Engineering
High Technology With a Friendly Interface

Project Definition and Management

An important part of engineering precision electronic systems is the task of project management. The Martin Company engineering project management process helps ensure that customers get the designs that they require, in a cost effective and timely manner.

Effective Project Management

Martin Company project management offers the customer control and flexibility and has proven to be a very effective method of successfully completing projects. This phase-structured project management reduces risk and builds confidence with the successful completion of each task.

Introduction to the Customer

Before each project begins, we seek to understand the customer's needs and to and establish an agreement on the services that Martin Company will provide.

  • First Contact - An initial meeting provides our team with a chance to learn more about the customer's specific requirements, including budget and schedule, and the opportunity to present the services Martin Company has to offer. We will provide professional and credit references upon request.
  • Engineering Agreement - This document states that Martin Company will provide engineering services to the customer, and also includes a proprietary information agreement, terms, conditions, deliverables, and a schedule of billing rates. A sample engineering agreement is available by request.
  • Project Proposal - We generate a short description of the work to be done, along with an estimate to be used for budgetary purposes. This proposal is based on the project information the customer provides to Martin Company at this time and is subject to change as specifications evolve.

Once the Engineering Agreement has been signed and the customer has accepted the Project Proposal, the actual design process can begin.

Our Three-Phase Design Process

Most projects involve three phases, described in detail below.

I. Specification Phase: Creating the design specification is a highly complex process, requiring the time and experience of a team of talented professionals. Decisions made at this early stage have an enormous impact on the success of the project. The customer's investment in this phase is consistently paid back in more effective designs, timely delivery, and reduced overall project costs.

The Specification Phase drives the whole design process by carefully defining the specific goals to be met. It is critical that we understand and document the customer's requirements, and that the customer understands and agrees to these details, before the actual design work proceeds. We find that properly written specifications result in the best designs for the least cost. This approach minimizes redesign and keeps the project on track to a successful completion. The steps in the specification phase include:

  • Project Setup - Each project is assigned a unique number which is used to track and catalogue all of our time and material, notes, email, parts, drawings, and other project costs and documents. Our assigned Project Number is provided to the customer with a short name/description. This designation will be consistently used for all communications, billings, specifications, and reports.
  • System Specification - This is a detailed technical description of the system. A sample specification outline is available by request.
  • Test Specification - This describes the procedure that will be used to determine how to test the system for acceptance. This specification will often reference the System Specification with some additional details on testing. A sample specification outline is available by request.
  • Software Specification - We describe the software in enough detail to allow a software engineer to estimate the size of the programming effort and to begin writing code. This document will often reference the System Specification, and may include overall flow diagrams, display screens, storage and interface requirements, and a user interface description. A sample software specification outline is available by request.
  • Preliminary Design - We draw preliminary rough schematics, select a processor, and do a rough mechanical layout based on the System Specification.
  • Customer Design Review - We present the System, Test and Software Specifications, and Preliminary Design to the customer in the form of a Design Review to be sure that they fulfill the project requirements.

Once the project specifications are approved, we are normally able to provide a cost estimate for the Detailed Design and Build/Test phases of the project, along with an estimated schedule and milestones. It should be noted that even the most well written specifications often still change during the design process.

II. Detailed Design Phase: Guided by the project specifications, the detailed design work can now begin. This phase of the process typically includes the following:

