First Article Inspection, A Quick Guide.

First Article Inspection (FAI), definition, and procedures

First Article Inspection (FAI) is a quality control process in manufacturing that checks the first sample part produced against the design specifications.

In this process, the first piece gets a thorough check-up to make sure it meets all the requirements before mass production begins.

The first article inspection process ensures that the next parts will be consistent and meet the quality standards.

In this article, we look at the FAI definition. We review the preparations and process. Finally, we guide you on how to prepare your own FAI checklist.

Our article includes a free First Article inspection checklist. However, FAI inspections are designed for your product. So,

First article inspection definition

First Article Inspection (FAI) is also referred to as 1st piece inspection. FAI process is where that sample part is thoroughly checked against the drawings or specifications.

The mass production happens after the sample paty passes the first article inspection.

Typically, quality inspectors or engineers perform this using a First-Article inspection checklist.

Just note that the first article inspection is a formal inspection of a unit in any mass-production process. Meaning, the FAI part doesn’t have to be the first product off the line.

So, any product from the first run-through is available to be a part of a first article inspection.

Depending on the manufacturing process, an FAI checklist is either part of the Inspection Test Report or done separately.

How do you do a First Article Inspection?

A common guideline is to select 3 random products from the first run-through for your FAI.

In the manufacturing industry, there are many standards that must be met. Inspections also take place during production to maintain the integrity of the machines and the quality of products.

First Article Inspection Selection Process

For a product to qualify as a first article during the inspection, it must be:

  1. Manufactured using the same materials and processes as planned for the mass-produced units.
  2. It is built using the same tools and equipment.
  3. It also should be manufactured by the same factory staff that will be present during the actual process.
First article inspection uses products from the first production cycle.
first article inspection

First Article Inspection Procedure

These 3 randomly selected products are then evaluated. The task is to compare the measurement of the selected part against the original design specifications.

The checklist could check for material, dimensions, surface finish, functionality, and more.

If the process and materials used meet the production requirements of the product. If samples pass the inspection process the product is ready for mass production,

First article inspections are essential for industries that are heavily regulated.

Similarly, businesses benefit from having a proactive inspection process catching mistakes before they happen. 

First Article Inspections Requirements

  • Ensuring the product follows the exact design requirements. Confirming that all dimensions and aspects of the product match the approved design drawings.
  • Verifying tools are calibrated properly. Identifying any vulnerable points throughout the production before it begins.
  • Checking the final product’s construction, function, and safety.
  • FAI’s should be repeated if there is any change in the design or intended function of the product.

Approving samples in FAI

Before actual production begins, approving a sample can save money and time. Clarifying expectations before the actual process begins. While also assessing the ability of the suppliers to follow your input requirements.

It is common that a faulty final product is not the fault of the manufacturer but the supplier making a mistake on one of the input items.

First article inspections offer a significant advantage to manufacturers. When dealing with costly or non-reworkable materials, it checks for errors before production.

First Article Inspections (FAI) are Used to identify

  • Use of uncalibrated tools or any subpar materials in the production.
  • Any operator misunderstanding of product quality specifications or measurements.
  • Any adjustments needed for machinery.
  • If there is any variation in workmanship (different operators providing different results).

FAI and your Quality Assurance

Quality assurance issues are usually only revealed when mass production starts. This often ends in thousands of units being produced all with the same problem, none of which can be used or sold.

This shows why pre-production inspections and inspections of inputs are not always enough to catch problems.

Taking samples from a copy of the manufacturing process will reveal these problems.

How to Create First Article Inspection Checklist

Creating a First Article Inspection (FAI) checklist starts by considering the part’s specifications. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you create an effective FAI checklist:

  1. Review Requirements: Understand the requirements for the part. Includes usage, design specifications, material requirements, and any applicable industry standards or regulations.
  2. Gather Documentation: Collect all relevant documents. These could be engineering drawings and specifications. Also could be bills of materials (BOM), assembly instructions, and quality control plans.
  3. Identify Key Characteristics: Identify critical features, dimensions, and characteristics of the part. This is to ensure compliance with specifications and standards. These may include geometric tolerances, surface finishes, material properties, and functional requirements.
  4. Consult Stakeholders: Collaborate with designers, engineers, quality assurance personnel, and other stakeholders. This is to identify important aspects of the part that should be included in the inspection checklist.
  5. Organize Checklist Sections: Divide the checklist into logical sections. This could be based on the different aspects of the part. Common sections may include dimensions, material properties, surface finishes, functional testing, labeling, packaging, and documentation review.
  6. Define Acceptance Criteria: Establish clear acceptance criteria for each item on the checklist. These criteria should mention the permissible limits and tolerances that the part must meet to pass inspection.
  7. Include Verification Methods: Specify the methods and tools to be used for verifying each spec. This may include measurement tools such as calipers, micrometers, gauges, and testing equipment.
  8. Document Inspection Procedures: Provide detailed instructions for doing the inspection. These include step-by-step procedures for each item on the checklist. Clearly outline the order of operations, measurement techniques, and any special considerations.
  9. Leave Space for Comments: Include space on the checklist for inspectors to record observations and notes. Include space for non-conformances or discrepancies identified during the inspection process.

Extra considerations

Here are a few extra steps that fit after the completion of the checklist. The goal here is to test-run the checklist and keep it updated.

  1. Trial: Review the checklist with relevant stakeholders. This is to make sure about the accuracy and requirements. Validate the checklist by performing a trial inspection. This step will verify the checklist in action.
  2. Training: Once the checklist is final, distribute the document. And make sure that inspectors are trained on the steps.
  3. Periodic Review and Updates: Regularly review and update the FAI checklist. Include the new change when needed, along with the improvement notes. Keep a record of change in your copies. A document manager system helps to maintain revisions.

First Article Inspection Template

To get you started. Check our First Article inspection template. Feel free to adjust it to make sure it fits your requirements.