Always Prepared for an Uncertain Future

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published

10.06.2020

A lab manager oversees tools and processes at his facility.

There’s a Maori proverb that says, “we walk backwards into the future.” We must look back to know where we’re going and can only truly see where we’ve been. The past is a good a teacher, preventing us from making the same mistakes over and over. But focusing too much on what we did yesterday keeps us static and hinders our potential for growth. We could talk about how this applies to every aspect of our lives, but let’s focus on how it relates to engineering and test because of course, that is what we do.

One could argue that we walk backwards through our test processes and test labs. And as we walk, we’re guided primarily by what we’ve been required and requested to test in the past. Although we have a vision and catch glimpses of future test requirements over our shoulder, all we really see is the processes and the technology tools we’ve used before. This retrospective approach to test means we’re prepared for yesterday and constantly anxious and uncertain about tomorrow.

You can’t build the technology of the future if you’re always relying on the tools of the past. And if you’re using old tools combined with dated approaches, that’s even worse. Instead, you need to establish a high level of preparedness — because preparation can and will drastically reduce the anxiety and uncertainty about what your test future holds.

So how can we feel confident about what lies ahead? The modern lab provides security in the face of uncertainty.

The modern lab is something that’s living and breathing. It grows with you and evolves with your ever-changing needs. The modern lab elevates tools, people, and processes so they add value to an organization rather than detract from getting new products to market.

 

Two engineers look at data on a tablet together in a modern lab.

The modern lab integrates flexible validation stations, enabling connection like never before.

The Modern Lab

Perhaps you remember that shiny new lab space or the smell of a new box instrument. Although nostalgic, adding new box instruments next to old box instruments isn’t what we mean by the term modern lab. This concept and approach are much bigger than that.

The modern lab is multifaceted and multi-leveled. It involves everything from your tests systems, services, software, processes and people. And as time moves forward, the need to modernize remains constant.

Say you design a single solution for a specific problem statement. Afterward, you may think, “done and done.” And when you have a new problem statement, you design your solution again. But if you continue down this path, you end up with (literally) a room full of single solution systems. That isn’t modern. It isn’t even feasible at scale.

The modern lab is something that’s living and breathing. It grows with you and evolves with your ever-changing needs. The modern lab elevates tools, people, and processes so they add value to an organization rather than detract from getting new products to market. Additionally, it integrates flexible validation stations with connected software and a data strategy that intelligently analyzes and communicates information to people and across departments, increasing collaboration and accelerating the journey from idea to production.

But the modern lab does not spring up from a wanton desire to update technology and initiate new approaches. Modernizing involves reimagining how we do everything. And no, we’re not just talking about specific test processes and products. We’re talking about adopting a complete digital transformation to help your organization (or new product design cycles) move faster than ever before.  

 

Data from a computer monitor is reflected in a validation engineer's glasses.

The modern lab provides a way to turn data into insight.

Let’s Get Digital

Digital transformation doesn’t just mean moving from analog to digital as it relates to the uses of electricity. Moving from analog to digital is also prominent in manual versus automated processes.

Digital transformation is more than just an upgrade. It’s a complete renewal that breathes life into your approach, your systems, and your lab. It changes the way you do things and brings the data, process, and communication to a connected model. Imagine this new approach, this new process, this new modern lab connected to all modern labs — to centralized remote labs, test systems, teams, and experts. You can’t install the modern lab without adopting digital transformation.

Recently, we wrote about how you can (and must) Engineer Ambitiously from Anywhere. Digital transformation in the modern lab makes that possible. It provides you with the ability to move from manual processes to automation that can be updated and accessed from anywhere. But automation needs fuel — in the form of data. Automation and automated testing/validation create large amounts of data, a fact that will continue to prove true as devices become more complex. And this heightened level of complexity makes data inflexible and unmanageable, while approaches to analysis become stagnant. But the modern lab provides a way to analyze and use all this data to make informed decisions and attain key product insights.

Data is the “food” for automation and AI. Simply put, you can’t automate without data. As devices become more intricate and more data is needed to understand how they perform, we will need to employ more intelligent approaches to extract insights. Expect topics like machine learning to have more prominence.

A validation engineer looks at test equipment in a modern lab.

Digital transformation inspires confidence, knowing you'll be prepared for any scenario.

It’s Not About Being Left Behind — It’s About Having a Future

So how can we develop the technology we need faster? For starters, you can’t walk backwards into the future. Instead, you must face forward and embrace digital transformation in the modern lab, knowing that you’ll be prepared for any scenario.

This level of transformation is critical to all of us. We’re not just connecting people anymore. Now we’re connecting everything, which increases data exponentially. The usage of so much data feeds automation and AI and increases the use of more predictive modes and use cases, which inform product development, for example.

As devices become more complex, validation labs must evolve to keep up with the pace of change. Industry leaders have already adopted intelligent modern lab practices to maximize efficiency, improve device quality, and accelerate time to market. The future of multiple industries will be born in the modern lab enabled by digital transformation. Let’s see clearly and with eyes forward where it takes us.