From Inception to Reception

The following process overview is intended to share the general steps involved in test solution development. Having coordinated several hundred projects for more than a hundred different customers, we have produced a distilled common thread for test solution development at Digalog Systems Incorporated.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT INITIALIZATION
Throughout every Proposal and subsequent Engineering project, Digalog Systems employs standard project management tools such as meeting records, action items, change management records, critical design reviews and other process tools and methods appropriate for the specific characteristics of the project.

DOCUMENT THE REQUIREMENTS
Digalog Systems documents and confirms all requirements essential to success by employing our Test Organization Document (TOD) to identify system functionality requirements pertaining to measurement, sourcing, protocol, custom signal emulation, multiplexing and networking as well as proprietary toolsets. If the system includes special standards compliance, self-diagnostics, NIST certification features or unique safety and environmental needs, appropriate methods and requirements are also documented and detailed.  As resources are assigned, we reveal optimizations leveraged for cost-effectiveness.

After all of the testing and integration feature requirements have been identified, the solution expansion capabilities are determined to meet service life and update requirements driven by both evolving resource technology and future product or enterprise testing requirements.

Critical-to-success during this documentation process, we identify acceptance criteria in detail with finite limit determinations to firmly secure the targeted design for all stakeholders and gain official approval for the equipment specification.

Commonly overlooked we then consider existing installations for leveraged technology which may include spares stores, metrology processes, enterprise agreements, Engineering and Production tooling as well as previous experiences.

Design reviews are conducted depending on content and impact prior to further development.

CHOOSE HARDWARE ARCHITECTURES
Next, we add selection of equipment to our TOD including aspects such as physical enclosure, AC and DC power management, instrumentation architectures, customization considerations, ITA interfaces, Information System Interfaces as well as other features.

During hardware selection, specific requirement details are weighed. Some of the more general considerations are;

  • Standards Compliance
  • COTS vs custom price-points
  • Enterprise, Program, Product cost-of-test
  • PXIe – configurable, re-deployable
  • GPIB – energy capable form-factor
  • LXI – distributed instrumentation
  • Resource Gateway – location for advanced features, customization and flexibility
  • Single Board RIO – embedded strength
  • UPS – Controlled system shutdown
  • Interconnect – standardized mass ZIF

This step is completed with a critical design review approved by stakeholders to ensure expectations are confirmed and agreed upon.

CHOOSE SOFTWARE ARCHITECTURES
The process of selecting the environment, programming language and test executive functions mirrors that of hardware selection. There is one potential significant difference in that the usability of large, previously developed test libraries or functions may make the decision easy. However, the importability capabilities of some software suites such as National Instruments LabVIEW and TestStand can make conversion processes much easier. Some of the more general considerations weighed here are;

  • Standards Compliance
  • COTS vs custom price-points
  • Enterprise, Program, Product cost-of-test
  • Factory Information and Error Proofing
  • Existing leverage of libraries
  • Environment life-cycle and support
  • User and programmer experience goals

This step is completed with a critical design review approved by stakeholders to ensure expectations are confirmed and agreed upon.

CREATE PROCUREMENT DOCUMENTATION
Digalog then develops the project-appropriate documentation that enables procurement, vendor coordination and assembly. Documents such as bills-of-materials, assembly instructions, assembly drawings, mechanical drawings, PCB development files, quality records and third-party reference files.

PROCURE AND PRODUCE FIRST ARTICLE
Project planning and execution then typically moves from Agile to Waterfall in format. Our resources are aligned and scheduled while design changes are either locked-out or recorded for time and cost impact discussions prior to acceptance by all stakeholders.

COMPILE FINAL SYSTEM DOCUMENTATION
We then updates all changes approved during prototyping and utilizes the prototyping process to further detail Production documentation and appropriate manuals such as programming, maintenance and user. All documentation is compiled and placed in an HTML navigable design file.

INSTALLATION AND SUPPORT
Finally, during installation, Digalog Systems transfers and trains all information to our customers to enable them to service, modify or reproduce the test solution in the future. Digalog is very typically engaged to support installations in-part or whole and asked to reproduce systems, even up to 40 years after the first installation.
If desired, a two-week usage period is incorporated into the project plan to allow for use-case feedback to guide changes prior to final acceptance.

LESSONS LEARNED TO DUPLICATE SYSTEMS
After installation and more extended usage, it is very common to have requirements evolve due to experiences, technology advancement or environmental change. When proposing follow-up test systems or system upgrades, Digalog Systems reviews these aspects as well as previously unapproved changes to ensure continuous improvement is offered as an important consideration during each successive iteration.

IN CONCLUSION
Every test system development is unique, but can be served properly by moving through a common general process.

  • PROJECT MANAGEMENT INITIALIZATION
  • DOCUMENTING REQUIREMENTS
  • CHOOSING HARDWARE ARCHITECTURES
  • CHOOSING SOFTWARE ARCHITECTURES
  • PROCUREMENT DOCUMENTATION
  • PROCUREMENT AND PRODUCTION
  • COMPILE FINAL DOCUMENTATION
  • INSTALLATION AND SUPPORT
  • LESSONS LEARNED TO DUPLICATE SYSTEMS

The utilization of Digalog Systems historical archives generated from non-proprietary information accumulated over hundreds of projects guarantees that your solution will be cost-effective, maintainable and reproducible while meeting the needs and expectations of all stakeholders.

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