How to Ensure Successful, Accurate, On-Time Test System Design and Manufacturing

In late 2019, Hiller Measurements re-imagined the test system design and manufacturing process with Hiller Measurements Flow Control (HMFC), to disrupt the entire customer experience of outsourcing the design and manufacture of functional test systems and deliver a level of quality in design and speed of delivery not seen in our industry. As we embark into the second half of 2020, we are applying HMFC 1.0, with more “Quality at Speed” coming soon in future revisions.

Our path toward a completely re-envisioned customer experience started with addressing the inherent risks that historically eroded the quality and on-time delivery of test systems designs. As Steven Covey outlined in his seminal work, 7 Habits of Effective People, we “began with the end in mind,” on the assumption a new design was delivered with the highest of quality and shipped on-time. “What must be true to ensure that happens?” we asked ourselves, while walking through the entire customer experience and internal execution to our first encounter with the client.

Along that journey, a clear path to a new business model and customer experience became shockingly apparent. At the core of what we discovered is the call to take a hard look at the specific risk areas we, and nearly all our peers, paid far too little attention too.

Risk #1: Measurement Science

Innovation comes with an education all its own. When a test engineering team uses instruments that are either new to the market or new to them, or they take architect new measurement approaches, there are inherent risks to achieving the measurement science success required. All too often, these risks aren’t addressed early enough.

To deliver quality at speed, physically mitigating measurement science risk is our first, and earliest priority. Before a contract is let, Hiller’s engineering teams begin the identification, logistics, and plan to vet new instruments, measurements, and innovation at the bench level on the way to a program’s Preliminary Design Review (PDR). Once a contract is accepted, the assigned program team immediately proceeds with executing the measurement science risk mitigation plan.

With Hiller Measurements Flow Control, we preserve our  measurement science education in the form of the HMFC catalog, video commentary in our HMFC Product Reports series (coming soon), and in our business development work to maximize re-use of these new capabilities.

In doing this, the HMFC Catalog provides immense value in instruments and components which are  proven with pre-mitigated risk, including:

  • HMFC products and components proven through multiple previous uses at Hiller Measurements
  • Obsolescence abatement through product life reports organized by Hiller and our HMFC vendor/partners with guaranteed lead times
  • pre-built, Hiller Measurements developed driver
  • Pre-designed cable and rack-mount kits
  • Self-Test Capabilities
Risk 2: Design

Test system design is a complex business. An enormous amount of custom design in harnesses, software, machined metal, and printed circuit boards go from concept to delivery in just a few short months.  Design and/or workmanship errors, if not caught early in the program schedule, are sure to result in chaos and schedule slippage.

HMFC recognizes these system design risks as a primary area for organized risk mitigation. We address these risks in a variety of ways:

  • The HMFC catalog contains past, reusable, design objects that have already been physically vetted in harness design, standard enclosures and parts, and circuit design topologies minimizing exposure to system design risk.
  • We employ the latest technologies in manufacturing, including 3D printing, UV printing, automated cable and wire preparation, and fast PCB prototyping to enable our electro-mechanical design activities to operate in sprint-fashion.
  • Every new design is approached with re-usability in mind to allow Hiller to continually offer less and less exposure to system design risk as our body of work grows.

Using the latest technologies in manufacturing combined with a focused development plan to mitigate design risk early allows our electro-mechanical design activities to operate in sprint-fashion, which is a game changer in terms of improving cycle time. 

 Risk 3: Supply Chain

System development suffers when engineers spec instruments and don’t receive them in time.

Through close collaboration with the vendor-partners within HMFC, the HMFC catalog contains only instruments we know we can reliably procure and receive on-time.

The HMFC catalog provides an up-to-date design palette of instruments and tools providing the greatest value to our clientele in capability to achieve quality at speed. As part of the HMFC instrument approval process, Hiller Measurements works with each vendor in the catalog to ensure dedicated availability, by implementing our own stocking strategy, a consigned inventory provided by the vendor, or a guaranteed lead time strategy. In this manner, Hiller can minimize the negative impacts of historic part availability challenges.

Risk 4: Communication

Communication challenges result in missed expectations and time often spent moving in the wrong direction. By operating with a meticulous, orderly, and smooth process, we can easily communicate within our own engineering team and between our team and our customer. 

HMFC ensures quality at speed in each type of project (System Design, Build-to-Customer-Print, Instrument Design), defining a proven process for program execution. Central to each design and development stage is a series of reviews, and documentation expectations meant to ensure seamless communication across the design team, and between the team and the client. Managing expectations, deadlines, and work scope are all critical to delivering quality at speed. We hold a high standard for documentation deliverables, and strict adherence to documentation allows Hiller  to transition every aspect of documentation to our client, so they receive a quality system, and everything they need to operate and maintain it. 

With HMFC, our clients receive systems and instruments with unprecedented quality and delivery. The culture and strategy behind HMFC provide the backbone ensuring a customer experience that is, in itself, the primary reason to work with Hiller Measurements.