a large contribution to the success of a given project. It is really about covering all bases and discovering potential problems before handing over to the client. And quality testing is paramount – our reputation as a business hangs on the quality and reliability of what we provide.
Types of FATs
There are many different types of Factory Acceptance Testing, but largely they fall into four categories – often occurring in combination, in the systems Drakken delivers.
Hardware FATs refer to the physical testing of machinery, equipment and manufactured goods. This has long been the standard type of FAT, and the type which requires vendor, manufacturer and client representatives to be physically present to witness the testing and sign off on documentation.
Software FATs exist in order for engineers and developers to be able to demonstrate the software’s functionality to the other parties present, before the system is placed into service. They need to show that the software has been coded to meet the required specifications of the project. Accurate simulation conditions are necessary for this, and the FAT usually involves demonstrating a test script typical to how the end operator would use the system, with expected and actual results all logged at each step of the demonstration.
Integrated FATs (IFATs) encompass the pre-service testing of several systems which work in tandem. Like all FATs, integrated testing reduces costs and delays by providing an opportunity to verify that communications between systems are working cohesively, and troubleshoot any issues before service goes live. The supplier, system integrator, client and independent third party will usually be present at integrated testing. A typical Drakken IFAT might test the integration of buildings, electrical systems, telecoms and the PAGA system. Because the systems will be running in an integrated manner, it benefits all parties to have the testing be integrated too.
Finally, it is remote FATs which have really come into their own recently, especially within the past year when national and international travel have been so restricted. This has made implementing the important step of FAT very difficult to do in person, and so industry players have transitioned to remote or ‘live-remote’ testing – if they were not already doing this.
It turns out that with the modern capabilities of live streaming, chat-enabled platforms, it is perfectly possible to perform an excellent FAT with all parties able to see by camera what they would normally have seen in person, and sign off on accompanying documentation. And with remote testing cutting down so much on time and expenditure (no longer having to send personnel out to a physical site, with all associated costs), it seems that it will be the preferred way forward for many.
Conclusion and benefits of FATs
Based on the results of the FAT, the key people from both parties can review documentation including the bill of materials, required and recommended spare parts and maintenance procedures, agree upon adjustments or additional testing that need to be carried out on the systems or equipment, and agree any further actions that need to be addressed prior to shipment. Lastly, at the end of the FAT, the client will usually sign off on the Test, and this serves as the Customer Acceptance.
Aside from the all-important contractual necessity of Factory Acceptance Testing, there are huge benefits in terms of providing initial hands-on training to the end user personnel, giving them a head start in confidently running the systems and equipment for the first time when the project reaches start-up. Familiarity with the systems really cannot be overstated in terms of benefit to clients.
The benefits of always implementing Factory Acceptance Testing far outweigh any negatives. The payback from thorough testing of hardware and software at the development stage is clear in terms of time and money saved in avoided problems, as well as client ease of use and approvals, and this is why Drakken performs FATs on all of their equipment prior to shipment to site.