Aligning Design and Test Closer Together Can Spur Innovation

Friday, March 28, 2014

Think you only interact with software on your computer? Consider this: a vast majority of the machines and devices you interact with every day – from your car to your coffee maker – are software based. Countless hours were poured into developing the software that makes these products run smoothly, but one single misstep in thousands, if not millions of lines of code can result in improper stopping power or a cool cup of coffee.

At Danfoss, we make products that save energy, costs and reduce the CO2 emissions of our customers. These products are used in areas such as cooling food, air conditioning, heating buildings, and controlling electric motors. As we produce smarter products, we face a new reality: with innovation comes more code. And more code means greater room for error. So, our challenge is to address this complexity within our devices – and the increasing interactions between mechanical, software and electrical components – without slowing development, raising risk, or escalating costs.

The convergence of product design and software testing is critical. While this sounds logical, there are historic silos in organizations that separate those who design and those who test products. But with the rising complexity of software, this is no longer acceptable, and creates inefficiencies that stifle innovation.

Whether it’s energy management systems, medical devices or smart phones, undiscovered software flaws can be detrimental, if not fatal. A defect found in a product during development, for example, could cost a business about one dollar to fix. If the error isn’t found until traditional testing, it could set a company back $100. But if the same flaw isn’t detected until the product is in the hands of consumers, it could cost a company thousandsof dollars or more – not to mention the lasting price of damaged relationships and market perception.

Within our own engineering department, we turned to National Instruments (NI) and IBM to integrate design and testing tools through a software-based approach – the first ever of its kind. The goal is to help us identify defects earlier and with less overhead, incorporate improvements immediately, improve quality control and reduce time to market. For Danfoss, breaking these barriers was essential.

By bringing together both sides of the development equation, we have a dashboard of all product development; from design requirements to systems testing. And automated testing will provide direct access to results, apparent defects and change management traceability. This not only lets us make more informed decisions quickly, but frees up manual labor and testing time to let our engineers get back to what they do best: innovation and design. Customers will not only get well-designed solutions, but will have more innovation quicker – meaning better ROI, minimal energy footprints faster and more time to turn back to their business.

The use of software in all industries is a rising trend and it will only continue to grow more complex. Some new cars, for instance, have 16 million lines of interacting code. Soon, nearly all products we use – from toasters to HVAC systems– will be “smart,” and linking together design and test equips companies to meet demand, as well as pushing their boundaries to accelerate the innovation of their industry.

Today, we have the chance to revolutionize product design with new technologies, processes and approaches. Increased efficiency in creating better products will lead to greater innovation, happier customers and more successful businesses.

Article by: Ian Cannings
This article was also published on: Building A Smarter Planet