  • Detailed Design - We begin by performing design calculations and simulations and making detailed design decisions. We simulate analog circuits with Spice, and digital FPGA logic designs with simulation software. Because of the low cost of printed circuit boards and the excellent simulation software available today, most prototypes are built on PCBs. We may also start to lay out details of the firmware and software at this time.
  • Mechanical Drawings - We generate detailed drawings describing the enclosure and front panel layout and PCB mounting arrangement. We use AutoCAD for mechanical drawings because its files are compatible with most customer systems and with our own Protel® 99SE and Altium Designer®PCB layout packages.
  • Schematics - We complete the preliminary schematics created in the Specification Phase and finalize detailed wiring and component selection. Detailed component descriptions are added to the schematic database. The engineer chooses components based on what is appropriate for the design, as well as on availability and cost.
  • BOM/Netlist Verification - We verify that the netlist is complete and correct, and that the PC board will be correct if driven by it. This step assures that all components are identified and have complete descriptions.
  • PC Board Layout - The layout is done from the schematics, netlist, and BOM. We maintain the link from the schematic to the PC board via the netlist and BOM. Any changes that affect the schematic, netlist, or BOM are made at the source, so that the design database integrity is always maintained.
  • Firmware/Software - Detailed coding of firmware and software can now begin. The hardware engineer works with the software engineer while drawing the schematics, so that the processor architecture is appropriate for the design. The hardware engineer also provides memory maps and addressing information, so that the software engineer may begin to structure their code.
  • Design Review - Once the detailed design is completed, Martin Company does a formal review, with all project engineers and managers in attendance, to carefully compare the detailed design to the specifications. The customers may wish to attend this review or to have their own. In any event, the customer is presented with a written report of the design review.

III. Build/Test Phase: In this phase, Martin Company builds the prototype, tests the design, and updates the documentation to reflect any changes found necessary. The following is a typical Build/Test Phase:

  • Parts Purchasing - Parts are acquired by our purchasing agent based on the BOM. New parts are purchased specifically for each project, an approach that consistently pays rich dividends in assuring the integrity of the design. This step confirms that the part numbers are accurate, provides an excellent verification of the BOM, and helps assure that projected prices and delivery stay on target.
  • Prototype Assembly - Most prototypes are assembled by our production department. Larger quantities may be assembled by an outside production house under our supervision.
  • Prototype Testing - The prototype is analyzed according to the Test Specification by the hardware or software engineer, or both, depending upon the project. The engineer or technician also troubleshoots and corrects any problems that are found. This process results in a Test Report, based on the Test Specification and measured results.
  • Operation Manual - The manual is written based on the System Specification. The customer may use the operation manual at this time, in order to test the prototype or to ship with products in production.
  • On-Site Testing - The customer may request that Martin Company assist in on-site testing of the prototype.
  • Final Documentation - Once the design is complete and the testing is successful, we review and finalize the documentation to assure that it is complete and correct. The documentation is archived on CD-ROM.
  • Project Delivery - Martin Company delivers a complete copy of the documentation and requested prototypes to the customer. We normally keep a copy of the documentation and at least one prototype to facilitate ongoing customer support.
  • Project Archival/Close - Martin Company archives the documentation and prototypes and then closes the job number.

Our Approach to Pricing

Martin Company takes pride in providing real value to our customers. We use the best tools and proven techniques to create truly effective solutions. We can draw on the knowledge and experience of many talented specialists, matching their specific skill sets to the particular job at hand. In this way, we are able to offer excellent quality at a competitive price.

Our billing rates are comparable with the hourly cost of our customers' own professional staffs. Our goal is to attract the best people possible, pay them competitive salaries, and still offer their services at an attractive rate to our customers. Ideally, Martin Company employees operate as an extension of the customer's engineering team, adding additional professional depth for the duration of the project.

  • Time and Material Projects: Our engineering projects are normally done on a time and material basis. Long experience has shown this to be the most cost-effective way to successfully manage and complete custom engineering projects. It avoids the speculation often involved in a fixed-price approach and allows the most efficient use of budget resources as design specifications evolve. We email customers project status reports as often as they are needed, and our monthly invoices provide detailed and reliable feedback on project status and cost.
  • Fixed-Price Projects: We can provide a fixed-price quote for the production phase of projects, based on approved specifications and a tested design. Martin Company employs outside production companies for high-quantity production runs. We can purchase the components, do the testing of the finished product, and oversee the production, even when an outside production company is used.

How may we help you?

Martin Company has built its reputation on a foundation of customer service, delivering effective solutions on time and at a reasonable price. We would be glad to provide references from customers who can attest to the quality of our work and the soundness of our project management process. Feel free to contact us at any time with your needs, questions, or comments.

Our Process

Project Definition and Management

Effective project management involves asking questions, planning, and follow-through to ensure that your product is developed within budget and schedule.

Start by telling us about your product concept or other needs. Your information will be treated confidentially.

Ask a Question

Request a Quote

Contact Us

Brochure (pdf)