QMI Brief Newsletter

10/23/2006
Expectations for First Article Inspection in the Aerospace Industry

The requirement for first article inspection (FAI), as defined in AS9100, takes on a multitude of meanings depending on an organization’s supply chain position. The result is often confusion or misinterpretations that could lead to nonconformities during an AS9100 assessment.

FAI is defined in AS9100 (clause 8.2.4.2) as “The organization shall provide a process for the inspection, verification, and documentation of a representative item from the first production run of a new part, or following any subsequent changes that invalidates the previous first article result”.

Some key aspects of this clause include “representative item” and “any subsequent changes.” A common misconception is that a representative item is the revision level of the part and subsequent changes are revision level changes. Both of these would be true, however, there are many more variables that could impact FAI than just the revision level of a part.

A representative item is a specified revision level of a part, produced to an established manufacturing plan. Subsequent changes would be any revision changes to the part, but may also include changes to the manufacturing plan.

To truly understand FAI, look beyond the clause and understand the linkages throughout AS9100 that impact FAI. Those are configuration management (4.3), production documentation (7.5.1.1), control of production process changes (7.5.1.2) and control of production equipment, tools and programs (7.5.1.3).

Configuration management (4.3) is the foundation that enables an organization to deliver an acceptable product. Once a configuration baseline is established (whether internally or externally), that becomes the basis for FAI. The configuration of a product may include manufacturing methods, materials, specific tools or fixtures and processes.Any changes to the configuration would require a new FAI.

Once a configuration is established, the documentation that’s necessary to produce the product is developed and approved. Production documentation (7.5.1.1) could include drawings, parts list, process flow charts, travelers, routers, manufacturing plans and inspection documentation. Any changes to production documentation should be reviewed to determine if a new FAI is required.

Control of production process changes (7.5.1.2) defines the requirements to control any changes to the production process that is defined in the production documentation. The key sentence from this clause is, “The results of changes to production processes shall be assessed to confirm that the desired effect has been achieved without adverse effects to product quality”. The assessment defined in this sentence includes the determination of additional FAI requirements based on production process changes. An example of a production process change that would require a new FAI would be the following. A part was produced on separate turning and milling machines and the organization purchased a new 5 axis machine to produce the part. This would require a new FAI, as the original manufacturing plan would have been revised.

The control of production equipment, tools and programs deals with the validation of these items prior to use. The clause “Validation prior to production use shall include verification of the first article produced to the design data/specification”, is very clear in the expectations for FAI. If a part is produced on a certain revision level of a tool, fixture, etc. and that item is modified, FAI will need to be re-established.

These are just a few examples for consideration on how “any subsequent changes” could invalidate an FAI and require a new one. These examples relate to manufacturing, which is where most of the misconceptions occur. Other factors for consideration for FAI are special processes, materials, assemblies, etc.

AS9100 calls out a guidance document, AS9102, for FAI. AS9102 is not a requirement unless it is flown down by a customer. In most cases where AS9102 is not a contractual requirement, organizations are not familiar with document. Organizations are encouraged to procure a copy of AS9102, whether it is a customer requirement or not, to gain a better understanding of the complexities of First Article Inspection. This guidance document is available online at www.sae.org.

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