As should be apparent to anyone during the spring of 2020, life changes quickly. In fact, it seems that life is an endless series of adjustments and revisions. Change happens constantly in your business and it’s important to keep up. This may mean reacting to economic trends, but also to production changes.

For that reason, drawing revisions are necessary. But even if they are necessary, that doesn’t mean that they are easy to deal with. Trying to find the differences between two drawings can feel like the children’s game “What’s Missing?” Except instead of a game to test your memory it is a task that has a lot at stake.

At a minimum, a first article inspection report includes the following: dimensional measurement, specification requirements, product name and number, detailed statistical analysis, and design characteristics.

According to the International Aerospace Quality Group (IAQG), “The value of the First Article Inspection is to validate that the product realization processes are capable of producing parts and assemblies that meet engineering, design requirements. 

A well planned and executed FAI will provide objective evidence that the manufacturer’s processes can produce compliant product and that they have understood and incorporated requirements. First Article Inspection (FAI) will:

· Provide confidence that the processes are capable of producing conforming product · Demonstrate that the manufacturers of the product have an understanding of requirements

  • Provide objective evidence of process capability as defined in this standard
  • Provide assurance of product conformance at the start of series production and after changes as outlined in this standard.
  • Reduce potential risks associated with production startup and process changes”

Obviously the key is having a well-executed first article inspection process. Without careful attention, it has no value. When first article inspection reports are done well, they are easy to adjust and update.

This is where software comes in. First article inspection software can make quick work of this type of task. Rather than poring over the drawings looking for differences—a high-pressure hunt since missed changes can mean scrap, rework and lost revenue—the right software will handle the job for you. For example, using the DISCUS Comparison feature, the differences are indicated in red (or the color of your choice), leaving the unchanged areas in light gray. The exhausting and time-consuming search for differences is over. You won’t be needing the services of your magnifying glass any longer.

Clarifying customer requirements is the start of the error-proofing process.

While it may seem challenging to implement, as with so many things in life, having the right tools can simplify the process. For example, consider a computer-based characteristic identification tool. This allows you to understand the production requirements upfront, in the in the beginning of a production lifecycle. Obviously, any quality practitioner knows that the earlier that issues are caught, the better. A problem that would require scrapping a ten-cent part becomes exponentially more expensive once a line has to be shut down, for example. And it goes without saying that a product recall will cost many times more. Just as in a medical diagnosis, the earlier the issue is caught, the better.

For aerospace suppliers, this may mean organizing requirements to determine request for quotation (RFQ) advantages and purchase order responses. The right characteristic tool checks if there were any missed requirements, focuses on specific instructions and generally makes sure that customer requirements are clear when you receive the RFQ or purchase order. What’s not to like? Both you and the suppliers can enjoy the fruits of this error-proofed process.

Supplier quality is not to be taken lightly. As ASQ explains, “It's in an organization’s best interest to ensure that its service or material suppliers are providing the highest quality products and services while also conforming to pre-established requirements. This is often accomplished through the use of supplier quality management systems (QMS), which allow companies to monitor supply chains and inspect or audit materials and services at regular intervals.”

When monitoring your supply chain, manual data entry is a recipe for errors. By avoiding this method, you easily eliminate one common source of error. Anytime you can error-proof a process, it’s worth doing.

Consider this comment from Joe Murphy, chairman of Ferco Tech Inc. “DISCUS takes the potential for human error out of the equation and has checking points to ensure you’re in line with FAI standards.” 

Wouldn’t it make life easier if you were able to quickly solve any missed requirements, deal with out of tolerance parts or out of FAI compliance issues? Not only does doing the inspection report right the first time save time, it also saves a lot of headaches. Spending the time to gather the right tools means that the work is easier and the entire supply chain is happier. Having confidence in your work is another valuable result. Many issues can be solved by examining the first item produced in a process. By completing these reports correctly, the entire production process runs better. Rather than being frustrated by changes, you will be able to react calmly and update any compliance issues.

While there is a lot in life that is out of your control, being able to control your FAI reports is one thing that you can do.