Providing outstanding electronic hardware and software engineering product development services

Product Development

Successfully developing an electronic or software product is a multi-stage process. Whether the product is large or small, many of the risks and costs of development can be eliminated by following a disciplined process.

Product development is not only about bringing a single device into being. Building a prototype and having it function appropriately in a laboratory does not ensure its commercial viability or performance. To ensure that the product and its design can be efficiently maintained and manufactured requires that all processes employed to reach the final goal be scrutinised.

The processes described herein are followed by Virtual Logic as part of our Quality Management System based on ISO9001.

Documentation

Documentation, or rather more importantly, the information it represents, serves many purposes in successful product development. It is important to find the right balance and detail in the level of information. Documentation as a means allows considered and logical thought to be expressed regarding a subject. Documentation as an ends is an expression of information for the future use. 

The results of many processes of product development can be expressed in various forms of documentation. How and why something was done, is done or should be done, when expressed in the form of documentation, allows independent review of the conclusions as an aid to independent verification of a design. 

Description of requirement 

Before there is a product, there should be a need which the product satisfies. Whether there really exists a need for the product and how well the product satisfies that need are ultimately questions for the user or marketplace.

Careful research should be carried out by the client to clearly identify the requirements of the user or marketplace. It is these requirements which are translated into a product. Needless to say, if the requirements are incorrect then the developed product will be of little value in meeting the needs.

Detailed requirement specifications must identify measurable or calculable parameters. In documenting requirements we may specify, for example, 'X transactions per second', rather than 'As fast as possible' or 'Many more than the competition'. Both the cost and performance parameters of the product must be specified.

The requirements become the authority against which the outputs of the development are compared.

Design and Development Planning

It is important that orderly and scheduled development takes place to ensure budgets are met, delivery times achieved and interaction between different groups and personnel are efficient.

To this ends plans are drawn up to stipulate the use and allocation of personnel, resources and the identification of any external resources.

The inputs and outputs of processes are identified and tracked throughout the development cycle.

Design breakdown 

The development is broken down into smaller, more manageable modules to allow tasks to be allocated to teams. Within teams these tasks are broken down further into modules that can be assigned to and managed by an individual. This systematic partitioning of work assigns 'ownership' to team members and allows progress tracking at a task-by-task level.

Well-specified interfaces between the modules allow tasks to occur concurrently and independently and minimises duplication of effort.

Design

Design is where aptitude, training, skill, experience, perspiration and inspiration combine to find a solution.

Calculations, observations, simulations and testing are applied to gain understanding. 

Various computer-aided engineering tools are utilised to assist in both solving problems and capturing a design.
The final output is usually in the form of circuit diagrams, software source code, drawings and manuals.

Review – Validation 

Once a design is complete to the satisfaction of the designer, it is scrutinised through a review process. This process provides the means for the expertise of the whole organisation to bear on the design.

The reviewers, through independent means, check the design for conformance to specifications; satisfactory, safe and correct design, cost effectiveness, assessment of design techniques and material selection, achievable and acceptable tolerances etc.

Improvements to the design may be suggested and implemented and risks identified as early as possible.

Prototype

When the design has successfully been reviewed a prototype is made.

This may involve printed circuits, mechanical assemblies, software and enclosures.

Depending on the complexity of the development there may be various prototypes or even model options to allow for consideration of alternative realisations of the design.

Prototype test – Verification 

The prototype must be tested to ensure that it meets the requirements originally identified.

Methodical and (importantly) repeatable testing against the Requirements Specification give a high level of confidence to both the designer and client that the prototype meets the product's requirements.

Furthermore, testing aspects of the design that may not bear directly on the requirements, such as component tolerances, circuit protection, power budgets etc, is required to verify that the design itself is robust. 

Trials And System Test 

Testing the product under various conditions and in real situations can provide valuable feedback as to the suitability of the product for its intended application, reliability, performance and interaction with other devices. 

Problems can be identified and solved before any large expense is incurred in proceeding to manufacture.

Productionisation

Although an integral part of the whole design process, this process ensures an efficient and reliable product can be manufactured that complies with the original requirements. 

Test jigs may have to be made to test production units for any defects. This may be achieved alternately by integrating self-test functions into the design. 

The economics of manufacture are considered and various assembly procedures may have to be designed.

Production

Once the product is ready for manufacture parts have to be ordered. Incoming parts are inspected for the level of quality required.

Production schedules are drawn up and agreed with any sub-contractors. Work orders are issued identifying important test and inspection points.

Design Maintenance 

Just as important as correctly identifying the requirements of the product, or designing a product to comply with them, is the necessity to ensure that the development can be utilised in the future.

The development process generates knowledge. The knowledge not only represents what was done but how and why it was done.

Not investing in preserving this knowledge, in the form of documentation, comes at a large cost when a product has to be enhanced or a problem rectified. In these circumstances, the costs of maintaining a product design may be similar to the costs of starting again. 

Through proper and thorough design maintenance a product can be updated effectively and efficiently.

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Rockdale NSW 2216
Phone 9599 3255

Issue 160313