Giving Electrical Testing the Respect It Deserves

Electrical Testing sometimes gets short-changed in the manufacturing process. Some test leaders wonder why they must answer questions in their organization about the need for testing. Others must deal with the consequences of being overlooked in the planning and quoting process. I’ve heard this problem mentioned in more than one conversation with test professionals and I’d like to see what can be done to help integrate electrical testing more fully into the manufacturing process.

workers assembling a harness

The Problems

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before – a test technician finds out that someone promised a 3-day turn time for an important set of cables. Production has everything they need in stock and can make the cables in a couple of days if they rush the order. No one asks the testing group if there is any problem testing the cables before promising delivery in three days. There are no mating connectors available for testing, and there is a three-week lead time to order them.

When situations like this arise, there are usually two options that get considered:

Revise the delivery expectations to wait for mating connectors and a full test.
Finish the cables in 3 days by performing only the most basic of hand tests.
Neither of these options is desirable. Option 1 could mean missing deadlines based on the three-day promise – or losing the order entirely if it was for an outside customer. Option 2, however, means a risk of missing a failure that will cause much larger problems when found later.

The example above is just one instance where not considering testing as an integrated part of the manufacturing process could lead to trouble. Below are other problems I’ve observed when testing is not fully integrated.

Inaccurate Quoting

Testing needs to be considered to provide accurate quotes – whether time or money. Do you have the necessary mating connectors on hand? How much will they cost if you must order them? How long will you have to wait to get them? How long will it take to build up a test fixture and create the test program? How long will testing take? If this type of information is not understood or is not easily available to the people who provide estimates, then accuracy will suffer.

Duplicating Work

I have heard of many companies investing in various software tools to aid with production. There are CAD programs for design and programmable wire cutting machines to name just a couple. Often there are different people in charge of each of these tools, and the efforts are not coordinated. The same data that is entered into a system earlier in the process may have to be entered again by a technician to create an electrical test program. Not only does this waste time, but it could also result in two people interpreting drawings in different ways resulting in errors.

The same may be true for the creation of work instructions. If the effort that is put into creating detailed instructions for building a cable cannot be shared by the person who supports testing, there is waste. Drawings and graphic pinout descriptions created for production can be very useful in diagnosing failures found in testing, but these may not be easily available to the person creating test procedures. When this happens, the drawings have to be recreated or, more often, simply aren’t used at all.

Communicating About Failures

When testing finds a failure in a device, it is important to identify what happened and how to keep it from happening again. Frequently, however, the person running the test may not understand the failure or lack communication with the person who caused it. When testing is not integrated well into the process, feedback can be ineffective and the same errors happen again.

What can be done?

Cirris would like to see what can be done to help fix some of these problems. We need your help to identify the most pressing problems that you face so we can focus our efforts on solving them. Below we have provided a simple form for you to indicate which problems you face and which are the most pressing. If you’re interested in helping us find solutions, we’d love to tell you more about what we’re working on and get your ideas as well.

Thanks for your help,

Kevin Ellsworth

Cirris Systems Product Manager