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Software promises realtime test, product quality, performance insight

Posted: 03 Nov 2004 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:sigmaquest? national instruments? asset-intertech? agilent technologies? sigmasure enterprise edition?

Enterprise software provider SigmaQuest is rolling out a new product that provides actionable information that can help ensure product intergrity and process integrity.

Working with test-and-measurement partners National Instruments, ASSET-InterTech, and Agilent Technologies, the company is dishing up an offering called SigmaSure Enterprise Edition. It has already been beta-tested with seven user organizations worldwide.

The new product is billed as Web-architected product-quality and performance-intelligence software. According to SigmaQuest, its new product promises to slash organizational inefficiencies, reduce manufacturing-transformation costs, and improve product quality and reliability.

It does that by collecting, aggregating, and analyzing test and quality data. For ERP/MRP folks, it targets product planning and BoM handling, purchasing, ordering, and associated financials. It also watches shop-floor scheduling, production reporting, equipment utilization, and process variability factors. Finally, the software lets you analyze parametric data collection and handle data management.

Realtime insight

"The revolutionary aspect of this offering is that it gives users realtime insight into ways to improve products and processes," said Al Alaverdi, the company's VP of technology. "As such, it will help users drive consistency in test and analysis, and remove some of the variables in the diagnostic process. That can help them meet product specs."

"It's the first commercial out-of-the-box PPI approach that replaces ad hoc internal systems that are no longer adequate in today's design-anywhere, build-anywhere, service-anywhere global and extended enterprises."

Available now for any Linux, Windows, Unix, or Mac platform, the new software includes an embedded enterprise database that runs on any ordinary Web browser, including Mozilla, FireFox, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Apple Safari.

Control and oversee

"Today's product design and manufacturing organizations are seeking better ways to control and oversee development practices," added Nader Fathi, SigmaQuest's CEO. "The goal is to reduce time-to-market cycles, lower costs, and avoid costly product re-spins and recalls. To do this, organizations need realtime access to a single cohesive view of distributed data throughout an entire organization, which can also include third-party manufacturing centers."

Fathi notes that, until now, test and manufacturing data has typically only been available to a few select engineering teams, and not necessarily to broader groups, such as financial or supplier-management organizations. "That changes with the advent of SigmaSure Enterprise Edition," affirmed Fathi.

As a fourth-generation product, Fathi says that SigmaSure Enterprise Edition targets not only consumer electronics manufacturers, but OEMs such as medical device manufacturers. Fathi claims the software can be used by any company that needs to manage and improve product performance throughout a product's lifecycle. But, it especially promises to reduce risks for high-volume and mission-critical products such as network storage and medical systems (such as cardiac pacemakers).

Making changes quickly

"Using SigmaSure Enterprise Edition, developers and managers can really understand how their product is performing to specs, whether it's in the lab, or in manufacturing, or even out in the field," adds Fathi.

The software also gives you the means to quickly make changes when problems arise. One engineering user at medical instrument house Stryker Endoscopy has already proven the software's value to his organization. Stryker's Ruzbeh Shariff says SigmaSure filled a major gap between his test systems, engineering, and operations departments. "The SigmaSure's so-called dashboard enabled one dynamic universe of data with many individual views," he said.

"Our teams can now get the data they want and when they want it. SigmaSure Enterprise Solution was also easy to install and easy to use, with almost no formal training needed."

Global hooks

Fathi notes that SigmaSure Enterprise Edition isn't only a simple extension of SigmaQuest's existing core technology. "Like earlier versions, it also has global features," he notes. "Our existing software already serves realtime collection, aggregation, and analysis of data, and process data, across globally-dispersed organizations. But, we've enhanced this version with new features for managing quality, from product conception through product retirement."

As noted by Stryker's Shariff, one of these new features is something called the Personalized Dashboard. The dashboard provides customized analysis, reports, and alarms, all in a user-friendly format.

In use, the dashboard lets you receive actionable information specific to your industry, product, factory, or operator. This action-specific information can be used to make faster (and hopefully, smarter) business decisions about product failure trends, supplier performance, and product quality. In use, you can schedule refreshes for the dashboard that let you dynamically drill down to the root-cause of any discrepancies between anticipated and actual results.

Automated drill-down

The new software also uses what Sigma SigmaQuest calls Discovery Wizards. These Wizards are automated drilldowns that incorporate industry-best practices for knowledge discovery.

The Wizards also use SigmaQuest's patent-pending algorithms to literally walk users through a discovery process to understand what's failing most often and why. Fathi says the Wizards are designed to accelerate problem detection, and provide insights into resolution and prevention.

Worried about those bone piles of bad boards and parts accumulating in the corners of your shops? Enter SigmaQuest's bone pile Wizards. The bone pile Wizards automatically identify which test stations, fixtures and measurements are failing the most. Then, Yield Wizards enable you to identify which test stations, fixtures, and measurements produce the highest and lowest yields.

Similarly, Retest Wizards identify which serial numbers are retested the most. The Retest Wizards do that by means of DHRs, or Device History Records. Failure Wizards then report which tests, subtests and measurements fail most often.

Genealogy records

SigmaSure Enterprise Edition also has a trace module that captures an as-built configuration. The trace module provides a genealogy record for each unit that's manufactured and shipped. "This is a requirement for all companies that need to tie-in quality with genealogy," emphasized Fathi.

SigmaSure also offers a Remote Test Station Manager. You can use it to manage the health of test stations, and control tester software versions across all sitesall remotely from your desktop.

In use, SigmaSure uses an API (application program interface) called SigmaProbe. It's inserted into any test executive or diagnostic to extract test data. It does that using a highly structured, but flexible, XML format.

Data collected is then stored into a SigmaConnect Server through Web services. The entire data set, or a subset, can be synchronized via the Internet with other Connect Servers across a network. Using a Web-architect analytics module called SigmaAnalysis, you can then generate dynamic reports, such as first-pass yield-run charts, or pare to of test failures. You can then post them on a user-definable dashboard for automatic updates.

- Alex Mendelsohn


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