Keeping electronics product design on track during coronavirus

May 05, 2020 //By Dunstan Power
product design
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown up a number of challenges for electronics teams, both in-house and within design consultancies. While resources for remote working abound, here we explore how electronics teams rise to the trials of remote working and successfully deliver projects over the next few months.

Establish a framework

Factors such as CAD tool licenses, ESD protection and test equipment access are just a few factors you need to check, to ensure your electronics product design team can deliver what customers need on time.

 

Determine viability of home working for electronics engineers

You also need to be confident that your electronics design engineers are able to continue working on your project from their own homes, so establish

  1. If they have access to all the tools necessary for the job – for example soldering equipment, spectrum analysers, Multimeters, PSUs, oscilloscopes and test equipment.

  2. How suitable their home working environment is. Electronics and firmware engineers typically need more space as they will have hardware and test equipment being plugged into their desktop or laptop PCs. Some of our design consultants have repurposed whole rooms while working from their homes and some have considered ergonomics and taken desk chairs home.

  3. How they can maintain electrical safety, for themselves and others in their household. This is particularly important when working with any equipment that is mains powered or generates high voltages or heat. Prototype devices should not be left powered and unattended in a domestic environment, but sometimes this can’t be helped during testing, so bear in mind that even the most harmless looking board could become a fire hazard if it’s not treated appropriately.

  4. How privacy and security of data will be addressed. Many projects mean working with sensitive data and this needs to be taken care of in the exact same way at home as it would be at work.

  5. How products that are under development are being protected, in particular, whether ESD protection is in place. At ByteSnap we provided all of our engineers working on unenclosed PCBs at home with earthing matts.

  6. Can they have access to a “bare-bones” shared office. If they are still able to access their regular place of work, while maintaining the required social distancing, this can be very helpful in sustaining project momentum, but you would expect these visits to be limited to members of the design team only who absolutely need to use the workplace – such as those who are dealing with either large pieces of equipment or hardware-related issues that require test gear. Even here though, with a bit of imagination, the need for several visits the office can be reduced. For example, on one of our projects, the engineers developed a work-around by using Arduinos to cycle power to boards and web cams to monitor the status of LEDs and displays on the PCBs. This has reduced significantly the number of people in the barebones office.


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