Factory Acceptance Testing for Custom Automation

Written By: Nate Richter

Custom Designs Require Custom Acceptance Testing

Custom technologies like this one require custom acceptance testing before start-up.

How do you test and prove functionality of a piece of equipment that has never been designed or built before? For our custom technology division, we run into this challenge with almost every project we do, and the answer is an obvious one: custom automation requires custom acceptance testing.

Acceptance Testing Requires the Right Environment

For example, if you needed to simulate the weight of a large locomotive diesel engine for a heavy duty conveyor, you could use several long pieces of structural steel with concrete weights on top. In less extreme cases, we urge the customer to send us the exact product we’ll be handling and interfacing with to get an accurate view of how our equipment functions with the product.

For successful acceptance testing, we also try to mimic the environment to the best of our abilities so there aren’t any surprises in the field after the equipment gets installed. We understand the risk the customer takes in spending capital on equipment that has not been designed previously, but we have processes in place that minimize the risk assumed by both parties during execution of the projects and start-up of the system.

Risk Mitigation

The name of the game is risk mitigation. When a consumer purchases a typical item, they expect that it has been tested and approved by the appropriate governing bodies. If the customer does not already have them developed, we must create custom acceptance testing plans in order to meet these requirements.

Often, we are proving our precision, speed, throughput, load capacity, accuracy, and overall function. Some customers need us to test and/or certify the equipment with 150% of the rated load. Other customers require us to run an endurance test and record the performance of motors, PLCs, and other field sensors.

During factory acceptance testing, our clients often bring their safety director along, so we can all perform a final risk assessment on the equipment and create a custom safety solution tailored to that particular machine.

Acceptance Testing as Training

In order for the equipment to run smoothly after it’s installed, proper preventative maintenance and correct operating procedures are priorities. We encourage customers to also bring their maintenance personnel and operators during the acceptance testing to receive training on proper ways to run the machines or equipment.

Custom training can also be developed and delivered onsite to meet the specifications of the customers. This training is often given immediately after the equipment is installed, but before production starts to ramp up.

Custom automation equipment requires custom acceptance testing, not just to ensure the technology works properly, but also to mitigate risks and begin system training. For these reasons, testing is a critical part of any project, so take the time to do it properly.

Nate has recently moved into the Sales Manager role at Bastian Automation from his previous position as Account Engineer. He is responsible for leading the sales and marketing team. He oversees all facets of sales including marketing and literature, strategic market planning and penetration of new accounts, management of existing customer accounts and general management of the Application and Account Engineers. Nate graduated in 2009 from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.

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