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Virtual acceptance tests overcome virus travel restrictions

22 April, 2020

A German packaging machine-builder has been able to perform acceptance tests remotely on a new cosmetics filling machine that it has built for a US customer, with more than 30 members of the customer's staff following every step of the virtual FAT (factory acceptance test) online via 11 cameras.

The automated filling line is designed to fill 30 different variants of liquid cosmetics into more than 30 different containers. Because of the Coronavirus epidemic, the customer’s staff have not been allowed to travel to view the FATs for their new system in person, so the machine-builder Optima Consumer has been live-streaming the FATs to them by video instead.

Optima has carried out such virtual FATs before, but this is the most comprehensive and complex it has ever performed, involving a ten-strong team, 11 high-tech cameras, state-of-the-art media technology, and more than 30 people observing the operation every day.

Apart from the customer not being physically present, nothing else has changed with the execution of the virtual FAT. All production and safety-related tests were carried out according to the FAT protocol, and streamed live. Chat functions allowed the on-site staff to communicate with the customer's personnel.

Optima has found that the streaming technology can deliver additional benefits. “Customer experts, including operating staff, who are not part of the acceptance team can be called in for certain areas,” explains Heiko Kühne, Optima’s vice-president for cosmetics and chemicals. The company was also able to contact key suppliers to answer customer’s questions, generating an exchange of ideas across disciplines and strengthening a sense of partnership. This has resulted in a relatively short commissioning time.

Eleven high-tech cameras have relayed live images of the factory acceptance tests to the customer in the US
Photo: Optima

The wide range of formats and the multiple steps in the filling process made the acceptance process particularly challenging. A little over a week was needed to check all of the functions and formats.

The customer – a multinational US corporation – has been so impressed with the virtual FAT that it has asked other suppliers whether they could offer similar services.

Optima Consumer says that it has two more virtual acceptances for its machines in the pipeline.

A video technician monitors the live streaming of the FAT operation
Photo: Optima

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