Today was our annual external audit by BSI for our ISO9001:2015 quality management system. I am pleased to report that we passed with flying colours with no non-conformities at all. We did have an interesting discussion with our auditor on the subject of collaborative working. For certain this is the manner in which we prefer to work with our customers as it benefits both parties. He kindly told us about the Institute of Collaborative Working and the fact there is a specific standard and accredition (ISO 44001:2017) available. Perhaps something to consider for the future!! Meanwhile our training program will continue to make sure out staff have the relevent skills required.
SPS has just started testing the latest version of the highly challenging PCB it has designed for an automotive SiC-based EV inverter. The PCB not only implements all the required gate drive but integrates many other essential sensing and other auxiliary features to ensure electrical and functional safety. The space available for the PCB is very tight, the DC voltage high (up to 900V) and it has to press-fit to a power module where all the connection locationss are already set. The combined effect of this is that it has really challenged our most experienced PCB layout designer who has 25+ years experience.
The entire development of the PCB has been done in-house including the validation testing and manufacture of prototype PCBs. Given SPS’s senior staff have been working on xEV systems for well over 20 years, it is not surprising that our end customer has also asked us to assist with many other areas of their development. This includes advice on electrical / functional safety, EMC mitigation measures and thermal management. SPS has also carried out critical testing of the inverter system including full double pulse switch testing over the entire range of voltages, current and temperatures. This is an essential aspect of power electronics development that is unfortunately either skipped entirely or not done thoroughly by many other companies. This can result in an unacceptable amount of unknown risk in a product leading to reliability problems in the field. Most certainly not an option for an automtive product!! Please do contact us if our facilities and experience could be of use to your company.
The control of electrical power is fundamental to what SPS does and has inevitable safety implications not just in its raw form but also in terms of what it allows you to do to effect motion etc. It is something that SPS takes very seriously in all aspects of what it does to protect its staff, customers and end users. This is epecially so in certain sectors such as automotive, medical, railways and industrial where over the years formal functional safety standards have evolved.
SPS has recently been officially recognised by Microchip as having sufficient experience in this area to become one of select few functional safety design partners. SPS uses Microchip products to implement all of its embedded control partly as they have products with the required features and tools/libraries available to aid meeting safety requirements. A summary of their capabilities can be found here.
We will be continuing to expand our expertise in this area by investing in training and the relevant processes and software tools especially with respect to software development and testing.
Not quite sure why it has worked out like this but June seems to be the month for Training this year. First of all one of our Principal Engineers (Peter Moriarty) went on a 4 day course run by Ridley Engineering on Power Supply Design. This is a world reneowned course run by one of the leaders in the SMPS industry which is both theoretical and hands on.
Next our production staff are renewing their IPC qulifications in IPC A-610 – Acceptability of Electronic Assemblies and IPC WHMA-A-620 – Requirements and Acceptance for Cable and Wire Harness Assemblies
All of staff have a target of doing at least 1 day training a year. Sometimes this is in the form of internal mentoring but where possible we try to find external courses so we can expand our knowledge within the company. This is one of our stated QMS objectives.
We had our first external audit of our ISO9001:2015 QMS by BSI since we made the 2008-2015 transition yesterday. I am pleased to announce that we passed with no issues at all, not even a minor non-conformance. Well done to all involved. Two “Opportunities for Improvement” were made that we will be taking on board in due course. We will publish the new certificate when it comes available on our quality page.
As part of our ongoing software quality improvement initiative, our Technical Partner (Charlie Elliott) and one of our Principal Engineers (Mark Berry) are going on a two day training course on MISRA C 2012 next week. This is being run by one of the top software QA tools vendors (LDRA) at their offices in Liverpool and will be presented by members of the MISRA working group. For those of you who are not aware, MISRA C is set of “good practice guidelines” for C and C++ developed by a consortia of (mainly) Automotive engineers . MISRA stands for the Motor Industry Software Reliability Association and was set up to promote good practices within that industry for C/C++ code portability, safety, security and reliability especially within embedded systems. These same guidelines have now been adopted across many industries and as such MISRA C is generally accepted as THE set of guidelines to use on many applications that SPS is involved in.
Yesterday we had our ISO9001:2015 external transition audit by BSI. We are delighted to report that we passed with flying colours with no non conformities!! This is a great reflection of the hard work and dedication of our Quality / Production Manager (Alan Yarker) in particular. We are expecting our updated certificate in due course and will update it on the site when we have it. At the same time we are also going to post some of the key aspects from our QMS (scope, policy and objectives) so that you can get a better understanding of our company.
We have now had our readiness review for ISO9001:2015 with our external auditor from BSI. The outcome of this was very favourable with just a few areas requiring some improvement. This has now been carried out and we are looking forward to our first external audit which is booked for the 11th January 2018.
We have now completed the first key stage of our transition to ISO9001:2015 by having a full review of our QMS vs this new version of the standard. As a result we have rewritten large sections of our QMS manual and changed some of our procedures. In many areas (especially risk management) we found we were already doing what is required by the new standard but just needed to tighten up on recording. BSI are now booked for 8th December 2017 to carry out a full readiness review and provisionally booked for 11th January 2018 for the first external audit at which we hope to gain certification.
In recognition of his technical ability, experience and commercial enterprise, our Technical Partner Dr. Charlie Elliott was recently appointed to be a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology as reported here.
Charlie commented that although this is a personal achievement that the entire staff at SPS have all made a significant contribution to the success of the business which formed a key part of being eligible for the award. He wanted to pass on his thanks to them.