C& G Systems is a small company specialising in the design, manufacture and installation of water usage control equipment for the commercial and industrial process sectors.
The companys product range was based on the use of discrete devices to control water flow in a particular installation. The product to be improved was the companys Occupancy Sensor unit designed for use in the control of water flow for urinal rinsing in public conveniences. This product used discrete component technology to perform the basic timing functions required in this application. The technology used required the use of two interconnected circuit boards for the product. The technology also limited the adaptability of the current products for new applications, and was therefore a significant factor in restricting the companys growth.
The objective of the application experiment was to integrate a microcontroller into the Occupancy Sensor product so as to improve product performance by the addition of the following features:
- An infra-red communications link to facilitate adjustments of the cycle times by the site manager.
- Provision of facilities to enable automatic flush time adjustment facilities by monitoring the time required to refill the cistern in each individual application site.
- The maintenance of more complex interval timers and timing patterns as required to perform the water saving task.
- A direct interface to the analogue output from the PIR detector, to remove the need for bought in interface modules.
- The provision of low battery level warnings to the user when requested via the infra-red link.
The use of an integrated solution will also provide commercial advantages through product size and cost reductions, and reliability growth as a consequence of the fewer interconnections in the product.
The application experiment resulted in the company developing new competencies in the areas of project planning, subcontractor management and in the area of design for testability. The need to consider design for testability was a new design approach for C&G Systems.
The total cost of the application experiment was 30 KECU. The duration of the prototype development equipment was undertaken in 6 months from a project start date of November 1996.
The improved product will result in a growth in company sales of 40% over 2 years. The implementation of microcontroller technology also produces a reduction in manufacturing costs of 10%. The additional profits earned by the company will result in a payback period of approximately one year, and a return on investment of 650% in the five year anticipated product life.