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ASPICE – your way to create, maintain, and improve company process.

The automotive industry is a highly demanding market. It shows especially in areas of quality and project risk. Every company faces difficulties achieving high standards, avoiding unnecessary risk and complicated issues before their product gets to an end user. Various standards and guidelines help address these issues. ASPICE is the best-known example of such.

ASPICE (or Automotive SPICE) is the main framework and standard to determine a proper product development structure. It was developed near the end of 1990 by German companies such as BWM, BOSCH, Continental, Daimler, and Volkswagen. In the beginning, it addressed mainly fields related to software and system engineering. However, the new revisions apply also to mechanical, hardware, and overall engineering areas. Nowadays, ASPICE has much broader usage in process improvement in the automotive sector than it used to. It serves as a process assessment tool for OEMs, giving an insight into the quality of product development of a supplier. Today, we will skip the part related to the assessment process and focus mainly on how ASPICE could be a guide to improve the everyday work of a company.

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Take a look at the overview graph with the V-model used in ASPICE:

System Engineering Process Group

You will see that the above process steps are V-shaped. It is from where the V-model took its name. The main areas described here are System Engineering and Software Engineering. However, new revisions of the ASPICE also address other parts of the process.

In general, product development starts from the top left corner step SYS1 and goes down through other steps. You can separate three main sections of the V-letter:

  • The left part of V – describes processes like:
    • receiving customer needs,
    • establishing common understanding and writing requirements,
    • creating main product design/architecture,
    • identifying the divide between general system-related cases (“SYS”) and the competency to implement them (“SW” above).
  • The bottom of “V” is a part where product components are designed and made based on previous requirements. It also starts the second part of the process: verification.
  • The right Part of “V” describes the verification process of the previous steps. It is not a coincidence that each step on the right aligns with the step on the left. It is intentional to represent that we are verifying the created product with the defined needs/ requirements/ design.

It’s a general V-Model overview. However, ASPICE has more steps worth describing:

The above overview comes from the ASPICE v3.1 revision of the guideline document. You can see that ASPICE addresses various processes during the product life cycle. It aims to support product development and provide clues how to report, verify, and improve the information flow.

ASPICE benefits

There are several benefits to introducing an ASPICE way into your product development:

  1. Quality of software/hardware development – it provides good practices for providing input for development and verifying results while minimizing the risk of issues in the late steps of a product cycle.
  2. Increase efficiency – choosing appropriate methods of applying ASPICE process steps can help increase productivity and reduce the cost of product development.
  3. Better communication – ASPICE guideline points out the importance of communication between each counterpart involved in product development. Where reports, sharing findings, and communicating blocking points are keys for smooth product development
  4. Increase customer satisfaction – due to Automotive Industry challenges, applying such well-known standards can increase customer confidence in your work and reputation. It can help build a client’s loyalty and increase the chance of a client’s return for future projects.
  5. Compliance with industry standards – the goal of applying ASPICE is to be compliant with ever-changing standards and provide a reliable source of information about them.

ASPICE challenges

Although ASPICE is a highly functional framework in the automotive industry, it is not challenges-free. Applying this framework connects with challenges, especially at the beginning, such as:

  1. Complexity – The ASPICE standard consists of detailed and complex frameworks that can be hard for employees to understand. It is vital to introduce the guidelines step by step and then focus on user training that helps the process be well understood.
  2. Resource limitations – due to the demand for additional tools and training to support the new process, ASPICE introduction is expensive and resource-consuming. It could be demanding for small organizations to dedicate their limited resources to such actions.
  3. Lack of all industry standards – ASPICE is trying to be up-to-date with most of the used standards (especially in software development). However, it doesn’t take all the standards into account. It could lead to inconsistencies between customer/supplier demands and their standards.
  4. Integration with existing processes – if the company already has some processes used daily, introducing ASPICE can be challenging and even force the company to remove problematic systems. However hard the process can be, it’s beneficial for the company if its employees accept the change.

If you would like to find out more about ASPICE, I suggest looking for free guideline documents and a pocket guide that can help you understand each process step. Next time, I will try to explain how to use ASPICE to assess processes during the product life cycle.

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