Inspection reports are an invaluable part of the manufacturing process in many industries, and first article inspections are especially common in aerospace, defense, automotive and medical devices. In other words, if high quality is essential, these reports often are too.

Insight Quality Services explains the process this way: “An in-depth FAI helps to ensure that everything is right with all equipment, settings, and materials before continuing with production and finishing the rest of the purchase order. It helps the factory to reduce waste and to prevent time-consuming and costly reworks.

They can generally be conducted by a technician or the QC personnel at the factory, although third-party QC companies like ours can help with this if needed.

In general, when relying on the manufacturer for an FAI, it is important that you have confidence in their overall quality management system (QMS). For this reason, it is important to conduct a factory audit prior to working with any new supplier.”

In other words, a FAI report may be the last step in the process that begins with a discussion of a quality management system and then continues with an audit. The FAI report doesn’t occur as a standalone document without any other verification. It is a necessary part of a longer process to ensure quality.

John Michaloski of NIST describes first article inspection reports this way: “The method consists of measuring the properties and geometry of an initial sample of items against given specifications, for example a drawing. Items to be checked in a FAIR are wide and varied and may include distances between edges, positions of holes, diameters and shapes of holes, weight, density, stiffness, color, reflectance, or surface finish. Despite the name, the inspected article may not necessarily be the 'first' produced. First article inspection is typically called for in a contract between the producer and buyer of some manufactured article, to ensure that the production process reliably produces what is intended.”

While it is important to have a report filled out completely and accurately, it is also important that it not take a week to fill out. According to anecdotal reports Michaloski, mentions, the early days of filling out AS9102 compliant first article inspection reports could take some companies 40 hours to complete. This is in no way a sustainable approach to running a business. Manufacturing a product should be the focus—not reporting on inspection methods.

Streamlining and automating the process was obviously a must. And selecting a software to solve these issues is often the next step.

Do you know how to quickly solve your missed requirements, out of tolerance and out of FAI compliance issues?

If not, the right software partner can help address these issues. Avoiding errors in FAI reports is possible. It may take some training to get it right, but you can always seek help when you need it.

If you would like answers from your peers in quality, consider the wealth of information available on quality forums. In response to a request for more information on first article inspection on myASQ, James Littlefield writes, “There are many types of First Article Inspection systems (the term can be loosely used).  First Article may refer to:

  • A design prototype to validate or verify a design (but article needs to be verified itself before the verification or validation).
  • The first batch of material from a supplier, to approve the supplier as a vendor.
  • The first batch of material from a supplier, to approve the material (from an already existing supplier). Common usage of term.
  • First items of the production line (either for process verification or quality control checks).
  • First items delivered to customer, for validation or verification.

- etc.

Each is a different system.

Thinking the value of a first article inspections is: most issues (design issues or manufacturing issues; special cause or normal cause) can be caught by checking the first items produced by the process.”

He concludes by saying, “You may be able to get advice from your suppliers.  They often serve other customers, thus may have some insights.”

In addition to consulting forums, suppliers and colleagues, don’t forget that companies offering products to make FAI reports easier are happy to help.

Software vendors can be a great resource when working on FAI reports. They’ve no doubt had customers come to them with the exact same issues you’re facing, so the troubleshooting process can be done quickly. On many sites, blogs feature frequently asked questions to help address your FAI queries in a minimal amount of time.

From there, you can get back to focusing on your main objective: manufacturing quality products that meet customer requirements. Proving that your inspection methods are sound and that your quality is unmatched may be as simple as using the right tools.