Set Up to Fail a Factory Acceptance Test
We recently had a challenging factory acceptance test. The product was not yet on the market so the boxes were not filled to the right levels with the real product. The cartons we had to wrap were made by hand and therefore not consistently folded. They had glue sticking out the edges which melted on the heaters and stuck to the film. What this FAT had going for it was a great set of mechanics who wanted to learn the machine in a hands on way. They understood the shortcomings of their FAT and worked to make sure that the issues they ran into were not the one that would derail the machine in productions. The testers were realistic in their expectations and worked to get it as close to reality as they could.
What we learned from them is that the people make all the difference. These guys wanted the machine to succeed. They wanted to know the machine and they crawled all over it and ran it with only minimal supervision. They were hands on.
Making a Great Factory Acceptance Test
What makes for a successful factory acceptance test is plenty of test materials that are what will be used in the plant, skilled people who want to learn, and realistic expectations for what a factor acceptance test can provide.
When you come to try your new machine and see if it will do what you need it to do, it is important to approach it with an open mind about what changes it will cause. No doubt it will be better than the machine it is replacing but it will also be different.
Differences can be scary. They can mean changing routines. It means comparing the new machine to the one that people have been working with for years and know better than the back of their hand. Some comparisons do not go well because people are looking for the differences and differences can be perceived as flaws. On some occasions, people are thrilled with the new machine because change can only be an improvement. They are excited to learn the new machine and can’t wait to bring it home. Those people are rare.
A factory acceptance test is not a real world scenario. Instead of consistent runs for hours, they involve short runs of 2-5 minutes. It involves unwrapping and putting the product through again and again. The product gets dented and crumpled by this repeated wrapping and unwrapping. The machine gets started and stopped in quick succession. While you can test for speed and wrap quality, this kind of testing is not a good indicator of how a machine will be have with fresh product running consistently for hours.
But there is another important part of the factor acceptance test. In addition to testing the machine to make sure it can deliver on expectations, this is the critical opportunity to learn the machine without distractions from the people who built it. The best factor acceptance tests involves people who will take care of the machine learning it by practicing under the supervision of the people who built it. That way they learn how to make adjustments and fine tuning. This way they take ownership of their new wrapping machine. Those are the best FATs.