Tests in product development
Putting it to the test
Senior Engineer Jelle Kuster is one of the group of five experts at the PCV Group with a particular focus on the subject of testing. After all, the value of a technical solution is measured by its practical viability. Since the company wants to create value for its customers, testing is the common thread running through all the work of these product developers based in Enschede, in the Netherlands. This testing is the only way to determine what works and where exactly further optimisation is needed. Continuous analysis is what makes outstanding engineers. The following interview gives a glimpse into this.
Jelle, when does the PCV Group apply testing?
All of the time, really.
In every phase of a project. The type of testing differs greatly from one stage to another. During project definition and pre-development, things often happen relatively quickly.
Whether something works in principle can sometimes be determined within half an hour. However, when it comes to validating service life, tests can extend over several months.
How important is testing in your work?
About 80% of the projects we are part of involve testing. One of the reasons why tests are so important is that we have to prove and demonstrate that things that work in theory can also be implemented in practice. I think what sets us apart is that we can very precisely assess how intensively we need to test in order to obtain reliable findings. We understand that tests are an integral part of the product development process. If we have an idea that is promising in theory, we are able to build a prototype within a week.
We set aside the same amount of time to develop a test set-up, with both of these things sometimes even happening in parallel. This means we can quickly gain new insights on an ongoing basis, with these insights making for a more streamlined development process. In addition, various tests help give us a better overview of complex systems.
The desired functionality of many products is determined by numerous parameters, such as the dimensions of components, temperature, resistance to pressure, flow rates, etc. Tests are valuable simply because they help us to identify the most important factors. Once we have pinpointed the relevant aspects, we can analyse them both in isolation and in the way they interact with the rest of the system.
What is the testing based on?
Basically, it comes from our customers’ product requirements. For example, these may relate to service life or to reliability. A specific goal might be to achieve and prove a reliability of 90%. We also advise our customers as they specify requirements and targets. It is extremely important to jointly formulate clear requirements.
Because otherwise the whole project could lose focus and there is a risk of not working effectively. We always have to ask the same question: what is your objective?
This also applies when setting up tests. As simple as it sounds, you have to be clear what you actually want to measure. The question of how to measure something is also incredibly fascinating. If there is no clarity on these two points, you might still get some results and perhaps even insights. But these will not necessarily get you any further. Here’s an example: what sets high-quality milk foam apart? It might be its consistency. But how can that be measured and recorded? We have already developed our own measuring methods for coffee and milk foam.
So testing is precision work?
Absolutely. The right conclusions, the ones which will really drive each development process forward, can only be drawn on the basis of specific questions and precise results. Every development process is different, and the same applies to the procedures, tools and set-ups used for testing. Here, we naturally benefit from the experience that our team brings together from numerous different projects. Some customers specifically rely on our expertise for their own tests.
How do you carry out tests?
There is a wide variety of approaches, which really always depend on the specific issue at hand. The range of test procedures is enormous. At the PCV Group, this runs from the use of prototypes to automated and autonomous test series. In short, we try to implement anything that offers us insight. Data evaluation is usually supported by software in order to guarantee statistical certainty. In fact, every project is different and based on different prerequisites and questions! This has to be carefully taken into account during testing. Only by using this approach can we and our customers achieve success together.
Absolutely. Only on the basis of exact questions and precise results can the right conclusions be drawn that really drive the respective development process forward. Every development process is different, and the same applies accordingly to the test procedures, tools and lists used. We naturally benefit from the experience from numerous different projects that our team combines. Some customers specifically use our know-how for their own tests.
How do you test?
In very different ways, which actually always depend on the current question. The range of test procedures is enormous. At PCV Group, it ranges from the use of prototypes to automated and autonomous test series. In short, we try to implement everything that promises us insights. The evaluations are usually software-based to ensure statistical security. Really every project is different and is based on different requirements and questions! This must be taken into account when testing. It is only on the basis of this approach that our customers and we can be successful together.