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Here’s the skinny on remote FATs

Remote factory acceptance tests (FATs) for industrial vacuums safely satisfy manufacturers’ inspection needs in a fraction of the time

Anh-Tai Vuong
Written By Anh-Tai Vuong President, Corporate Sales & Business Development
Jun 2020

It’s no secret that COVID-19 has changed the way we all do business. While some have scaled back operations or shut down, other industries have seen demand shoot through the roof. As manufacturers upgrade and expand their facilities, they need to ensure any new equipment stands up to the strain of increased production.

That’s usually where a factory acceptance test (FAT) comes in. A third-party inspector conducts a FAT to ensure equipment lives up to the customer’s purchase order. But these tests are usually run in person, on-site at the vendor’s factory, and current physical distancing restrictions make that virtually impossible.

A central vacuum system stands ready for remote inspection.

The remote factory acceptance test has stepped in to fill that void. Conducted over a live video session, the remote FAT makes it possible for DuroVac reps to deliver results faster than before.

You might say these necessary changes have improved the way we deliver industrial vacuums to our customers. Here’s what we mean.

What is a FAT, anyway?

For DuroVac, a regular FAT involves an inspection and test plan (ITP). This document runs upwards of 10 pages, covers all the different aspects of the system, and provides an appendix of its physical components.

That document is reviewed by a third-party inspector — sometimes more than one — hired by the customer to perform the FAT. These independent contractors typically have engineering backgrounds with ties to various high-profile engineering firms.

Before COVID, the FAT was done in person and took a few hours.

“After reviewing the ITP, we would go into the shop and have the inspector physically look at all the equipment,” explains David Macartney, Vice President of production and engineering at DuroVac. “Then we would run the vacuum with the inspector as a witness. Typically, these tests take the better part of a day.”

FAT inspectors meticulously check every aspect of the system to ensure the customers’ orders are being fulfilled to the letter. That includes making sure the manufacturer has not made any swaps or substitutions to the specified parts.

“Inspectors check each and every instrument, every component of the system and how it’s going to operate,” says Pritika Saini, who runs technical communications and planning at DuroVac. “They check all the documents and take photos of the equipment. They need to ensure compliance with the purchase order.”

A video-based inspection process

At the beginning of the COVID crisis, DuroVac was posed with the challenge of arranging FAT meetings remotely. Considering the spikes in demand some industries have seen, it has been even more important to ensure orders are fulfilled accurately and on time.

This central vac was custom-configured for the customer.

“We came up with an alternative plan to do the FATs by video,” Macartney explains. “It took a lot of thinking and preparation for us to duplicate the inspection process and make it work remotely.”

All the checklists, drawings, documents and other supporting materials were straightforward enough to share digitally, but the video took some thinking to execute properly.

“The video is all done live,” says Saini. “We have to demonstrate how the system is running and go through the readings at the same time. We ran rehearsals beforehand, and it went well.”

The team uses video call applications such as Zoom, WebEx and Skype for the calls, as well as filesharing tools like Dropbox for the documentation. With a few practice runs and a phased approach, the team made sure the remote FAT went off without a hitch. The call itself was split into two phases.

“First we went through a checklist, line item by line item, so they could physically verify what they were inspecting,” Macartney says. “If they wanted dimensional checks, we could do that — all live. Phase two was actually running or operating the equipment.”

The DuroVac reps kept another sheet open for the second phase and wrote down the system’s operating parameters, all witnessed by live video.

With each phase clocking in at about 20 minutes, the remote FAT took less than 45 minutes in total.

Are remote FATs the new normal?

So far, the DuroVac team has had positive feedback about the five remote FATs they have conducted in the past two months. Some companies have expressed interest in continuing the remote method in the future, even after COVID restrictions have lessened. Others are considering it as a handy complement to the in-person visits.

The remote FAT made it possible to inspect this central vacuum safely.

“The way we did it was very pre-planned,” Saini says. “Now that we know the script and the procedure, it’s very easy to do.”

One of the biggest advantages is the time savings: compared to the in-person method, which could take more than half a day, video-based meetings take under an hour. It’s also an easy way to review checklists, drawings and documents together.

“The remote FATs save the time and expense of traveling. We don’t need to rely on international flights to make it happen,” Saini adds.

For manufacturers, all that adds up to fewer delays in acquiring the equipment orders they need to support their operations.

Want to know more about what it’s like to order an industrial vacuum system from DuroVac? Talk to one of our friendly reps — we’re always happy to help.

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