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Empowering future - proofing the test journey in the aerospace and defence industry

12/07/19 Sarah Cook Consultant, R&D and Engineering

Customer demand and new technology in the engineering arena, especially in sectors such as aerospace, defence, automotive etc. continues to advance.

One area of the development cycle which has received recent publicity is the test engineering department. Following the Boeing 737 MAX failures, the flight control system, called MCAS (Manoeuvring Characteristics Augmentation System), is now under scrutiny and this involves the processes used to approve the system.

 

While test engineering has been busy creating better and more comprehensive tests in response to an ever more complex set of electronics, its status as a profession has sometimes been questioned.

 

The notion that test engineering is necessary, beneficial and an economically valuable part of delivering and supporting a good product are not always recognised.

 

Yet, test engineers should become aware that testing is a task that can be picked up by anyone. Not only by designated test engineering professionals with quality informing or gatekeeping power. If a business really cares about the company, end product, and end-users, well… you test! Quality comes from quality-minded people. Having a shared responsibility in the development team towards quality and doing testing well will always make a difference.

 

Aerospace testing covers the hardware and software aspects of testing and certification related to the design, manufacture and maintenance of commercial and military aircraft (fixed-wing and rotary-wing), plus UAVs and space testing.

With all new technology, there comes new components, new upgrades and even more testing. The least attractive choice for these organisations is compromising on test coverage and living with the possibility that they missed something or released an inferior product. This constant tension has been the status quo of the aerospace and defence industry, and, though it’s not ideal, it has inspired remarkable successes. The industry’s positive track record begs the question, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” But the industry should ask, “Is this approach sustainable?”

Today’s most talented project managers, system engineers and test engineer jobs involve exploring the best practices to manage business risk and ultimately create a sustainable market advantage by improving test engineering and operational support. 

As customers demand new technology in modern aircraft, trends like electrification take deeper hold, and companies continue to see value in international talent that requires global development sites, aerospace and defence organisations need to determine whether the status quo is the right choice for a future of growth. The ability to modernise test and design cycle approaches with standardised test architectures, more emulation and simulation, and new and improved systems and data management tools are the difference between thriving with a sustainable competitive advantage and struggling to survive. Organisations can standardise test by using the same technology and tools across the development cycle.

Sarah Cook, Recruitment Consultant for Redline’s R&D and Engineering division discusses empowering future-proofing the test journey in the aerospace and defence industry.

Test engineers generally specialise in a particular phase of the development cycle and successful technology companies commonly use an holistic approach. Test managers oversee the budgets for different kinds of test and ensure each stage efficiently leads to a released product. If all testing of a new product is carried out in-house and not externally by a third party, the test process can be standardised across the entire organisation. If carried out by a third party, there is a possible risk that the test procedure is not standardised, which can lead to product failures.

Using a standardised approach to the entire test cycle, engineers can consistently compare data at each stage of the test journey and move the test, especially simulation- and emulation-based test, earlier in the development cycle. They can reliably reference the data collected during the validation of a component when testing that component in a system. Additionally, engineers from various groups have a common language and approach that promote sharing best practices and more effective collaboration.

A standard approach also allows test engineers to delve deeply into their areas of expertise without worrying about other groups because a consistent platform ensures that the output of one group is a compatible input for the next.

A consistent approach to test offers a way to shift talent wherever and whenever necessary. Engineers know how to use similar tools, so moving professional talent among projects and locations is easy. This flexibility also can increase employee engagement, decrease burnout, and reduce the risk of developing ‘tribal’ knowledge that’s lost when an employee leaves the organisation. Additionally, with a standardised approach to test, companies can provide clearer expectations to their customers. For example, a supplier may be responsible for more than one subsystem of an aircraft. A standardised test approach at the supplier means it delivers test racks based on the same approach to the airframer across subsystems, which reduces the integration challenge airframers You are evaluated on your ability to manage cost and risk, whether you’re working on your next program bid or serving as a portfolio manager for software engineers to support legacy testers.

Today’s engineering workforce is vital to the developments in the aerospace and defence sector. Some of Redline’s engineering clients have been responding to the challenges of engineering recruitment and the ‘war for talent’ in several ways, including looking at ‘Why Candidates Decline Offers’ and enhancing their interview process by learning more about Competency Based Interviews in Engineering. Click here to download a copy. 

To find out more about careers in engineering or to see our latest job opportunities, please click here or alternatively contact Sarah Cook on 01582 878842 or email SCook@RedlineGroup.com