AverNotes: False Cost Savings

Frugal businesses prefer to repurpose old lab equipment rather than trashing it. This is why old lab equipment often ends up on the production floor. This looks good on the balance sheet until one realizes there can be considerable hidden costs.

Lab equipment is often not well suited for the production environment. Production engineers are forced to write tests and add external hardware to circumvent the limitations of the old lab equipment. Such compromises are most evident with high channel count products because no matter how fast the test is run, only a few signal paths can be analyzed at once. Other common limitations of laboratory equipment include:

  • Software designed to test only one device at a time
  • Instrument measures only one signal type at a time
  • Instrument cannot support arbitrary channel mapping

A less obvious problem with the use of laboratory equipment on the production line is that it becomes all too easy to migrate the engineering tests into production. One merely adds some pass-fail limits and a few prompts to the laboratory tests. The simplicity of this approach hides the fact that the laboratory tests are probably:

  1. Testing way too many data points
  2. Managing way more data than you need
  3. Are only testing one device output at a time

There are obviously many factors that contribute to production test times beyond the time it takes to make electrical tests. However, saving 30 seconds here and 15 seconds there can really add up over time. Let’s say your product takes 5 minutes to test. That means you can make about 90 a day per worker. Reducing the test time by 45 seconds would allow you to make 15 more units per day or 75 more per week. In other words, it is nearly equivalent to getting a full day of extra of extra labor per employee. Now that is a savings worth looking into.

The example above is not just some theoretical exercise. One of Avermetrics’ customers recently replaced their old and repurposed laboratory audio analyzer from their production line with our dedicated production test hardware and shaved a 120 second test (2 minutes) down to 20 seconds.  That’s more than an 80% reduction in test time! If you want to explore similar savings, give us a call. We love talking about this stuff.


Paul Messick

About "Paul Messick"

Paul has more than 40 years of engineering experience in scientific instrumentation, radar and RF design, analog and audio design, and microprocessor based solutions. He started Avermetrics in 2011 to find a better way to test electronic products, both day-to-day on the bench and in high-volume factory production. In his spare time he is a truly awful guitar player, and with enough practice hopes to become merely terrible.