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Test Engineers at Your Service

September 11, 2017

New product development can be fraught with time and budget risks that delay completion and erode profitability. Test strategy and equipment can be an afterthought with costly consequences for expensive products. While many original equipment manufacturers presume that insourcing test engineering activities is the best approach, seeking the time, attention and skill of an outside partner can keep these projects on budget and within schedule.

OPTIMIZED PROGRAM COST

On-time delivery and a high-quality outcome offer their own rewards to the original equipment manufacturer. By avoiding penalties associated with performance, budget or timeline milestone misses, the contractor can realize the full profitability of its program along with the credibility of meeting its contractual obligations.

Over the life of a longer program from 5-10 years or beyond, test becomes a discriminator for long-term profitability.

"We continue to produce certain test sets that have been used on programs for more than 25 years on multimillion-dollar platforms," explains Business Development Manager David Elwell of Textron Systems Electronic Systems. "If test and assurance aren't a part of the program's strategic plan, the contractor may risk a significant portion of its contract value in penalties and unforeseen sustainment costs."

Adds Senior Business Development Director Peter Johnson, "Investment in test solutions represents a fraction of total program value over its life. For equipment of this cost and importance, it is worth the additional level of assurance."

Not all programs demand the rigor of purpose-built test solutions, but too many multimillion-dollar pieces of equipment reach production without an articulated, proven test strategy.

“With higher-dollar programs comes higher visibility and the need for added layers of configuration management and compliance,” explains Elwell.

These are generally high-value pieces of equipment – for example, defense, aerospace, satellite or medical – that emphasize precision operation over how quickly and cheaply it can be produced and sold.

“We work with customers who emphasize quality control, configuration management and engineering discipline,” says Johnson.

LOWER PROGRAM RISK THROUGH OUTSOURCING

Even the most disciplined organization tends to have areas where performance suffers, one of the most common being internal development programs. These initiatives can eat away at the organization’s bottom line.

“An internal project tends to suffer compared to customer-driven commitments,” notes Johnson. “Focus is important. Our customers call us for any requirement for which internal resources will be divided between contract work and other priorities. This brings control to the cost and timeline, and enables them to focus on their own customers. When the equipment is ready, the test solution is ready.”

With timeline and budget as the most common potential failure modes, both Johnson and Elwell recall that customers have come to them upon finding that their internal teams were unable to dedicate the time required to engineer a precise, reliable test solution.

“We lower risk by offering a deeper bench of engineers who specialize in test engineering,” says Elwell. “In addition, we manage the supply chain and material cost factors for comprehensive value.”

This starts with partnership agreements with the company’s key suppliers, which are enabled through quantity purchases of critical instrumentation. Those cost savings translate to the end customer, along with the added benefit of extended warranties and support packages for guaranteed test availability, as well as obsolescence management.

AUGMENTING THE CUSTOMER'S TEST TEAM

Bringing in the right outside partner for test engineering services and manufacturing can enhance time, cost and performance outcomes for programs. While it can be challenging to overcome institutional bias toward insourcing, Johnson and Elwell emphasize that success relies upon partnership between the customer’s test engineering team and the engineers who are augmenting their efforts.

In one such example, a large satellite manufacturer engaged Textron Systems Electronic Systems when faced with equipment obsolescence and an imposing deadline of test throughput. Textron Systems Electronic Systems secured intellectual property from a company that had previously gone out of business and delivered a solution on time, thus ensuring the full value of the contract for the satellite manufacturer, as well as the long-term viability of the test strategy for the end customer.

Manufacturers win when they trust the test experts to deliver strategic test solutions for their major programs.

“In addition to dedicated bandwidth and lower risk to schedule and cost, we offer resources beyond just what’s familiar to the customer,” concludes Elwell. “This is what we do – all day, every day – as an extension of our customers’ teams.”