Nowadays, many defense programs’ duration will go beyond the typical life cycle of products, thus creating challenges for the engineers responsible for maintaining such programs. NI’s platform has made it possible for large companies like Harris Corporation to have a 74% decrease in the cost of testing and a remarkable 83% reduction in floor spaces. Since this is an issue relevant to many aerospace and defense companies, here are three best practices to refer to when dealing with production testing.
Develop a Scalable and Reusable Software Architecture
Great companies understand the importance of maintenance; therefore, by utilizing software architecture, code usage, and modularity, they make the most of their test engineering by turning it into a strategic asset instead of a meager necessary cost. The most efficient method to develop an Automated Test System (ATS) is to follow a modular software architecture to reduce validation costs as components are altered and increase reuse.
Standardize on the Latest Commercial Off-the-shelf (COTS) Hardware
The system’s hardware components are equally as important, especially if you’ve already utilized the benefits of modularity and COTS. The PXI platform has continuously shown its advantage with over 60 vendors, more than 2000 modules, and an ever-growing market share. The platform has been an industry leader for decades. Therefore, the longevity concern of many stakeholders in the Defense and Aerospace industry is mitigated.
Planning for Obsolescence and Strategies in Managing Obsolescence in Aerospace and Defense
Understanding your system and planning for when issues arise shows the correct understanding of life cycle management. Although there are many examples where a product’s life cycle spans over decades, the B-52 provides an excellent example of why managing obsolescence is critical. The last life cycle management process, operation and support, can be completed in two different ways, proactive or reactive/tactical.
Proactive Management Strategies:
- Modular open architecture – having the option of localizing your changes to a single slot even if you cannot obtain a pin-compatible replacement.
- Technology road mapping – having a strong relationship with the vendors is vital to understand product life cycles and potential replacements.
- Planned system upgrades – it is critical to have some ‘downtime’ for hardware to install the necessary upgrades to increase product longevity.
- Life cycle analysis and monitoring – knowing what and when to change/upgrade.
- Format life cycle strategy – having an in-depth understanding of the product lifespan.
Reactive Management Strategies:
- Lifetime buys – store and retain end-of-life hardware.
- Drop-in replacement – plan to replace the legacy component with a new compatible part.
- Redesign around similar components – plan to integrate a new hardware component that requires minor changes and partial validation.
- Integrate new component – incorporate a new element that might entail significant alterations in the system and a revalidation effort.
Another best practice to reduce cost in owning an Automated Test System is proactively planning for obsolescence management. Initially, it would be best to define a life cycle management plan in the following categories: component, plan of record, replacement component, timing, and criticality and risk. Second, you need to appropriately understand Vendor Technology Life Cycle Sharing and actively grasp the component’s active stage, the movement to the maintenance stage, and finally, when the product becomes obsolete.
Lastly, you need to structure your ATS in a tiered approach in the following categories:
- Software: User management, sequencer, and test executive; test program sets and test code modules; instrument communication.
- Hardware: Instrumentation.