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Coming Apart at the Seams

| Functional Safety Certification


Does your safety development process have a split personality?  Do you “talk-the-talk but not walk-the-walk?”  When crunch time comes for project completion, does the mantra “whatever it takes” matter more than following the process?  Does your process peel away at the seams?

Yoz

Getting buy-in to a rigorous process for a new project is usually easy in the beginning.  Every team member knows (or believes they know) what processes to follow.  And they can think ahead to some degree to plot their tasks and their sequences.  But engineers are typically terrible at estimating time to complete a task.  So the typical project is late and over-budget.  (A good project manager may be able to interpret the engineers’ estimates to create a more realistic schedule, but that’s a topic for another blog)  The project starts out within some range of acceptability for time and costs.  Somewhere down the line, unforeseen events throw the schedule into crunch-time mode.  Scurrying around to get things done in a hurried way, or at the last minute, usually means that tasks won’t follow a vetted process.  Shortcuts are taken.  Functionality gets implemented but is not fully tested.  Changes get made quickly without a full impact analysis of their effects.  Documentation lags woefully behind and may never get updated.  Sound familiar?

Unless some kind of refresher training on process and procedures is regularly provided, engineers will perform a task as they believe it should be done.  Sometimes this means following the established development processes, sometimes not.  Phase reviews and checklists are good tools to prevent a hurried approach from skipping too many steps.  But unless the engineers know about and embrace the tools, the end of your project may start to unravel and you may pass unwanted faults on to your customers.  Encourage the engineers to follow well-defined and proven processes for safety projects.  And also encourage them to improve those processes; let them know they can make a difference.  That may be the best way to achieve buy-in, and zip-up those seams.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

John Yozallinas, a Senior Safety Engineer and Certified Functional Safety Expert (CFSE), has over 30 years of experience in industrial control systems and instrumentation. He currently provides process evaluation, technical training and support to Industrial Automation and Automotive vendors in the areas of safety, reliability and cyber security. He is responsible for product assessments and certifications for functional safety standards including IEC 61508, IEC 61511, ISO 26262 and ISO 13849. As part of this work, he also performs gap analysis, software criticality analysis, and proven-in-use analysis.

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