Calling in the experts
Developing a first-of-its-kind product using the latest technologies is always a challenge. For assistance in the venture, Fagor Industrial engaged an expert team from ULMA Embedded, an IBM Business Partner. The ULMA team proposed adopting IBM Rational Rhapsody Designer for Systems Engineers to help accelerate the pace and improve the quality of development.
Imanol Lukas Etxarri, an Electronic Engineer in the Research and Development Department at Fagor Industrial, explains: “We have worked with ULMA Embedded Solutions many times in the past, and they are one of our key strategic partners. When we decided to develop a new touchscreen washer extractor, we knew that it would be difficult, so we engaged ULMA Embedded Solutions to help us on the journey.
“We have a very strong relationship with ULMA because their engineers have an in-depth knowledge of the latest market trends, best practices and cutting-edge development tools. When they advocated Rational Rhapsody for this particular development, we were quickly convinced that it was the right recommendation.”
Achieving a clean sweep
Previously, Fagor Industrial built new embedded systems by first manufacturing the hardware, then developing the software using the C programming language, running on microcontrollers. Although most of the company’s previous products had fewer functions and a simpler interface than the new touchscreen washer extractor, the programming was complex and time-consuming.
In addition, the traditional development process required significant investment in building a physical prototype before the company could obtain feedback on the product from marketing and other departments, and then finalize the design.
With Rational, all that has changed, as Imanol Lukas Etxarri explains: “Rational offers a broad array of advantages in developing a new product. For example, it allowed ULMA Embedded Solutions to begin by designing all of the hardware on the computer, and simulate the results.
“This meant we could show detailed simulations of the new product to our customers, marketing personnel and executives to obtain their feedback. We worked with them to get the look, feel, functionality and usability of the new product right before we built physical prototypes—resulting in major time and cost savings.”
Additionally, the flexibility of the Rational solution made it easy for ULMA Embedded Solutions to develop new functions requested by Fagor Industrial—such as personalized washing cycles—and incorporate them into the new washer extractor’s control panel and processes.
As the development team made changes to the definitions of the washing cycles, the Rational software automatically updated any dependent processes—for example, telling the drum when to spin, empty or fill with water. Thanks to this automation, ULMA Embedded Solutions was able to develop the hardware for the new washer extractor 25 percent faster than expected.
Imanol Lukas Etxarri continues: “Thanks to ULMA Embedded Solutions and Rational software, we were able to cut time-to-market by up to 30 percent. Because we launched our touchscreen washer extractor before our competitors brought their products onto the market, we gained first-mover advantage. Our offering has been a hit with customers because it offers a user-friendly touchscreen and helpful features for personalized wash cycles.”
He adds: “With any innovative product, you can expect to encounter some service and support issues immediately after the launch. However, with our touchscreen washer extractor, we experienced far fewer issues than expected. Because we identified and solved many potential problems in the simulation stage, we have been able to achieve a higher standard in the end product.”
In the future, Fagor Industrial plans to enhance its touchscreen washer extractor with internet connectivity, tapping into the trend towards smarter laundries. As a result, customers will be able to control the devices remotely.
Building on its success, Fagor Industrial also plans to streamline the design of future products using Rational, enabling it to respond rapidly to emerging customer demands and hot trends in the market.
Imanol Lukas Etxarri concludes: “In our industry, companies that fail to innovate often lose out to more agile rivals. With Rational, we can design and launch new products faster than ever, sharpening our competitive edge.”