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The Hectronic project process

Hectronic develops customized computer boards and embedded systems. Every development project is managed in accordance with an established ISO 9001 certified project process. Each project phase is completed with an activity called tollgate.

The choice of words is not irrelevant. Someone has described it as being held at the gate until being able to pay the toll of completing a set of objectives with a measurable certainty. It’s quite well put actually.
Every specification and development project suffers to an extent from ambiguities and unclarities. An important objective in Hectronic’s project process is to identify and sort them out as early as possible in the project to avoid costly and time consuming redesigns later on. The tollgate review is supported by general checklists and templates as well as documents unique to the project in question.

Click to enlarge
The image shows a general overview over the Hectronic project process. The process includes seven tollgates (TG) completing the foregoing project phases:
TG0 - Project feasibility

Evaluation of business and technology related aspects to determine whether the project is within Hectronic’s general scope.

TG1 - Review of quotation
Outlining the design vision including for instance computer technology and choice of components to prepare quotation.
TG2 - Preparation and project start-up
Upon order from the customer, Project Manager is appointed and evaluates documentation to prepare for project start.
TG3 - Specification
Finalizing product requirements and project specifications, often in close contact with the customer.
TG4 - Implementation
The design of for instance computer board and mechanics result in production files for production of prototype.
TG5 - Verification
Functionality according to the specification is verified on the prototype.
TG6 - Qualification
Qualifies prototype with activities such as temperature chamber, EMC and vibration tests. Initiation of industrialization.
TG7 – Industrialization
Production is started, sometimes including pre-series, to evaluate for instance test systems and product quality. Development project ended and regular production started.
A key to success in Hectronic’s development projects is well defined specifications. An example is the specification of requirements but perhaps more importantly the specification of verification. Let’s have a look at an example that supports the notion.

The importance of verification

A system was to be based on an ARM processor and a gigabit Ethernet controller for high-speed data communication. The requirements were easily met but the verification disclosed a problem. The processor in the design wasn’t powerful enough to offer gigabit Ethernet in reality, even though all components were in place and working.

The specification of verification is in fact a valuable possibility for the customer to describe and define what the design actually is required to do and write test cases adapted to the requirements to the product in use. Thus the specification of verification in some way is a more relevant description of the product than the specification of requirements.  

The process of learning

Check lists make sure that nothing is missed out. These lists of aspects relevant for example to the review in the tollgate are also based on experiences from prior projects. One of the activities in the project process has a self-explaining name, Lessons learned.  On closing the development project experiences are gathered and documented and serves as valuable input for adjusting the project process, learn from mistakes and, of course, note the keys to success.  

The project process is a part of Hectronic’s quality system that is certified according to ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and has been reviewed in quality audits by customers for example in medical technology.

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