Leaving No IoT A Of Error In Testing & Measurement - The Er&D Way

Rabi Rout, Global Head - Embedded Systems Practice, L&T Technology ServicesL&T Technology Services Limited (LTTS) is a global leader in Engineering and R&D (ER&D) services. With 48 Innovation and R&D design centers globally, LTTS specializes in disruptive technology spaces such as 5G, Artificial Intelligence, Collaborative Robots, Digital Factory and Autonomous Transport.

The technology landscape continues to be on an ever evolving journey. The conventional services are rapidly making way for the new age digital services to take over and transform the status quo. The role of technology enablers too have scaled up to now assume the hat of a consultant than a mere outsourcing partner. Testing & Measurement is one such domain that has witnessed transformational changes in the modern day era.

However with change being the one constant, existing general approaches towards addressing testing & measurement pursuits and objectives need a complete overhaul. It is here that engineering services or popularly known as Engineering, Research & Development(ER&D) services comes in to play an important role. The benefits brought about by ER&D to the overall T&M landscape are distinct and unmatched.

Take for instance the automation aspect brought about by ER&D services. It reduces the dependency on human intervention and also scores high on saving time and money. Furthermore for testing & measurement tasks related to compliance objectives such as in critical aerospace, automotive or medical domains, an ER&D based approach ensures fool proof mechanism in place. The same goes for industry safety critical applications as well. ER&D thus ensures that the scope of purview and therefore work is comprehensive and does away with the general practice of testing only the final product.

One common problem encountered while pursuing testing & measurement is the SIL (Safety Integrated Level) Compliance which is a crucial component for testing. An ER&D Services based approach ensures that such critical phases are also taken care of by expanding the testing beyond mere end product testing to one where each and every unit level or module level testing is undertaken.

Moreover under the conventional approach, numerous factors such as software-to-software testing or software to hardware testing have to be factored in. While all these phases have to be addressed as per existing framework or processes, often the frameworks are not integrated adding to the challenge. However in case of ER&D, the holistic approach ensures support across all levels taking it all the way from unit testing to module to system testing.

For the manufacturing sector, while product development can be considered as the heart of engineering practices, testing is the backbone that guards it.

What do Testers Seek?
It is crucial for enterprises to understand how testing is integrated into the product development process. The importance of testing can be understood in terms of four major parameters performance, consistency, safety and robustness. Its applications also cover verification and validation of the product functionality as well as its reliability which are indispensable for customer retention.
Throughout the product development lifecycle, right from initial verification of the design to the final stages, the models have to be repeatedly and methodically tested. The various variables that lay the blueprint of this mechanism comprise several internal & external factors, use cases and cost. On the basis of these the best form of testing is selected and implemented at generally 3 levels system subsystem and component. Therefore, it is very important to give testing process the same amount of attention as the other process during product development.

Testing in the Industrial Setup
Testing in a company is dependent upon the internal and external factors. The internal factors comprise of various product features(physical and functional), system architecture and novelty or difference in design; these influence the product that is tested and how it is tested. The external factors are associated with compliance and regulations that basically determine the type of testing process that the company and the industry as a whole has to follow.

Testing and measurement in engineering services are critical to the successful development of a good quality product

An enterprise can classify the testing process to assess the reliability, durability and functioning of the products. The tests for these parameters help to determine if the products are in optimum condition to perform the defined operations without failure over a definite period of time. The testing team generally uses the statistical analysis to quantify the variation of the design and manufacturing capability. This helps the manufacture to design the product keeping in mind how it will be used in real time and predict the acceptable life of the new line of products.

Decision on the Type of Testing
Enterprises often have to make a choice between or balance the component, sub system level and system level testing. While component and subsystem level testing facilitate parallel examining and quick detection of the fault in the product, system level testing assesses the entire module keeping in consideration its specifications, uncertain interference and break down that impact the system as a whole. This is an important decision as it influences the number of tests and also impacts the time to perform them.

The testing team also has to take a call on whether to go with virtual or physical testing and while some engineers believe that a physical test will present more thorough test data; there are other who opine that this form of testing is inefficient especially with respect to reliability of data. Also, this test can tackle only limited variables and is not always comprehensive enough to cover for all the conditions in which the product functions in realtime. Lastly physical testing is conducted in a controlled environment that limits the range of simulations.

Virtual testing, on the other hand, follows a computer aided engineering(CAE) model that can cover a wide spectrum of the product functionalities. However the modelling has to be precise for the simulations and it is often difficult to correlate virtual test data with the realworld performance results. Not to forget that due to lack of thorough use cases the CAE model undetected flaws can occur later on in the product development stages. Lastly, this form of testing requires specialized training to handle the complex models and the necessary softwares here can be expensive impacting the overall cost of the products.

Testing across Various Stages
In the early design stage, testing is done to verify the concept, understand the specification, product analysis and examine the substitute concepts. Analysis is performed to ensure feasibility and compliance of product's performance, reliability and durability against customer specifications.

During the detailed design stage, the testing focuses on verification of requirements, performance analysis as well as the reliability and durability of the design. This stage deals with the physical objects and their corresponding virtual designs to analyze various physical factors.

While making changes in the design the companies have to keep the customers feedback and the regulatory norms in mind. Since the alterations can be urgent virtual testing is more feasible as compared to the more effort and cost consuming physical testing. The changes can remove some of the earlier testing but can also introduce new examinations. Managing these fluctuations and assessing their impact on the product is crucial for an engineering company.

There is No Substitute for Being Thorough
Testing and measurement in engineering services are critical to the successful development of a good quality product. The careful balance between virtual and physical testing is essential in reducing the design time and costs. Also testing has to be thorough across components and subsystems and needs to be carefully planned without missing a note. Integrating testing also goes beyond process optimization of time and cost and can make the design and development processes more efficient leaving no room for error.