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Measurement data management based on openMDM® at FEV GmbH

FEV is one of the leading international automotive R&D service providers in the field of drive technology and combustion engines in particular. At the same time, the company is a supplier of measurement and test systems and is also active in this field as a service provider. In all FEV business divisions, a powerful measurement data management system is a central component of its success. In this respect, FEV uses the open source platform openMDM® and relies on individual customization by the Nuremberg-based company Peak Solution.

More than 30 years after the company was founded, FEV GmbH in 2011 removed the term “engine technology“ from its name because FEV had long since expanded its activities beyond the original focal points. In the meantime, its competences also include vehicle integration, electronics and electrical drives. The tests performed on its test benches at the Aachen location are correspondingly diversified. The consequence: the amount and complexity of the measurement data recorded has grown ever larger over the years.

For the structured storage of these large amounts of data, FEV decided in 2010 to use the openMDM® software platform. In doing this, they had deliberately looked for a solution that was independent of the proprietary data formats of the measurement system vendor. The generic openMDM® data model was the appropriate response. The data model for this open source platform that is well established in the automotive sector is based on the ASAM ODS standard. ASAM e.V. (Association for Standardization of Automation and Measuring Systems), originally a project of German car manufacturers, suppliers and service providers, has meanwhile with international participation done a great service to the standardization of interfaces, protocols and data formats. In particular, ASAM ODS (Open Data Service) defines a data model for the interpretation of data and interfaces for data storage, data access and data exchange. openMDM® is therefore based on an authoritative standard for development and tests in the automobile branch and as open software it is at the same time easy to adjust to various technical requirements.

Exploiting the possibilities

In openMDM®, FEV has chosen a very economical software platform for the construction of a “measurement data warehouse“. The flexibility of the system offers a high degree of individual options for customization. “New transmission solutions, the electrification of the power train or alternative fuels – drive technology is becoming ever more complex and simultaneously, the requirements of test technology are also raised“, explains Georg Genender, program manager for test data handling and management at FEV. “We are continually developing our testing facilities and processes, and in doing this, openMDM® opened up clear potentials for us.“ In order to exploit the possibilities of the Framework even more, FEV in 2010 chose the Nuremberg-based company Peak Solution as its project partner, an important member of the openMDM® developer community.

At this point in time, those responsible at FEV had long been aware that a transparent and efficient management of a wide variety of measurement data also requires standardized processes during the test preparation phase. The objective of the project was to standardize the commissioning process of tests. The key element for these processes is the “test planner“ module in openMDM®. In cooperation with the MDM specialists from Peak Solution, the aim was to systemize test preparation in such a way that by means of the metadata created here, the measurement data recorded later could be used more purposefully.

Predefined test description

The openMDM® “test planner“ provides users with predefined templates to describe tests available. In doing this, it optimizes the processing of recurring sequences. The templates define which attributes are used to describe test specimens, measuring equipment and measuring parameters and the test steps used to make up a test. Distinction is made here between constant and variable test information. This information constitutes metadata, which are later used for thematic classification, navigation, exploration and search, as well as for comparing measurement results. The completeness and correctness of this metadata is therefore an essential prerequisite for the measurement data to be used efficiently.

Ideas for improvement from practical experience

Detailed test descriptions, however, have one significant disadvantage from the perspective of test engineers: they are time-consuming! For this reason, Peak Solution developed a solution to make test descriptions more efficient for test engineers. With the so-called “data source plug-in“, describing data can now be taken over from already existing tests. In this way, new test descriptions can be compiled very quickly from existing tests. Taking over data from other applications such as the administration of test parts or measurement resources management is possible at all times. Data that has been compiled by test planners during the development of test cases can therefore continue to be used directly.

“Spontaneous“ functions

In practice at FEV, however, the complete scope of tests cannot always be exactly defined at the beginning. Furthermore, test sequences may be changed during the implementation of the test, depending on results. In order to portray this, Peak Solution supplemented the openMDM® “test planner“ with an option to commission tests steps individually, and to add them during a currently running test.

Another innovation with similar intentions is the “measurement result editor“. It can be used to later edit test steps performed spontaneously and add information to their descriptions. A certain flexibility is maintained when performing the test and it is guaranteed that the “spontaneously“ performed tests steps and the data recorded there can be utilized in the evaluation.

More clarity, better traceability

Due to the clearly more systematic planning and description of tests and the complete and structured storage of all “planned“ and “spontaneous“ measurement data recorded, the start and end points of the test process were satisfactorily mapped. What the test engineers at FEV were still lacking was an improved overview of the status and progress of individual test steps. To achieve this, Peak Solution expanded the status transitions in the openMDM® “test planner“. In the context of test commissioning, the test planner now also controls the status transition of individual test steps (e.g. from “planned“ to “commissioned“). Now, the current status of a test or test step can be traced at any time in the navigation module of the openMDM® Framework – for example through color codings.

“For us, the traceability of test procedures and test results is crucial – any oversight or uncertainty here would cause costly additional work“, explains Georg Genender, program manager for test data handling and management at FEV. “Thanks to the openMDM® extensions implemented by Peak Solution, we now have an outstanding system which guarantees us and our customers the optimal evaluability of measurement data.“

The “measurement data warehouse“ that has been built at FEV will in the first stage at the Aachen location annually manage several million measurement channels of different lengths, from a few minutes up to 800 hours, from some 450 individual projects. Then, from the middle of 2012, further locations of FEV worldwide will be gradually added. The developers of Peak Solution have already begun work on the next FEV-specific extensions in the openMDM® Framework: the support and standardization of fuel analysis processes and the integration of external service providers into the MDM process.