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Why Prototype?


Measure Twice; Cut Once

BMW or Ford would never build a car without building a prototype first. Yet incredibly complex control systems are not prototyped prior to build. The design phase of a typical automation system involves many months of detailed discussions between process engineers, automation engineers, MES engineers, IT and Quality where lengthy word documents, and marked-up P&IDs are the stock tools of communication and collaboration. The use of models or ‘conference room pilots’ is limited, because they are difficult to set up without first having committed to a particular control system platform. It is for this reason that usability design reviews are oftentimes done towards the end of software development, rather than prior to it. This exposes a client to substantial cost risk through change requirements.

Some general prototyping benefits

  • Easier requirements gathering
  • Enhanced understanding across multiple teams leading to better feedback and collaboration
  • Faster error detection
  • Better conflict resolution
  • Continuous evaluation
  • Faster iteration
  • Concurrent working
  • Reduced cost

From prototype to corporate standards and models

As referred to above, very few products are built without first creating a prototype. This prototype is then typically discarded after use. However, this is not the case in using a product like Spike to prototype a process. Initially the process, or individual elements of the process, can be quickly wire-framed out forming a low fidelity version of what one is trying to achieve. This low fidelity version can be continually built upon during the project. At the end of the design phase the prototype is then a comprehensive model of what is required of the control system, and the interaction of that control system to all other relevant systems. The beauty of this approach is that this model can then be used as a basis for a corporate standard or best practice.

Some benefits of using models and standards

  • Faster time to market
  • Reduced costs
  • Reduced risk
  • Increased quality
  • Better supplier management
  • Encourage innovation through ‘what if’ analysis
  • Optimise and embed best practice
  • Performance benchmarking
  • Superior training

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