Large organizations can have many test systems. As the number of products created increases the possibility of increasing test stands also increases. A universal tester that can “test everything” is typically not a good idea. Too many people have tried and failed at creating a universal tester.
A standard test platform is a great idea for reducing the cost of testing.
Creating a standard platform means selecting instrumentation and tools that can be used across multiple projects. When in need of an instrument you can start from your defined platform. This simplifies design decisions as well as support and maintenance.
The key to creating a standard platform is to find hardware and software tools that work well together and easily integrate other tools into the platform. There are two types of instrumentation platforms: independent instrument and modular instrument platforms. Either platform can be used successfully and there are advantages to both platforms. It is important to select a platform and stick with it.
Here are some ideas to keep in mind when selecting a hardware platform:
- Consider your most common measurements first. What instruments will work best for those measurements? Build your platform around the instruments that allow you the most reuse.
- Create a platform that allows customization while maintaining consistency.
- Remember that you do not need the best performance instrument for all of your measurements. Sometimes a 6.5 digit DMM is good enough.
- Select instruments that are useful across multiple systems.
- When implementing a system use the standard instruments you have selected unless it is absolutely necessary to deviate.
- If needed, use the right instrument even if it is not part of your core instruments. Sometimes you need that 8.5 digit DMM. Consider adding this instrument to your standard platform. This list of instruments can and should change over time.
- Consider long term maintenance of the system. Build on a platform that enables you to update components of the system.
Considerations for software standardizations:
- Use the same language for the majority of your development
- Use a language that can easily communicate to instrumentation
- Develop a core architecture and use it in all of your systems. The core architecture makes software sustainment and new development simpler.
- Create a standard UI design and use it on all systems. Have common actions in the UI be in the same place across all systems. This makes all testers feel familiar and easy to operate.
With a standard for hardware and software, you will be able to leverage your efforts in one test system across multiple systems. The common platform gives you repeatability with flexibility to use other instruments if needed.