Remote acceptance testing is quickly becoming the new normal for manufacturers, as travel restrictions and safety protocols are put into place to reinforce social distancing. In the Life Sciences Industry, that’s not necessarily an easy task – you have to go beyond how you’re going to perform the test and engage the client, considering their protocols and procedures. Nishith Upadhyaya Sr. Project Manager and Christina Lamparski, Business Development Manager, of Banks Integration share their take on remote testing, what will set you up for success, and maybe even a bit of what’s to come with this newer practice.
Connect with the Client and Align
Approach the problem as you would approach any other project problem: start by talking to your client. What we can and can’t do has always been aligned with the client in advance of execution. We plan the documentation and testing accordingly. Pharma clients, for example, will have testing protocols already in place that you will have to deal with. By aligning with our clients ahead of time, both we and the client are prepared.
Working together with your client, you can find secure, creative ways to meet testing requirements. For example, in a verification testing for factory acceptance testing (FAT), all of the verification is typically expected to be done in an office with all team members. As the COVID situation got worse while we approached the testing phase of a project, we looked at protocols that could be adjusted. We decided to try splitting the test and see if the team members can be six feet away from each other, then execute separately and bind it all together at the end.
Then we dug a little deeper. During a normal test execution situation, test operators would be looking at the same monitor. Do they need to? And if they’re using the same computer that they’re using in the office when they work from home, can they be remote with secure desktop shares? We got permission from the client that everyone could perform the test remotely. When a test observer is required, he or she can see what the test executor is doing so that he can appropriately sign off.
Prepare with a Procedure
What prepares us to do remote acceptance testing for clients? It all comes down to procedure, which is what we already do on every project we execute. We come up with a procedure and align it with the client and they have to approve it before we execute the test.
The procedure development can also identify problems like having access to software and hardware to perform the testing remotely. Software, PLCs, racks and other equipment are borrowed from the client, so there are no technical issues later.
Some things can be simulated depending on what’s available. The hardware, for example, may not be available. We know where the limits are ahead of time, and so we let the client know, talk through it and mitigate the risk and get them to sign off on the approach. Whatever we cannot test in FAT that is not at an acceptable level of risk, we would still test during the site acceptance test (SAT).
Look on the Bright Side
Coming together to solve problems like remote testing has benefits. If distance makes the heart grow fonder, it may also help integrators form stronger bonds with their clients. This has made us closer to the client because it’s kept everything moving. We’re on the same train. They’re going to be affected by delays or inefficiencies as equally as we are, so we all work together more to get the project done. If we talk and communicate more, it becomes a better conversation between our client and their own internal stakeholders as well.
It also enables us to look at new technologies and new approaches to testing. Remote video devices such as Google Glass or cameras, secure network IoT connectivity devices, in addition to computer screen shares, will probably be more widely adapted. In our industry, most customers are using FAT and SAT testing protocols in the commissioning and validation of systems.
For new projects, it is worth engaging with clients early on to gauge acceptance of the use of technology and how it will be used. Areas to discuss also include the format and preservation of video data and adoption into project records.