Three Ways a TestOps Approach Cuts Down Waste
2019-04-01 | 6 min read
How many circuit boards do you have laying around? As I look around at our office of electrical engineers, I see lots of circuit boards and test equipment. I wonder how many of our electronics go to e-waste?
In 2016, humans created an estimated 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste (Global E-Waste Monitor) worldwide. That is equivalent to throwing out 800 laptops every second. Most e-waste consists of discarded consumer electronic products such as computers, televisions, and cell phones. Since it’s April, and in the spirit of Earth Day (April 22), I would like to focus on how companies designing electronic products should also be thinking about how their design and test approach can reduce waste.
Electronic product development starts with design and simulation software, continues with validation, is refined through prototyping, and then the new product is brought to manufacturing. Getting a product through all the stages of the workflow can take months and sometimes years. As the pressure for companies to improve their time-to-market increases, companies are turning to a TestOps approach to stay competitive.
TestOps requires changes in process, tools, and culture. With the right tools and processes in place, companies are reducing engineering time, improving asset utilization, and increasing throughput. They are using principles of common data exchange, open APIs, best-in-class measurement science, scalable run-anywhere architecture, and integrated analytics to achieve impressive results. (More information on TestOps is available in: The TestOps Manifesto: A Blueprint for Connected, Agile Design and Test.) Engineering leaders can reduce waste in their product development workflows by applying the TestOps principles:
1. Reduce board spins with design software
To implement TestOps you need a superior method for exchanging data between different tools and people in the workflow. Using the right software tools so that the design and test teams can easily communicate is important. Accurate design software with electromagnetic (EM) simulation ensures that your designs will be more reliable before first prototype. Using design software with optimization capabilities can help you explore which designs will meet your requirements using the least number of components. Accurate EM simulations and optimizations will reduce your risk and your number of printed circuit board (PCB) spins.
If your team is producing excess PCB prototypes, they are contributing to our world waste problem, not to mention spending lots of their team’s money. Designers can help reduce waste and save money on their projects by reducing board spins with design software capable of EM simulations and optimizations.
2. Reuse test station setups with automation software
Test engineering requirements are growing exponentially. For example, the 5G New Radio (NR) standard specifies 20 more conformance tests than in the 4G standard. Many companies have multiple test projects going on at the same time. The tests require a lot of time and test equipment.
Automated software in a TestOps approach can help streamline testing and reduce time-to-market. The test software should handle script revision annotations, test procedure assumptions, and details related to test methods and operations. Companies are adopting software that allows for flexible test setups and can run multiple tests on the same equipment. Test automation software is crucial to reducing test time and can also reduce waste.
3. Monitor health of test equipment
Continuous performance monitoring and analysis lets engineers find and fix problems quickly. A typical test and measurement team can have up to 200 pieces of equipment running simultaneously. Modern automation and analytics tools, built with powerful computing and storage capabilities, make real-time monitoring effortless.
TestOps engineers are using data analytics software that manages their data and presents it in an easily understood format. By embracing a “fail fast” posture, they iterate to drive constant improvements and test sequences, while eliminating state failures that stall tests. The monitoring results in less test equipment in storage, not being used, or needing to be thrown away. Continuous monitoring of test equipment saves money and eliminates waste.
Implement TestOps In Your Design & Test Workflow Today
These are just 3 ways that a TestOps approach cuts down waste. Engineers across the globe are helping to reduce waste by implementing them in their own companies. The principles of TestOps form the basis for the transformation of a new way to connect design and test workflows. TestOps is driving new levels of efficiency across all stages of the product lifecycle. Implementing these changes can also have a profound impact on the environment by eliminating waste. Let’s all do our part to protect this wonderful earth.