The Importance of a Comprehensive Factory Acceptance Testing (FAT) to Successful Projects
The success of automation projects performing as you intended requires a comprehensive Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) to take place prior to installation and commissioning. A FAT is a complete simulation of the software and hardware that validates the engineers programming your system have hit the mark to meet your expectations. This is also your opportunity to catch something you may have overlooked in the planning phase of your project. Modifications and adjustment are much easier and less costly in terms of downtime to make before you are in start-up mode at your plant. Depending on the size of the project a FAT can take a few hours to a week or more.
This is different than delivering a functional specification as to how the system is supposed to function. The FAT is an opportunity to have all stakeholders vet out the configuration, communication, and graphics to ensure the system will work as intended. This is also an opportunity to have operators become acquainted with the new interface they will be using to run your equipment. If the operator is included in this process, they are more likely to embrace the changes and have a vested interest in making your investment perform to its optimal potential.
What You Can Expect from a Hargrove FAT
The FAT is a major milestone for an automation project. Hargrove’s preparation for a productive FAT starts very early as part of our project management methodology, it will not be the first time you have seen your projects progress during the design phase. Transparency and communication during development is a priority for our process. Client review and approvals are continuous throughout the project. From design of the HMI and configuration templates to graphic layouts and documented control strategies, Hargrove has a process to engage clients in meaningful reviews to ensure clients will be able to provide feedback on deliverables each step as we progress the project to FAT.
To facilitate client FATs at our facilities, Hargrove has invested in multiple best-in-class large staging areas complete with the power, tools and technologies needed for comprehensive testing. Hargrove has the flexibility to set up on your hardware or our hardware depending on the system. We have purchased or licensed the most common hardware and software including legacy systems such as the Honeywell TDC system. Hargrove owns hardware from Honeywell, Emerson, Allen-Bradley, Siemens, HIMA, Triconex, Modicon, Foxboro, ABB, Bently Nevada, Yokogawa, and more. If a third-party integrator or vendor is involved, we can also stage their hardware in our staging facilities, establish connectivity with our hardware/systems, and facilitate a comprehensive, fully integrated hardware and software FAT.
Virtual/Remote FAT Capabilities
While the majority of the FATs we perform take place at our facilities, we are flexible to accommodate our customer’s needs. If you prefer a virtual FAT, Hargrove has the hardware needed to simulate your control system and can host a secure connection, allowing the FAT to take place over a web meeting session. Alternatively, we can do a hybrid where one of our teammates travels to your plant to facilitate the remote FAT, or one or more on your team members can come to our site while the rest of your team can remote in to save on cost.
Hargrove’s preparation for your FAT is meticulous; we know you are busy and your time is valuable. Prior to the FAT, we deliver a comprehensive FAT procedure for client approval. This outlines the step-by-step plan and description of how the test will be performed and can help uncover any errors that have not been picked up during the project design phase.
When you arrive at our facility for the FAT, you will find a well-organized comfortable testing area ready for your team and ours to collaborate for a productive day of testing. We will have already thoroughly tested the system according to the approved FAT procedure so you can focus on evaluating whether there are modifications or improvements you would like implemented.
Start-up is always a challenge! We find the FAT allows for all stakeholders to be a part of the process ahead of crunch time on the plant floor. Collaborating in a comfortable setting – food and drinks included – goes beyond the purpose of the FAT, it lays the groundwork for a cohesive team ready to take on the smooth onsite installation and commissioning of your new system.