How to Perform Factory Acceptance Testing During COVID-19


How to Perform Factory Acceptance Testing During COVID-19

Whenever you’re enlisting a vendor to build a piece of mission-critical infrastructure for you—whether it’s a modular data center, integrated switchboard, electrical distribution center or prefabricated power equipment center—you need to make sure that the equipment lives up to your requirements and design standards. 

Otherwise, you might end up spending a lot of money and waiting a long time, only to find out the hard way that the vendor made a critical error, forcing you to wait even longer.

Traditionally, construction quality would be confirmed during a process called factory acceptance testing.

What is factory acceptance testing?

Simply put, factory acceptance testing—also known as factory witness testing—is a process that enables customers to inspect the equipment they’ve purchased before it leaves the manufacturer’s premises. 

As a result, customers are able to work with vendors to determine whether the finished product lives up to the project’s requirements and specifications, before it is shipped out of the factory, delivered to the site and installed. In theory, this gives both customers and manufacturers the peace of mind that comes with knowing the equipment will operate as designed, once it arrives in its final location.

For decades, factory acceptance testing has taken place in the physical world, with customers heading to the manufacturer’s facilities to study the equipment with their own eyes, before giving them the approval to send it out.

In the era of COVID-19 however, the traditional approach to factory acceptance testing leaves much to be desired from both a health and logistics point of view.

Watch this webinar to discover how external factors such as the COVID-19  pandemic and how rising real estate costs are impacting data center  construction.

The easiest way to conduct a factory acceptance test during COVID-19

The good news is that—in the digital age—there’s a better way forward to ensure projects meet specification. 

Just because COVID-19 has been limiting the amount of in-person contact that we can all have these days, doesn’t mean that customers who want to enlist the services of a manufacturer to build complex electrical systems have to skip factory acceptance testing.

For example, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, PCX transitioned to virtual factory witness tests in May 2020 at the request of a hyperscale data center customer. Using live, high-definition, 6K video and screen-sharing sessions, PCX’s customer was able to verify that the equipment they purchased for their data center’s first core electrical room was installed and assembled correctly, meeting the customer’s unique requirements.

The virtual factory witness tests were conducted over three video sessions to mimic the traditional in-person tests.

Are virtual factory acceptance tests the future?

At PCX, we believe that factory acceptance testing will increasingly move online in the future. Some of our customers have already indicated that they prefer the virtual approach, because it’s easier to schedule and they have to commit less time. Instead of having to move from one spot to the next, at a factory, for example, they are able to see multiple project sectors and testing areas from one screen, virtually.

“I believe that certain factory witness tests will most certainly be conducted virtually as a standard, rather than an alternative,” explains Gary Pollock, PCX’s vice president and general manager. “All parties involved in our virtual factory witness test believe that, moving forward, most electrical power management system factory witness testing will be conducted virtually.”

Tips for successful virtual factory acceptance testing

After a few months of virtual factory acceptance testing under our belts, we’ve developed a few best practices we’d like to share with other manufacturers thinking of moving their testing online too, to benefit the client:

  • Use top-of-the-line equipment. Because the goal is to provide the clearest feed possible so that the customer can get the most information, don’t pinch pennies when it comes to investing in video and networking equipment.
  • Troubleshoot your technology. When it comes to any new piece of technology, there’s almost certainly going to be some growing pains. Prior to launching your first virtual factory witness test, be sure to troubleshoot your technology by demoing it with your internal team.
  • Be patient. Even then, you might still run into some technical hiccups during your first few tests. Maybe the error is on your end, or maybe the error is on your customers’ end. Just be patient. These things happen from time to time. But utilizing the process multiple times will give you and your team the experience you need to benefit the customer and meet their unique requirements.

Moving factory witness tests online is just one of the many endeavors PCX has undertaken to help organizations move their construction projects forward during COVID-19. For more, check out our new webinar, Empowering Data Center Construction Through the Pandemic.

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