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Ensuring Successful Product Development of Intelligent Sensing Systems for Autonomous Vehicles

Successful Product Development of Intelligent Sensing SystemsI have had the privilege to be involved in change management and quality for the past 30 years. I’ve used Arena PLM for the past 17 years and with that benefited from its evolution into a world class tool that has allowed me to provide excellent support to my employers.

Working on AEye’s cutting-edge technology product in a relatively new industry creates a set of unique challenges. Unlike a typical development process, with internal engineers and stakeholders leading the way, a cross-functional team from sales, engineering, and marketing must work hand in glove with the prospective customer to create precisely what the customer needs.

AEye is a perfect example of this as a developer of artificial perception systems for autonomous vehicles. The technology evolved from CEO Luis Dussan’s work designing surveillance, reconnaissance, and defense systems for fighter jets. It mimics human perception by bringing together software extensibility, artificial intelligence (AI), and smart, agile sensors that combine LiDAR and cameras.

Change control is, of course, front and center in this “flavor” of new product introduction (NPI), but quality management system software documentation for ISO and the International Automotive Task Force (IATF) is also critical.

Key features for success

As AEye prepares to deliver its first set of automotive-grade products, its Arena PLM system stores all of the parts, documents, processes and procedures, along with the necessary quality and compliance documentation.

There are several ways the PLM system helps ensure the success of our NPI processes. The most important of which is the capability to quickly find any piece of product information and share it with those who need it. For example, after entering a bill of materials (BOM) structure, it’s simple to review the entire BOM with the key stakeholders.

Another key benefit is the ability to see detailed engineering change history for every product. In this nascent industry, revisions happen rapidly, and it’s not uncommon for an engineer to initiate a change that’s already been tried. Rather than beginning a second attempt, change history makes it clear that this route has already been taken and declared nonviable. Change history then helps save time and money by not heading down that path.

The same is true for suppliers, which can be quickly marked as unrated, approved, or disapproved. That way, if a new buyer tries to add a supplier that didn’t do a satisfactory job in the past, he or she will quickly be informed about the supplier’s rating of “disapproved.”  This helps save time so the buyer can identify a different supplier to source parts or assemblies.

Here are three key ways Arena PLM ensures AEye’s success in bringing new products to market fast:

    1. Simplifies audits: ISO and IATF auditors find it very helpful to view documentation, procedures, and processes with Arena’s product release and change control history. Arena stores and tracks all relevant information to simplify and streamline the audit process.
  1. Ensuring regulatory complianceEnsures regulatory compliance: Many components used in AEye’s new products must comply with Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS)and AEC-Q regulations. RoHS compliance requires manufacturers to track and make sure components used in their products are free of specific hazardous materials. Some parts must also meet the temperature-resistant requirements of automobile-grade parts. AEC-Q is an international electrotechnical commission quality assessment system for qualification testing of electronic components. Arena helps impacted departments track compliance with these and other regulations using the compliance identification feature.
  2. Easy to configure: Arena’s templates provide a great starting point and can be configured easily without any coding or programming experience. The process for creating new templates is straightforward. As an example, AEye’s PLM program manager recently worked with the head of quality assurance to design, create, and populate a new QA template in a few hours—making the part-approval process easier to access and document. PPAP, CAR, SCAR and 8D are just a few of the templates used in the Arena quality module.  The Arena quality module is an invaluable tool that allows us to collaborate with both internal and external sources to document quality data and to extract that data into various metrics.

That last point is key. Any product development system must be easy to configure and use or it won’t be adopted. However, it’s also critical to make sure that once new products or changes are approved by the key stakeholders, that the product data is passed into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system so everyone involved in producing the product has the accurate data.

Integrating Arena to our ERP systemAt AEye, we have integrated Arena to our ERP system in order to speed the planning and production processes. This integration allows our purchasing team to place PO’s with up-to-date information. It also enables our materials management team to control inventory and improve order management, while our accounting team evaluates product cost.

PLM systems must be able to streamline the entire product development process and making sure teams are trained well assures products will be built as planned. Arena’s training solution was implemented quickly. Working with human resources and key department heads, we setup all the necessary training documentation so teams could be trained on all standard operating procedures (SOPs) to satisfy both ISO and IATF requirements.

The AEye team will continue to rely heavily on Arena PLM to make change management and new product development as quick and seamless as possible. As AEye moves from initial design to development and production, it will leverage Arena even more for quality management documentation, training, and other related product release processes. And the fact that every stage of the product lifecycle is managed within Arena PLM should make any future ISO or IATF audits easier to pass.