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Transparent measurement data management

Transparent data management can help OEMs increase safety while lowering costs

 

Left: Dr Hans-Jörg Kremer is a champion of transparent data management

With the introduction of modern testing, measurement and simulation methods, the manufacturers of technical products are responding to the growing requirements on the quality of their products and to stricter liability regulations. However, the rapidly growing amount of measurement data creates new challenges: In order to make test results reproducible and avoid costly test re-runs, measurement data must be systematically recorded and transparently archived. Once more, the automotive industry proved to be forward-looking: openMDM represents an open-source framework for efficient measurement data management, which can also be used by manufacturers from other branches.


“It is not enough just to record and store measurement data – several terabytes per week in some sectors. Under certain circumstances, we have to archive them for 30 years and longer, and need access to them anytime in order to verify that we took the necessary care at all times during development. The costs and time pressure in R&D force us to avoid unnecessary test re-runs”, says Roland Materna from the processes & methods testing department of Audi AG, describing the need for professional measurement data management.


Current MDM approaches are inefficient
In fact, day-to-day practice in the test departments of manufacturers reveals that, with the introduction of modern measurement and test procedures, a veritable data flood has been unleashed, which is getting harder and harder to manage efficiently. In many companies, approaches to cope with the data flood that have been pieced together over many years still prevail. Three distinct approaches can be identified here: Management of measurement data in file-based directory structures, management in individually developed database solutions, and the use of proprietary solutions from providers in the test engineering field.


Organization via file-based directory structures originates from the beginnings of product testing, yet is still the standard in many companies – not least since large test departments are often divided into several small teams that are organized autonomously. In these teams, the test results and their meta data are frequently stored according to an individually agreed directory and naming system. The disadvantages become clear when new engineers join the team, structures in the test departments change, or other teams need access to test results: Long manual search procedures and missing descriptive data on the test itself make evaluations unnecessarily complicated, and are costly and time-consuming.


In other companies, measurement data administration is organized through the company’s own database solutions. While this increases the level of comfort for delayed or cross-departmental searches, even these solutions quickly reach their limits when the test departments are enlarged. Data structures, for instance, can only with difficulty and considerable effort be adapted to the new requirements, and the solutions are often not scalable on a company-wide basis, so that they remain departmental or team solutions.


When it comes to measurement data management, many companies have also sought the help of providers in the field of test engineering. Their solutions are proprietary, of course, and usually only support the formats and systems of the respective provider. Since complex tests of technical products – for example vehicles – often require diverse methods, systems and test techniques, an overall system cannot be designed with these proprietary solutions.


In short, all these historical approaches, usually originating from the test departments themselves, will not meet the current demands made of measurement data management. As well as fluctuation in the departments, the trend towards outsourcing tests and test bench operation complicates the acquisition and transparent archiving of data. More and more time and money is wasted on manual searches for measurement data or on costly test repetitions – and this tendency is increasing sharply. All this is a burden on testing and development budgets, and therefore on the competitiveness of the company.


An open approach
Scalability, adaptability to specific data structures and processes, cost pressure, transparency and traceability: as a major company strong in development, Audi was confronted with these demands on measurement data management at an early stage. Consequently, the company’s search for completely new and comprehensive approaches for an MDM solution began back in about the year 2000. Thus, the foundation stone was laid for the development of an extremely interesting open-source project: openMDM Framework.


From its origins at Audi and after years of intensive development and standardization work, a successful MDM model has now been achieved. The openMDM Framework is now available in version 4.3. This open-source solution consists of a series of different components that were developed by various companies and partners and are freely available to every member of the openMDM community. To enable smooth interaction between the different components, the openMDM Framework uses ASAM ODS as the data standard. ASAM (Association for Standardisation of Automation and Measuring Systems) is a working group of leading automotive manufacturers that, in ODS (Open Data Services), has defined a format for measurement data, meta data and data exchange (ATF – ASAM transport format), thus establishing a cross-application, vendor-independent standard.


On the basis of this standard, a very wide range of applications were developed in the openMDM Framework for many requirements in the field of measurement and testing. These applications not only allow measurement data to be recorded and archived transparently together with descriptive data as meta data, but also to map entire workflows in the test departments. Applications and software components that were developed in the context of the openMDM Framework can be exchanged and combined into an overall solution without any problems. In contrast to many proprietary approaches, openMDM additionally offers all the features of professional data administration: From central data storage, via backup routines, down to comfortable role models for the secure administration of access rights.


Developed originally in the automotive industry, these applications can be easily adapted to other industries – especially as in the MDM field, technical rather than branch-specific requirements are the key factors. The big advantage for the company: the licensing model is based on the open-source philosophy. As companies in the openMDM community can download the software with open source code, adjust it to their requirements and then share their experiences with the community, all openMDM companies benefit from new and further developments, as well as the experiences and best practices in the community.


Flexible and scalable
The advantages of the openMDM Framework are obvious: Due to standardization on the basis of a powerful data model, component-based architecture is extremely scalable and can be flexibly adapted to individual requirements. Once converted to the ASAM ODS format, data from a wide range of measurement systems can be used on a cross-departmental basis. Through the meta data that are simultaneously recorded, test series and setups can be reproduced at a later date without any problems, and their results be safely interpreted.


Thanks to the modern, open and object-oriented software architecture, the openMDM Framework can be adapted to requirements in other industries. Sven Bleckmann, in charge of the ongoing development of test methods and processes at Audi, takes a similar view: “The openMDM community is an invitation to manufacturers from all sectors. As operators of test facilities, companies are faced by similar challenges in the acquisition, administration and reproducibility of measurement and test data – in the automotive industry as well as elsewhere.”


The prerequisites for membership in the openMDM community are clearly defined: The company must operate testing facilities itself and be involved in the community and in the further development of the Framework through an openMDM contact partner. Certainly an attractive option for many companies, particularly small and medium-sized manufacturers and suppliers, to get involved in professional measurement data management through a solution that has been tried and tested in practical use.

 

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