FCL has supported many clients in many ways, including the following.
1. Team Strengthening
Many clients use FCL as a means of strengthening their team for a few months: to bring forward delivery dates, to solve particular hardware problems or to clear some backlog such as design updates, verifications or writing user manuals.Chris Angove who represents FCL, is highly productive in such environments having successfuly supported many teams: from just one to over 30.
2. Product Development
FCL can provide many types of product development support: either 'blue sky thinking' or whatever is needed at any point in its lifecycle. This is often hands-on: working with the hardware, proprietary and special test equipment, and supported by many of the industry standard applications such as Microsoft Office®, Excel®, Word®, MATLAB®, ADS® or Microwave Office® (MWO). Usually it is a combination of hands-on development, research, talking to the engineers who have more experience of the product(s) and backed up by a thorough understanding the requirements. FCL appreciates the values and limitations of CAD-based simulation tools and can judge when it is more productive to pause these and go hands-on, usually in the laboratory with the facilities available. In many cases the issues to be solved, or very similar ones, have been successfully cleared elsewhere by FCL previously.
3. Legacy Product Services
One of FCL's clients was responsible for supporting an airborne product delivered by one of its predecessor companies about 20 years earlier. It included a heavy and bulky multi-crystal local oscillator (LO) module, no doubt an excellent product in its day but a mature technology in an age of programmable, synthesized frequency sources. FCL supported the team in converting the LO module to a synthesized type which was smaller, lighter, more efficient and with improved phase noise performance compared to the original. FCL also devised a standardised design which was subsequently used as a building block in other similar products with minimal modification. FCL is well placed to undertake work on legacy products such as this and will often find ways of adding value to the upgrades at the same time.
4. Predictions and Simulations
FCL's representative, Chris Angove has built up high skill levels in many of the mainstream industry standard applications including Excel®, Mathcad®, Matlab® (with several toolbox add-ons), AWR Microwave Office®, Advanced Design System® (ADS), Ansoft Designer®, Visual Basic for Applications® (VBA), Visual C++ 2015 Express®, Visual Basic 2015 Express® and many of the Microsoft Office® applications. These, together with a good understanding of the theory from first principles, are a very powerful combination available to clients. Several of these applications are used daily for many different tasks including 'number crunching', simulations, predictions, documentation and presentations. This type of work is always documented with sufficient detail and references that another engineer can return to the investigations undertaken at a later date and achieve the same or similar results.
5. Procurement Recommendations
FCL was able to save one client over USD 6000 on one part alone compared to their original estimates, a successive detection logarithmic video amplifier (SDLVA). That was because the original costing had assumed a five year old quotation. In this case technology advances, volume production and market competition had in fact reduced the price almost by half. FCL located the alternative part and was able to compare its specification with the original and confirm that the cheaper product had a shorter delivery, better specification and was both smaller and lighter than the original.
FCL has often had to study parts lists and bills of materials to verify their properties, reduce variety count and to reduce costs whilst of course maintaining the product performance and reliability. This normally requires familiarity with the product design, research into potential alternative parts and maintaining a regular dialogue with the production, procurement, development engineers and potential suppliers.
6. Deliverable Documentation
FCL has authored many types of documentation targetted at differing audiences. For example: design and test specifications, test plans, procurement specifications, user guides and fully referenced in-depth technical papers. Many of the documents, fully peer reviewed and issued using product lifecycle applications such as Siemens Teamcenter® and PTC Windchill®, have been delivered to the customer as part of the product delivery committments. FCL has a good skill levels in the applications typically used for generating these documents: Microsoft Word®, Excel® and Visio®. Most of the documents produced have been subject to formal configuration control and many have been presented to technically demanding peer group audiences prior to release.
7. Feasibility Studies
FCL has been engaged to perform studies into the feasibility of new components, designs and even some 'out-of-the-box' ideas. Its very broad experience and skills portfolio support these perfectly. Where at all possible, emphasis is put on physically demonstrating the performance of the proposed new part or idea, rather than relying too heavily on simulations. Such studies are recorded in detail and fully referenced to reputable sources to allow independent verification.
As technologies improve, priorities and requirements change and we learn from past experience, hardware as well as software/firmware often has to change. FCL has experience of developing equipment upgrades for improved technical performance, smaller energy consumption, smaller mass/size and, where applicable, enhanced person-machine interfacing. These usually result in added product value which may often be utilised elsewhere.