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The Future of Systems Integration: How to Design and Build R&D Test Facilities

POSTED 02/26/2024

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Investing in R&D and Effective Systems Integration Solutions for Success in the Future

A commitment to Research and Development (R&D) is vital for organizations in today’s fast-paced and highly connected world. R&D spending is projected to continue with massive leaps in growth. R&D arms organizations with data to make better decisions that result in efficient, effective, and innovative product development. Essential to R&D is a physical testing facility that makes R&D possible. An R&D testing facility is not simply a building, but rather a complex network of precise, interconnected systems to support successful products, end-user satisfaction, and ongoing innovation. It relies on robust tools to improve test processes that make it simpler to implement, operate, and maintain testing programs and environments.

The complexity of R&D testing facilities calls for a systems integration process to meet facility goals and client expectations. It is a common misconception that technology ranging across devices, systems, controls, equipment, and automated systems will work together seamlessly. Instead, it takes a dedicated commitment to a systems integration strategy that leverages the experience and expertise of test equipment, supply chain, and industry experts to help plan, design, build, commission, and validate acceptance of an organization’s vision for a new test environment.

Traditional R&D facilities often follow a siloed project approach with a single project manager bridging equipment vendors, design firms, and stakeholders. There's an assumption of effortless systems integration within this design and build process, where various parties make decisions independently. To overcome risks in testing, interoperability, and success, a dedicated systems integration specialist is crucial, overseeing equipment and facility requirements from design to hand-off. Follow these five pillars with your dedicated team when planning a systems integration project. These pillars include technology, automation, customer expectations, capital investment, and data.

  1. Technology: R&D facilities have unique goals linked to the products they support and the Units Under Test (UUTs), with technology as a central priority for successful systems integration solutions.
  2. Automation: Boosts safety, cuts maintenance time, and enables precise data collection, resulting in better product design and streamlined manufacturing.
  3. Customer Expectations: Creates a finish line for the project, improving the process for all parties and increasing the likelihood of success.
  4. Capital Investment: A well-defined budget is closely tied to customer expectations and helps identify achievable parameters and possibilities for the R&D testing facility.
  5. Data: R&D testing facilities aim to collect crucial, precise, and consistent data, requiring early definition of data needs, a data acquisition system, and integrated analytics for effective data utilization in research and development.

The design and construction of an R&D testing facility require a lengthy time commitment and an investment often reaching millions of dollars. With such intense resource requirements, it makes sense for organizations to match that level of commitment with a dedicated systems integration strategy and team that has the experience and approach necessary to deliver on facility goals, schedule, budget, and scope with no backtracking. Without an experienced focus on systems integration solutions, it is more likely than not that companies will spend additional time and money to make major adjustments to facility design, re-work the space for use, or compromise overall testing objectives.