Rethinking Validation To Improve Products Quicker

Efficiency increases when test measurement software is standardized across an organization.


By Kaitlynn Mazzarella and Marvin Landrum

The boundaries of measurement science are being pushed more than ever before. Keeping up with evolving industry needs is not a simple feat. Not only does each new technology create business opportunities for companies to take share in new markets, but it also changes the way we design and test products. As the pace of technical innovation accelerates, each phase of product development has never been so critical. Inefficiencies in design and test can significantly impact release dates. In parallel with the intense pressure to be first, organizations must also cope with the fact that each new design is more complex than the one before it. This added complexity often drives the need for higher volume characterization.

In addition to the need to do more measurements, the measurements themselves are becoming more complex (i.e. the lead from 5G to 6G & beyond). The bottom line is that validation engineers are being tasked with developing more complex devices in less time and at lower cost than ever before. In many ways, the design, validation, and test engineers that we work with are often caught in the middle of the competing priorities of their organization. Since doubling or tripling test capacity is often not a viable choice, maximizing resource efficiency is the only way to meet market schedules for chipsets, components, and new features. This reality elevates the importance of automation software in the lab. These tools are some of the most effective techniques to stretch test equipment budgets as far as possible.

While software automation tools help maximize resources, they also create an opportunity for organizations to tackle inefficiencies at a larger scale. For instance, natural siloes between various R&D teams and sites often lead to limited collaboration and create a duplication of effort, especially in large companies. Not sharing best practices or communicating across teams represents a significant missed opportunity.

The power of standardizing test software

While some duplication will always happen, the most successful organizations in the world have driven efficiency by standardizing test measurement software globally. In our interactions with engineering labs across the world, we’ve seen that technology companies who adopt a common software framework ultimately reduce their engineering costs and accelerate design schedules. Time and time again, organizations that first automate measurements and then standardize on test automation software in the lab are significantly more efficient. Software can improve productivity—but to do so, it must scale.

Implementing a standardized measurement framework helps engineers maximize measurement IP reuse and reduce setup time. Simply put, it is one of the most impactful approaches to help streamline engineering workflows in the validation lab. One of the things best-in-class organizations do effectively is centralize the development, maintenance, and distribution of automated test software. Standardized software enables quicker device characterization, and often results in an ability to expand measurement coverage, regardless of which software engineering teams adopt. Many of our customers have successfully standardized software using a wide range of languages—from Python and C+ to LabVIEW.

What’s more, standardized software also enables consistency in data capturing. This consistency helps lay the foundation for smarter data analytics. Within the next decade, data analytics software will play an increasing role in product development workflows. Today, we already observe the challenges associated with correlating simulation results from the design process to the measurement results in the characterization lab. Effective use of data management and analytics tools is the next step in product life cycle management.

However, this ideal end state of smart product management doesn’t happen overnight. Modernizing the validation lab is an evolving journey, one with many opportunities and pathways. Whether it’s by starting to automate measurements or implementing adaptable software and hardware solutions, every lab has an opportunity to become the next center of operational excellence in its organization. While there is inherent risk associated with any change, the payoffs can be monumental. Rising to the technological challenges of tomorrow starts with considering what modernizing the lab could mean for your team today. Elevating tools, people, and processes is the only surefire way of keeping up with the pace of change. Learn how to get started.

Marvin Landrum is a semiconductor offering director at National Instruments.

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