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Tool Qualification – The phantom pain of functional safety (part 1)!

Many companies and project teams that carry out projects for the first time in the field of functional safety have the impression that the topic of tool qualification is critical to success and involves a great deal of effort. Although this issue is, of course, important and also involves a certain cost effort, the subject is interestingly often given an not adequate attention.
This effect is very similar in several, very different industries such as aerospace, automotive or industrial automation.
The following article therefore deals with this topic.

Basic idea behind the tool qualification

The 4-eyes principle is an essential aspect of functional safety in order to minimize systematic errors. When tools are deployed and they perform verification, they are an integral part of the 4-eyes principle. An example of this is the automated verification of the coding guidelines. If the tool does not recognize a violation of the rules, then this error will not be detected.

Tools can not detect errors in a system. Of course, mistakes of a tool which can introduce failure into the system are even more serious. An example is the compiler for the software. It is obvious that special requirements apply to this type of tools, unless there is a process that can detect these errors. For both categories of tools the violation of the 4 eye principle plays the main reason for the required tool qualification.

Measures

The following measures are generally applied to demonstrate the correct functionality of tools:

  • Data from the historical use of the tool
  • Assessment of the development process of the tool
  • Test the functionality of the tool
  • Complete development of the tool according to a standard of functional safety

The two factors determining which measures are to be applied are the best practises of the industry as well as the criticality level of the functional safety system.
If these aspects are adequately taken into account and the resulting measures are implemented, the topic of tool qualification completely loses its fright. The sector-specific measures and best practices are dealt with in the second part of the blog.

I’ll be glad to help you also with any specific questions about your project. Send an email to: info[at] heicon-ulm.de

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