Original Date: 07/25/2005
Revision Date: 09/12/2006
Information : Common Test Initiative
Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems produces a variety of electronic and related systems, each requiring an array of tests. To most effectively and efficiently meet these testing requirements, families of test functions were identified across all Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems product lines. Test resources are then engineered to be flexible, meeting the needs of the peaks and valleys of production.
Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems (NGES) produces a variety of electronic and related systems, each requiring an array of tests. The legacy approach to testing was to custom design and build test equipment, software, and processes to meet specific systems (product) requirements that often resulted in a large number of dedicated specialized test equipment, software, and processes. The approach also required that test personnel have extensive system-specific training. Both equipment and personnel had little ability to adapt to peaks and valleys of production and were either over-tasked for short periods or remained near idle, which ultimately led to high costs.
The significant commonality among the systems (products) produced at NGES required an approach to testing that was functionally based rather than product-specific. Common families of test functions were identified across all product lines and often yielded common groups of hardware (e.g., signal processors) and common design build levels (e.g., commodities, subassemblies, and systems).
Once families of test functions were identified, a comprehensive approach to meeting testing requirements was developed for each family regardless of product line. Test resources are then engineered to be flexible, enabling application across all product lines within that functional test family. These test resources can range from inexpensive Commercial-Off-The Shelf (COTS) software to major test stations and extensively trained personnel. Test design engineers can make maximum use of existing test knowledge and technology. Resources are organized into a library of reusable hardware, software, and process elements. The efficiency of the library approach allows elements to be easily optimized, and redundant efforts are eliminated.
The functional test family approach also substantially increases the use of test personnel resources. Expensive human resources can now be applied more effectively across a variety of programs. Cross- training is made easier. The ability of test personnel to work multiple programs is significantly enhanced by the commonality of test equipment functions, by look and feel, and by interfacing. Web-based information sharing across product lines has ensured currency with the latest important data for each test process.
NGES has expanded its Common Test Initiative (CTI) approach, joining with other NG sectors and sharing COTS- based common software in their various test initiatives. Commercially available test software such as Test Executive has been implemented and expertise is shared across NG, resulting in an extensive knowledge base that has substantially reduced costs and the need for customized test software development. The success of NGES’ CTI is its ability to use resources in a more balanced way. Peaks and valleys in project test requirements can be more evenly distributed, resulting in reduced costs.
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