Efficient testing processes supported by smart tool

Tunnel projects involve activities such as preparing test protocols and testing software and hardware, which requires a lot of time and energy. Substantial gains can be made by making smart use of knowledge and experience from previous projects. The wheel does not need to be reinvented every time, and the engineers involved can focus on the 20% of the design that differs from other projects.

The Netherlands will get a new section of motorway. Construction consortium BAAK is working on the Blankenburg, a motorway with a length of approximately four kilometres which runs between the A20 and the A15 motorways. The new road – called the A24 – includes the Holland tunnel, a land tunnel under the Aalkeetpolder, and the Maasdelta tunnel, an immersed tunnel under the Scheur branch of the Rhine-Meuse delta in South Holland, which is part of the Nieuwe Waterweg. Baak has engaged ICT Group to develop the local control system for these two tunnels.

Pasquale Rinaldi of ICT Netherlands B.V.: “We design and build the software in eight steps, in accordance with Baak’s software development plan. Each step consists of developing a few parts – for instance controlling the ventilators or the emergency exits – which we test before adding them to parts that have already been approved. In all these steps, we use the Transwarp instrument.”

Brainpower

Transwarp’s spiritual father is Arjan Neef of Innocy. Neef: “In recent years I have become more and more involved in the testing world. At first, I only supervised the testing process, but later on this also came to include the verification and validation processes. I soon copped on that each project involves a lot of work that is identical. So why would you go through the entire conceptual process and write it all down again, starting from scratch each time? If approximately 80% of the work has already been done before, you’re better off reusing the knowledge gained from past projects and focus your brainpower on the 20% that is project-specific. That was what motivated me to develop Transwarp in my spare time.”

‘If approximately 80% of the work has already been done before, you’re better off reusing the knowledge gained from past projects.’

“Transwarp is a combination of a database and a software tool,” Neef explains. “I captured and codified the experience and knowledge I gained in previous projects in a database. This includes a standard set of templates for drafting test protocols, lists of design requirements based on the LTS, and findings that may come to light during the testing phase. By comparing the information collected from various projects I distilled the generic aspects and the project-specific aspects. This information is very useful. For example, if you’re aware of the tricky areas you came across during the testing phase of other projects, you can use that knowledge when you configure the test design for a new project. There are useful tools available that make it easy to incorporate this information.”

“The information in the database allows Transwarp’s software to automatically draw up the generic part of test protocols. You can then manually add the project-specific test steps. One of the other options is to import the design requirements as well as your verification plan, in which you indicate how you want to prove that you are meeting the requirements. Once you have completed the test steps, you can get Transwarp to compare the test results to the requirements and generate a report. This report allows you to check whether you meet all the requirements and the LTS, but you can also show it to your client.”

Automatic testing

“For some time, Arjan worked on the Blankenburg link project as a validation and verification advisor. That was when he suggested that we start using Transwarp,” Rinaldi says. “We liked the idea and then he showed us how it worked. We ended up using the tool mainly for creating verification plans and reports to be submitted to BAAK and Rijkswaterstaat (the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management).
In addition, we used Transwarp to simulate what is known as the coordinating control operations – which issues ‘commands’ to the local control systems. We also used the tool for automated testing of driver software.”

Rinaldi continues: “When we have developed a piece of software for controlling a component of, for instance, the emergency exit, we always start by performing manual tests with only one of the exits. This gives us a good idea of how the system behaves. Once we know that the software works correctly for one emergency exit, we then write a test script in Transwarp. This script allows Transwarp to automatically test all emergency exits. And the good thing is, if there’s a change anywhere, you can repeat the test at the touch of a button to see if everything is still working properly.”

Fewer errors

Rinaldi is enthusiastic about working with Transwarp. “We used to do a lot of work manually and with Excel spreadsheets. As a result, the risk of errors was always present. Automating the steps of importing and generating documents makes the process much less error-prone and increases the quality. What’s more, it is much more efficient and you need to spend far less time on administrative and repetitive operations. In short, Transwarp helps us to improve the processes around verification and validation.”

Yorrick Vissers of BAAK is also positive: “Of course there are all kinds of other tools available on the market, but they only focus on a small area, such as automated testing. The beauty of Transwarp is that it supports all processes because everything is incorporated into one tool. In fact, we do not really care about the tooling used by our contractor. What’s important for us is the quality of the products supplied and the process of how they were created. At this stage, both make us feel confident that the end result will be fine.”

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