What is FAI, and what is the purpose? Confusion reigns over first article inspection and whether it is a qualification requirement.

Author:Ebner, Karen
Position:It isn't. - INSPECTION

SAE AS9102 defines a first article inspection (FAI) as a complete, independent and documented physical and functional inspection process to verify that prescribed production methods have produced an acceptable item as specified by engineering drawings, planning, purchase order, engineering specifications, and/or other applicable design documents. The purpose of an FAI is to provide objective evidence that all engineering, design and specification requirements are correctly understood, accounted for, verified and recorded. (1)

These are industry definitions of an FAI and its purpose; however, there is often confusion regarding the definition of a first article inspection and its importance to an original equipment manufacturer, which, for the purposes of this article, will be considered the customer. This misunderstanding results in lost money and time. The customer often does not understand the purpose of an FAI and flows down its purpose incorrectly. The supplier does not understand its importance and often treats a first article inspection like a "check in the box." These concerns cause havoc in both the design and production worlds.

The confusion often initiates with the customer. Customer design centers often do not understand the definition of a first article inspection. Often, FAI is interpreted as a qualification requirement by the customer design centers. This misguided interpretation is clearly prohibited by AS9102A, but nevertheless is conveyed to their suppliers under contract. The requirement is normally flowed down in a purchase order via a Quality Note or a Statement of Work, which references an FAI instead of Qualification. What the customer design center expects is a qualification report for a new part that verifies all design characteristics have been met either with inspection, test, analysis or demonstration. This misunderstood first article inspection definition by the customer results in a document from the supplier that does not meet the customer's intent, resulting in lost budget and schedule. It is imperative that customer design centers understand the definitions of a "First Article Inspection" and "Qualification" and use the words in accordance with their definitions. This is very important because when these requirements are flowed down to a supplier in a contract, such as a purchase order, there are legal bindings.

In AS9102, the definition of First Production Run Parts, prototype parts, or parts built using methods different from those...

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