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How cool is that?


How cool is that?

Christchurch NZ: Electronic product design company, iTouch Technology Solutions, has designed an advanced temperature test system for SKOPE Industries that has significantly enhanced the product testing of their manufactured chillers, freezers and refrigerators. Benefits include faster and simpler product testing and, for the first time, the ability to do on-screen reporting and data analysis for future product development. The return on investment is immediate.

SKOPE Industries is a Christchurch manufacturer and exporter of quality commercial refrigeration products, domestic and light commercial heating, and communication cabinets; all of which undergo rigorous testing before they leave the factory.

The company focuses strongly on producing quality products that are durable, reliable, safe and efficient. And, as part of a commitment to ongoing improvement of their products, SKOPE wanted to increase the functionality of their test equipment.

"We needed a test system that would be quick and easy to use and provide increased accuracy," said Operations Manager, Bruce Vine. "As there was nothing on the market that matched our particular requirements, Lex Grubner of RF Test Solutions (who supplied some of the test data acquisition equipment), suggested we approach iTouch Technology Solutions to custom design a new system for us."

iTouch came up with the perfect solution in just three months, which has since proved so successful that SKOPE has now decommissioned their old test system. They would work with iTouch again to develop future test systems for other aspects of the production line.

SKOPE's Test Objectives

The old test system - a temperature probe connected to a chart printer - relied on a trained eye to accurately interpret the graph paper tape during each refrigerator test. But the lack of simplicity and automation was proving inefficient and a hindrance to SKOPE's production process.

"SKOPE wanted to be able to guarantee average temperature readings inside the refrigeration cabinets within 0.5o accuracy," explained Grant Pugh, iTouch Technical Director. "What was making their job difficult was not having the data on screen, and establishing problems on product returns relied again on skilled engineers. Cross referencing forms was also laborious and time consuming."

"Our objective was to simplify the test mechanism so that we could perform the tests and analyse the results more easily," said Mr Vine. " We also needed to have the data recorded accurately, stored electronically (i.e. not on graph paper), and available for on-going analysis, which will help towards product improvement."

Developing the new test system

ITouch's experience in electronic design and manufacture is renowned, and the company has provided a number of high tech solutions for a variety of international applications.

"This project was very exciting to do," explained Mr Pugh. "We had a team of 6 building the equipment and developing the software over three months. We were able to turnaround the complete hardware and software solution quite quickly and cost effectively, as we had previous experience of designing fully automated test system technology for companies like Dynamic Controls. This company tests over 100,000 motor controllers per year that they manufacture for use in battery powered carts."

Once the barcodes of each product are scanned, the iTouch test system links with SKOPE's quality and traceability systems. It then automatically determines the correct test parameters set for the refrigeration unit in accordance with the performance requirements of that model.

After 3 months of trials the iTouch temperature test system is now fully up and running at SKOPE, currently enabling engineers to test up to 30 refrigerators every 30 minutes. iTouch designed the system as a rack mechanism to allow room for expansion. At full capacity each test system can process up to 40 units at time, twice as many as SKOPE could test using their previous system.

Return on Investment

The difference that the new iTouch test system has made to the SKOPE refrigerator production line is significant. It has:

- Strengthened quality assurance and customer confidence

- Increased production speed and efficiency

- Simplified the operational aspect of the testing process and deskilled the operator

- Made it quicker and easier for the operator to determine a pass or a fail result

- Replaced graph paper tape records with more accurate computer collected data

- Made data more accessible for reporting and analysis, and

- Added value to the product improvement process.

"There's no argument about the return on investment of the iTouch test system," says Mr Vine. "With improved accuracy of test data, we can use the data to monitor any trends and work towards continuous product enhancement. The iTouch test system is part of our on-going commitment to quality improvement."

While it is early days yet and difficult to quantify, SKOPE anticipates that their new test system, which cost NZ$45k to develop and build, will pay for itself in about 18 months. Expectations are that the new test system will also help to reduce warranty and call out costs.

About iTouch Technology Solutions

iTouch Technology Solutions (formerly Holliday Group Electronics) provides top innovators and exporters with advanced technology design solutions for manufacture. We also build complete devices that target new markets, such as plug-ins for handheld computers.

The company operates from Christchurch New Zealand and is the electronics product design arm of iTouch plc, a publicly listed company on the London Stock Exchange with its head office in the UK. For further information visit www.itouchmobility.com

About SKOPE Industries

SKOPE Industries Limited is a family-owned private company that designs, manufactures and markets commercial refrigeration products, domestic and light commercial electric heating products and custom metal products.

In 1965 Chairman, Robert Stewart, acquired what was then a small manufacturer of electric heaters and metal appliances, and grew the company to what it is today. With over staff 300 and offices in New Zealand, Australia and the Middle East SKOPE is a company that stands the test of time.

Its refrigeration products support many primary target markets that include the beverage and food service industries, as well as specialised niche display refrigeration for other complementary markets such as convenience stores and supermarkets. For further details visit www.skope.co.nz.

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