When working or leading a high technology project, a simple question related to the status of a program can become difficult one to answer. This difficulty is clearly seen by anyone who has been involved in the development, manufacturing and testing high performance radio frequency modules. As with any project, leadership must deal with the traditional challenges of managing vendors, manufacturing processes, quality requirements and staffing needs. The project manager must also keep the customer updated on costs, schedule changes and progress to ensure that they are sufficiently satisfied with the program’s performance.
Then comes the more difficult challenge, the engineering. The engineering challenges include dealing with the combination of theoretical and applied physics, understanding both stated and derived specifications, and properly determining, managing and accounting for the constant shifting variables that make up a successful finished design. While judging the progress of an assembly or logistical process may seem a straight forward task, the engineering team’s progress presents a real challenge. Especially early in the project, the work product of each phase of development are often concepts or paper designs, not a physical widget that can be measured, tested or put on a shelf. In this type of environment, the importance of thorough planning and proper project management is clearly demonstrated.
Gaining an understanding of program status in these environments starts with ensuring that each step in the engineering process is clearly bounded. Steps such as initial research, block diagram creation, part selections, and modeling can all be broken down and bounded within the confines of the budget and schedule. Resources are not limitless in any program, so care must be taken early in the planning phase to forecast the time needed to accomplish a particular subtask, and ensure that the subtask is accurately costed within the overall budget. This bounding can then be used to apply some basic earned value management tools to determine the programs status. By comparing differences between data points such as Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled (BCWS), Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP) and Actual Cost of Work Performed (ACWP), a more accurate view of progress can be found. This approach takes a high-level view of the program and provides firm data on which to make a determination of progress, removing the reliance on intuition and allowing leadership to make the necessary corrections to the program.
It is important to remember that, while these tools are a great way to judge the status of a program, they do not tell the project leader the “why” behind the deviation. For example, just because the metric tells the project leader a program is overspent through a particular milestone, it does not provide light related to the cause. Further investigation on the part of the project leader will be required to ensure that the work product is completed. What it does do is allow the project leader to examine future work product and taskings, in order to look for opportunities to defer some of the “nice to haves” in favor of accomplishing the “must haves” for a successful program completion.
NuWaves Engineering has developed a wide variety of off-the-shelf RF amplifiers with rich features to support mission-critical CONOPS in telemetry, ISR, and tactical communication systems applications. Frequency ranges are available from UHF through C-band with output power levels ranging from 5 to 50 W. All NuPower PAs are designed, built and tested in-house under NuWaves’ Quality Management System (QMS) certified to AS9100:2009 and ISO 9001-2008 standards, which ensures that each product arrives on-time and defect-free. Most models are in-stock. NuWaves also boasts a full suite of state-of-the-art design and simulation tools, test and measurement equipment, prototyping equipment and a full-scale production facility to provide custom solutions to your specifications. Contact NuWaves today to extend the range of your communications systems and don’t forget to check out our RF Power Amplifiers.