Automated Hardware Testing – Deciding on levels of test automation during production
There are three main criteria to help decide how much automation makes sense for your test environment during production:
High-mix vs. low-mix & low volume vs. medium volume vs. high volume
There of course are exceptions to this, but generally when production volumes exceed ~1,000 units/year (we’ll draw the line here for high volume), it’s generally pretty straightforward to decide to automate just about anything and everything related to manufacturing and test.
When production volume for a single testable product line falls below this level, the decision on what to automate becomes a bit trickier. At this level of production, the dominating factors on decisions to automate seem to mostly be related to:
- Increasing production volume demand (not necessarily surpassing the threshold mentioned above, just non-negligible increases in demands).
- Liability for shipping bad product
- Strategic corporate initiatives (based on core philosophies or competitive advantages)
Note that labor costs weren’t mentioned as a motivating factor, which seems a bit odd. But it turns out that running a true cost-benefit analysis is too hard for most companies, so they usually don’t go this route for justification.
When high voltage, high current, or fast-moving or powerful equipment are involved, there are automation opportunities, just like during the validation phase.
In this case, there might only be a handful or a few dozen of these parts produced, but if the parts are truly mission-critical, automation may facilitate the rigor required to test the part to the levels needed to establish the trust required for these parts, and automatically produce the reports to justify that trust.