How to Set Up a First Article Inspection Procedure

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A first article inspection (FAI) is an involved inspection that fully documents and certifies that every single possible attribute of a product is correct, from the part's simple physical dimensions and the composition of the material used, all the way down to more esoteric features such as cleaning and coating certifications. FAIs are typically completed to verify the outcome of the first batch of a new product or new operational procedure. FAIs can be complicated, but setting up a basic first-article-inspection procedure is straightforward.

Create a document that provides guidelines for when to perform an FAI on a product. FAIs are typically required when new products are created or the manufacturing steps of an existing part are modified.

Identify the steps that occur in the manufacture of the product, and decide at what points FAI measurements should be taken. This may be different for every part. For example, some products might have pieces that are enclosed later in the manufacturing process; those pieces would need to be measured for FAI purposes before that enclosure takes place. Alternatively, a part might be fully manufactured and then sent through a rigorous cleaning process. Physical measurements of the part would have to take place before the cleaning process, and the cleaning certifications would be examined once the product is complete.

Institute checkpoints using operational-process controls to ensure the parts are brought to the FAI inspector at the appropriate times during the manufacturing process.

Require vendors and suppliers of services to provide a certificate of conformance for any features they may have completed or altered, if vendors are used.

Peruse the print or customer requirements for the FAI part, and create an inspection report with each and every measurable feature. This includes any notes applicable to manufacturing or the end product, including surface finishes, material and handling criteria and advanced cleaning specifications.

Measure any dimensions and certifications at the appropriate steps of manufacture. Use these to complete the FAI inspection report. Customers may require additional FAI paperwork and records before they agree to accept a shipment.

Create a central database of parts that have had FAIs performed. Part numbers and revisions, date of inspection, and the reason the FAI was conducted may be useful information to include in the database.

Document the process. Repeat as necessary when new parts are created, or when process steps are modified for existing parts.


  • Click on the links in the "Resources" section to see how other corporations instituted FAI procedures.


About the Author

Brad Chacos started writing professionally in 2005, specializing in electronics and technology. His work has appeared in, Gizmodo, "PC Gamer," "Maximum PC,",, "Wired,", and more. Chacos is a frequent contributor to "PCWorld," "Laptop Magazine" and the Intuit Small Business Blog.

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