What is an FAI?

An FAI first article inspection is where one or a few of the very first products made in mass production are thoroughly inspected. This is typically needed at the very first production run of mass production proper, when it comes to new electro-mechanical products.

The inspector will be checking that the products reach your specifications, product designs, etc, and match your approved PP sample (they will compare everything from color to function to finish).

According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, the FAI provides:

“objective evidence that all engineering design and specification requirements are properly understood, accounted for, verified, and documented.”


So, the goal of this inspection is to provide assurance that the manufacturing processes are set the right way from the start. It is a last-minute chance for manufacturing engineers to improve the processes before a huge amount of goods have been produced.


When should an FAI be performed?

If you’re all but finished with pre-production work, the FAI will be performed during a pilot run (in consumer electronics, it is usually called the PVT phase of the NPI process). This can be skipped if you have assurance that experienced quality & process engineers will be present during the pilot run.

And, when the first mass production starts, an FAI typically takes place when the first fully completed products come off the lines.

You will usually work with and agree on the FAI with your manufacturer so they know that an FAI will be conducted by an inspector in advance and can prepare accordingly.

In the case of products that have previously been in production, a new FAI may be required if:

  • An engineering change request has been actioned. Then the changes to the product will be checked and validated by the inspector.
  • If the existing supplier has provided sub-par batches and needs more scrutiny in the short term, or you’re working with a new supplier who hasn’t previously made the products.
  • In the case of a new component being used from a different supplier, such as if you had to switch to a backup supplier due to the first one going out of business.

However, if you’re satisfied with the current supplier, no components or processes have changed, and they’ve produced the products before, you may be able to skip the FAI for the sake of costs and speed (although in the period leading up to and following Chinese New Year it’s probably still advisable).

Manufacturers of specialist products made in small batches may also not need an FAI, because the painstaking nature of each piece’s production means that issues will probably be ironed out without many pieces being finished as in mass production.


What happens if a product fails the First Article Inspection?

If the inspector finds non-conformities, this could be defects, color issues, or even functional problems, production will be halted, corrective actions devised and put into action, and then production returning to a test state where a pilot run or small first production batch is carefully produced and checked with an FAI once again.

Common failures might be:

  • An incorrect or unauthorized (not in the BOM) component or material is being used.
  • The operators are using the wrong process or equipment.
  • The quality of inputs (materials and components) is poor or inconsistent.
  • The equipment is not set up correctly.
  • The inputs are poorly positioned in the equipment leading to errors.
  • The inspector can’t confirm if the process or input is correct.


What’s in an FAI report?

The inspector will check and report on the following in the FAI First Article Inspection report:

  • Which materials and components are being used, for the sake of traceability should issues be found.
  • Which processes, specifications, and tests have been used/done.
  • How the inspected piece/s compare to the expected specifications, tolerances, dimensions, etc.



You can learn even more by reading this post: Why a First Article Inspection Can Save an Entire Production from Quality Issues

Get help: Sofeast performs FAIs across China, Vietnam, India, and SE Asia from US$299 per man day.

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