Pick the right tests
Set a Budget
- This one’s kind of obvious: Count up the total days spent at an outside lab troubleshooting a problem. Multiply that by the per day lab rate. If your outside lab charges $2500/day and you spent 10 days troubleshooting at that lab last year, there’s $25,000 of your company’s precious dollars going out the window. Add any per diem employees may have charged. Generally, a company will want to recoup in internal CAPEX expenditure in 5 years. That’s going to give you a VERY SOUND argument for spending at least $2500 x 5 or $12,500. Scale up or down as appropriate – and be sure to take new product design projections into account. If the company wants to expand into a new market and generate 5x the design since last year, that’s a good multiplier.
- Far less obvious but more important are opportunity costs and the development of intellectual property. Time to market and meeting schedule are often paramount. I knew a company that had a design slogan: ‘build a little – test a little’. It really worked. Having an internal capability of verifying designs that may be reused among many different products/programs at an engineering level reaps huge rewards. It increases the company IP. At the end of the day, having solid EMI design guidance can spell the difference in the marketplace. If a company looks at EMI and one of those ‘black magic tests’ that has to be ‘suffered through’ instead of being proactive, it prognosticates its own failure.
- Compare EMI to other environments – I still have a hard time comprehending how much many companies focus on Thermal, Vibe, HALT/HASS or other environments, yet are reluctant to spend any capital on EMI. Often upper management looks at EMI as a single test and asks the question: How much does an EMI lab cost? I’m here to tell you that I’ve spent over a million dollars on an in-house well-equipped EMI lab. Twice. BUT, as we are going to explore in the future, it’s not nearly as costly to develop a precompliance setup that’s targeted to the right tests – for much less than the fleet of $100k/ea thermal chambers that seem to line many engineering labs.
In future posts, we’ll examine the kind of equipment you should buy. Do you buy new or used? What may you already have in your inventory? Spectrum analyzers/receivers, antennas, test chambers, troubleshooting equipment – are all part of the equation. Stay tuned for much more on this subject…