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Why Assuring The Quality Of Manufacturing Execution Systems Is Important?

By Author: Diya Jones
Total Articles: 101
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The galloping pace of business and technology changes has impacted the manufacturing sector as well. Today, enterprises are aiming to release new products with differentiated features in quick succession rather than the one-time release scenario of the past. To facilitate such frequent releases, enterprises need to streamline their workflows by turning agile. To enable continuous delivery, adopting methodologies like DevOps has become important. DevOps introduces a collaborative approach among the Development, Testing, and Operations teams to achieve rapid and continuous delivery of products and services.

Furthermore, DevOps testing provides the ability to test various aspects of a product feature with the actual users. Thereafter, the feature(s) likened by the actual users is incorporated into the manufacturing process. Thus, the time taken for a feature to be incorporated in the manufacturing execution system - from ideation, design, development, testing, and deployment - gets reduced. This has led to frequent release of products thereby impacting the dynamics of the manufacturing cycle. In the traditional approach of manufacturing, the development and operations teams work in their respective silos leading to delays. The delays mainly resulted from acknowledging, testing, and deploying product(s) in the end-to-end process workflow.

Also, since traditional testing and QA paradigm are not enough to meet the requirements of new age manufacturing, DevOps has come as an enabler in strengthening and streamlining the manufacturing execution system. DevOps testing increases the validity of QA and reduces the risk of implementing changes in the production environment. In the absence of such testing, there is a risk of the production workflow facing service outages. The best part of DevOps QA is in vetting products or their features in an isolated test environment without hampering the actual manufacturing process.

However, there can be issues of the test environment not mimicking the actual production environment. These issues can be the result of the test environment employing different tools, dependencies, firewall rules, or even data. Such differences can bring in risks, for even if the product change passes in the test environment, there is a chance of it failing in the production environment as it was never tested there. However, by employing rigorous software testing for manufacturing in the DevOps structure, the effectiveness of software testing can be increased. This is accomplished by creating test environments that are closer to the real production environment.

Breaking barriers through manufacturing test automation
To ensure the quality and speedy delivery of products, the end-to-end workflow in the production environment should be subjected to a rigorous testing exercise involving DevOps. DevOps testing services break the barriers that exist between development and operations teams by offering a holistic view of processes and issues in their respective workflows. These encompass production line test automation to validate applications or products across environments, platforms, and networks. This leads to a better identification (and fixing) of errors and allows for their quick deployment in succession.

However, to achieve an optimum outcome through manufacturing test automation, the legacy production environment needs to undergo redesigning. This is due to the fact that legacy systems per se are not built to implement test automation. Thus, the redesigning of legacy systems might prove to be a challenge in implementing production line test automation.

Adopting DevOps methodology and CD in a legacy system
The roadmap to implement DevOps in furthering manufacturing production software testing involves three aspects - standardization, automation, and shift-left.

• Standardization: Over time, small variations in processes might become a part of the legacy systems. However, implementing DevOps with such built-in variations can remain a challenge. So, the standardization process involves identification of such variations and modifying the systems or processes to eliminate them. For example, only a particular test script should be used to validate specific processes or products. The same can be reused for a new process or application by merely modifying the parameters. Also, in many cases, the entire infrastructure behind the running of systems may be standardized.
• Automation: Post standardization of processes or infrastructure, as the case may be, they ought to be automated. So, any manufacturing test automation process involves the configuration of scripts by using tools. This accelerates testing, makes it repeatable, and eliminates any manual involvement. By making it repeatable, the testing process can be activated on-demand or at periodic intervals. Here, standardization helps in reducing the number of processes to be automated.
• Shift-Left: This refers to testing an application or process early in the development lifecycle instead of at a later stage. For example, instead of running a regression or performance test post development, the same can be conducted during a system test. This leads to the early identification of integration or performance issues in the lifecycle. Thus, the development team can fix such issues early instead of working under pressure to fix them just before the product release. Additionally, this approach can pre-empt the development team from deferring such problems to the next release. The shift-left approach reduces the cost of eliminating glitches, for it is cost-effective to fix a bug during the development stage rather than in production.

Overall, implementing DevOps testing can lead to the following outcomes:

• Quick delivery and deployment of products or their features.
• Creation of a stable production environment.
• Improved communication and collaboration between teams.
• Teams get more time to innovate rather than be clogged with fixing and maintenance.

Conclusion

The production environment faces a host of challenges in terms of upholding the quality of products and ensuring their speedy delivery. Since addressing these challenges is the key to stay competitive, DevOps testing services can help businesses to streamline their manufacturing execution system by enforcing better collaboration and communication between the development and operations teams.

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