Automated Test Systems: Eight Questions to Help the Make or Buy Decision
Test managers today have a few options in expanding their ATE capabilities. They can scour through their ATE graveyard, roll their own in-house, or buy a commercial test system. The path should be chosen strategically as it is a decision that most companies have to live with for 5 or 10 years given the cost and the life cycle of modern ATE. Often, however, companies start down one path without exploring other options thoroughly and then quickly become too committed to make a more objective decision.
Using older existing equipment is often problematic and typically ends up with performance limitations or reconfiguration costs which can quickly eat up any initial savings. Building in-house absorbs critical resources and rarely is there enough time or money to do more than a rudimentary job. And in-house projects quickly become orphans when the key architect moves on to his or her next assignment. Commercial ATE on the other hand will deliver a richer, modern and high performance system quicker at a lower cost when all the costs are honestly compared. One item often overlooked is time to market. For example, how much will it cost if your end product is delayed or less than high quality products are shipped due to ATE infancy issues?
So you have some decision making to do and we have no doubt you will pick the right path for your ATE requirements. To give you a leg up, here are 8 questions you can ask yourself about the make or buy decision.
Full disclosure: We are biased but also want to help you make the best decision you can for your business.
Eight Questions to Help the Make or Buy Decision
1. Are you in the business of building automated test systems?
Chroma is a 30 year old worldwide company with over 1,200 employees that ships hundreds of systems and thousands of instruments each year. ATE is our core business. Since Chroma’s C8000 automated test platform rolled out in 2001, over 5,000 systems have been deployed in the field globally. We have a strong user support organization which can install, train, support, and calibrate our systems virtually anywhere on the planet.
2. How long it will take to design, acquire the hardware, rack, wire, and develop the software before your first device is tested?
Chances are we can do it faster. In addition to delivering systems in about 4 weeks, Chroma’s systems are usually more flexible than in-house designs since our system platform is designed to support all types of power conversion applications. Chroma will enable your company to reach production schedules and volumes faster which is the key to gaining market share in developing markets.
3. How much are you willing to invest in the NRE of your test systems?
On average, Chroma invests $14 million each year in R&D to make our systems better, faster and less costly. Our largest customers – Delta, Lite-on, Intel, and others – require that our systems support the newest power conversion technologies and do so with increased efficiency. Your company can benefit from these R&D expenditures at no additional cost. Most internal teams can only maintain existing equipment and don’t have excess resources allocated to innovate their test systems. We do.
4. How much throughput do you need and can you get there profitably?
75% of Chroma’s systems are used in high volume production facilities where high throughput is critical. Faster machines with high yield mean fewer systems and fewer operators. Machines are purchased once but reducing the personnel requirement for operation lowers labor costs for years to come. Chroma can also provide high volume test fixtures which allow handling to be done in parallel with test. Our customers who choose this approach usually doubles their throughput.
5. Who are you competing with?
Most offshore suppliers of power conversion products are already using high throughput ATE and also have the benefit of low cost labor. North American companies cannot afford slower machines that require many operators if they are going to compete in global markets.
6. Will an in-house test system provide all the features you need?
Most in-house design teams do not have the personnel, time or budget to make robust systems with rich features including report wizards, statistical charts, debuggers, networking capability, remote control and more. Chroma’s software is a standard product containing these features and is provided at no additional charge. Our systems also are well documented for the convenience of its users.
7. Are you budgeted for the long haul?
Long term support, software releases, big fixes, calibrations, etc. are usually difficult for in-house teams to manage as budgets are rarely set aside for these functions. We recognize that as more systems are put into service within a company, the more difficult it can be to sustain them. Chroma is well staffed to provide these functions for our systems at little or no additional cost.
8. Would building in-house pull focus and resources from what is really important to your business?
Since Chroma’s C8000 platform made automated test systems practically an off-the-shelf process, our customers can use in-house teams to focus on improving processes and developing product improvements instead of reinventing their ATE. We can provide world-class test systems with more features and benefits at costs that are competitive to in-house development. Working with Chroma will free up resources to focus on your core business and provide what’s really important; a competitive advantage in your industry.
A Little More About Chroma Systems Solutions
Our engineering capabilities provide cost-effective design, development and delivery of turnkey automated test systems and fixtures to fit our customer’s diverse power conversion and electrical safety test technical requirements maximizing their time, improving validation processes, and increasing output. We also supply best in class programmable COTS instrumentation including AC Power Sources, DC Supplies, Electronic Loads, Digital Power Meters, and Electrical Safety Testers that are ideal for power input/output terminal testing and dynamic simulation.
We have been built Automated test systems to test applications in these markets:
- Military / Aerospace
- Power Supply / UPS
- Medical Device
- Solar Panel / Inverter
- Automotive / EV / EVSE
- LED / Lighting
- Battery Cell / Module / Pack
- Fuel Cell
- Adapters / Chargers
Obligation Free Assistance
If you need any assistance in your decision or if you need help selecting the right hardware for your test system please feel free to email a request.