Agile product development is a method that prioritizes adaptability, flexibility, and continual improvement.
It was first introduced in the software development industry in the early 2000s, but has since been increasingly adopted by fast moving companies working within complex hardware engineering.
The Agile methodology is based on the Agile Manifesto, which emphasizes “individuals and interactions, working software, customer collaboration, and change response.” By embracing these values, Agile teams can deliver solutions faster and with higher quality.
Agile Hardware Design Challenges
While Agile approaches have been successful in software development, they present unique challenges when applied to hardware development.
The complexity of hardware design is one of the main challenges. Hardware products often consist of multiple components that must be assembled and verified, which can be time-consuming and error-prone.
Additionally, hardware and software development are often closely interlinked, and changes in one can impact the other, making it difficult for hardware teams to consistently apply Agile methods.
Another challenge is that unlike software, changes to hardware designs often require physical prototypes to be built and tested, which can take much longer than updating a software product. This can make it difficult for hardware teams to implement Agile practices such as continuous delivery, which relies on being able to deliver small changes to customers frequently.
Hardware development also often involves more specialized equipment and tooling, which can make it more difficult to switch between different tasks quickly and easily.
Agile Hardware Design Solutions
To address these challenges, hardware teams have begun implementing Agile hardware development approaches tailored to their specific needs.
Scrum and Kanban are two popular Agile methods used in hardware development.
Scrum is a software development framework that emphasizes teamwork, adaptability, and iterative development, and operates based on a backlog, a prioritized list of tasks.
Kanban, on the other hand, visualizes workflow and minimizes work in progress.
Both Scrum and Kanban can be adapted to the needs of hardware teams, allowing them to develop products faster and with higher quality.
For example, Scrum can be modified to include longer sprints to account for the time required to build and test physical prototypes. Kanban can be used to visualize and manage the flow of work through the hardware development process, highlighting bottlenecks and areas that need improvement.
Many Agile methods for hardware development include techniques for prototyping and testing, such as rapid prototyping, to allow teams to quickly test and iterate on their designs.
eXtreme Manufacturing and Agile Hardware Development at SpaceX & Tesla
It’s no secret that SpaceX have been developing rockets at an unbelievable speed.
Far faster than could ever be achieved at NASA, and that’s even with an enormous budget and the weight of the backing of the world’s biggest superpower!
So how is it possible that SpaceX builds much better rockets quicker and better than an organization that has an enormous budget and the weight of governmental backing of the world’s biggest superpower.
Well, it’s all about the product development process and the way that these companies organise their teams.
At the engineering conference Iteration22, Joe Justice, the Agile program manager at SpaceX told the audience how, “SpaceX builds an entirely new Starship every single month!”
He described how Starship has lots of different teams working on different parts of the rocket, all of these teams are in essence their own engineering companies (with dedicated procurement teams, software development teams, etc.) meaning that in one sprint they do not need to wait for other members of the wider organization to finish work before starting on their own.
This is what it looks like to avoid waterfall development and do agile hardware product development instead.
Watch a clip from Joe Justice at Iteration who describes what this looks like in practice and the extraordinary output it produces.
Valispace: An Agile Hardware Design Solution
Valispace is a powerful tool that can help hardware development teams implement Agile processes.
One of its main strengths is the ability to integrate requirements and the system model in real time. This enables teams to track the progress of their projects and make necessary adjustments.
Valispace also offers various Agile development-related services, such as version control, collaboration tools, and automated testing.
Valispace’s unique selling point is that it is both a tool and a platform for managing and collaborating on complex hardware systems. Instead of dealing with multiple spreadsheets, documents, and diagrams, teams can use Valispace to store all of their hardware system information in one central location.
This allows team members to easily access the most up-to-date information and participate in the design process.
How Can Valispace Help Your Hardware Design Project?
Several hardware teams worldwide have used Valispace to speed up their development process and produce products faster. For example, one company that designs and builds industrial robots was able to reduce development time by 30% and improve product quality by using Valispace to manage their robots’ specifications, system models, and test data.
Another case study is a satellite design and manufacturing company that was able to cut development time in half and improve product quality by using Valispace to manage their satellites’ specifications, system models, and test data.
Perhaps the aspect of Valispace that most allows Agile development is is the ability to link requirements to technical data.
This feature allows teams to ensure that all requirements are linked to engineering values and that any numerical data can be read and analyzed as such, rather than as flat text data.
This means that if any changes are made to your system, Valispace can automatically calculate whether this violates any of your project requirements.
This means that errors in the project can be spotted early in the design phase, rather than when you’re in production where changes to a system become impractical, burdensome and ridiculously expensive.
By customizing Agile methods to the needs of hardware teams and using tools like Valispace, teams can streamline their development process and improve their product’s quality.
If you’re looking to implement Agile methodology in your hardware development team, it’s worth considering using a tool like Valispace to help manage your development process and connect real-time requirements and system models.
How to assess suitability in your project and apply Agile with Valispace
If you are interested in using Valispace for your hardware development project, it is important to assess its suitability for your specific needs.
One way to do this is to book a call with the Valispace team, where you can discuss your project’s specific requirements and how Valispace can help meet them.
The team will also be able to provide you with information on how to get started with the tool, as well as access to support resources.