ISO 26262 Compliance Workflows
April 30, 2021

How to Handle Complexity in ISO 26262 Compliance Workflows

Functional Safety
IP Lifecycle Management

When you need to comply with functional safety standards like ISO 26262, you need to establish a compliance workflow. This is critical for both ISO 26262 hardware design and software design. 

In this blog, we breakdown how to handle complexity of semiconductor IPs in ISO 26262 compliance workflows. 

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What Is a Compliance Workflow?

A compliance workflow is any workflow with dependencies. For ISO 26262 hardware design, you should use an IP-centric compliance workflow.

So, if you’re developing a system on a chip (SoC) for use in the automotive industry, you’ll need to comply with ISO 26262. You will need to have a traceable flow from requirements, through design, to verification.  The best way to do this is to make your compliance workflow IP-centric so that your design is organized into IPs that facilitate the traceability needed for compliance.

Overview of ISO 26262 Compliance

At its simplest level, ISO 26262 compliance can be demonstrated using a survey designed by a  compliance expert or team and filled out by the design expert. These surveys and their  responses are then used to determine the compliance or fitness of a particular part (or IP in this  case) for an application that needs to meet certain functional safety standards

The functional safety manager (FSM) assigned to a group or project generates a series of  surveys that are relevant to various components that are part of the system. For example, these components might be IPs in a system like Helix IPLM (formerly Methodics). 

Individual IP designers or owners then fill these surveys out. Their responses are recorded and  managed over time. At the end of the project, the FSM can parse all the responses and determine the functional safety readiness of the system.

The issue at hand is that this process is manual and errors can be introduced throughout the survey process. A simple clerical error can invalidate results along the way. But what if there was a way to automate the process by using metadata that was collected and stored throughout the design and verification process?

These surveys are central to building an effective compliance workflow for ISO 26262. 

Get a Step-by-Step Guide to Determining Your Compliance Workflow

Our technical white paper — ISO 26262 Compliance in an IP-Based Development Flow — provides expert guidance on how to use Helix IPLM to set up a compliance workflow.

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Benefits of IP-Centric Compliance Workflows

There are many advantages to using an IP-centric compliance workflow. 

For instance, you’ll have optimally partitioned designs, where each block is treated as a reusable, self-contained IP with versioned dependencies on other blocks. This allows teams to be significantly more lean, Agile, and flexible. 

Other advantages include:

  • Cutting down on development costs.
  • Making the status of the design transparent.
  • Allowing individual blocks to evolve at their own space.

At the same time, you’ll retain the context and connection back to the rest of the design as well as the requirements used to architect the design. 

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3 Levels of Complexity in ISO 26262 Hardware Design and Software Design

If you’re developing semiconductors, you may already have an IP-based workflow. But adding standards compliance — such as ISO 26262 — to that workflow brings three key levels of complexity. 

Complexity Due to Reuse

The first layer of complexity is due to IP reuse. 

IPs should be reused as much as possible. But an IP that is used in a given SoC needs to meet that SoC’s compliance requirements. And the same IP can have very different compliance requirements depending on the SoC. If an IP was used for a non-functional safety application, it wouldn’t need to meet compliance requirements at all. The context of the IP’s use is of critical importance.

So, your IP used in ISO 26262 compliance would need to have the relevant surveys and results visible to prove that compliance was met in the particular application that it is being used for.

Complexity Due to Rapid Change

The second layer of complexity is due to rapid change.

IPs are no longer largely unchanging design blocks. New versions of IPs are constantly generated and incorporated into multiple designs simultaneously. 

This creates unique challenges for compliance workflows. Surveys that are statically filled by designers soon go out of sync with the design. Users of specific versions of IPs need to know exactly what the survey responses are for that version. 

Likewise, requirements are also changing, facilitating changes to IPs and verification environments.  Again, these static surveys need to be kept up to date with the latest requirements versions and latest test versions.

Complexity Due to IP Type and IP Hierarchy

The final layer of complexity is due to IP type and IP hierarchy. 

The IP-centric design flow allows each IP to have dependencies to other IPs in the system.  Users build up IP subsystems that consist of a hierarchical tree. 

However, these dependencies can and do change as the IP evolves. Often, an IP’s functionality is further split up into additional IPs — or multiple IPs that are merged into a single IP. Some IPs in the tree change their requirements and add new dependencies, further changing the hierarchy. 

As the IPs evolve and their requirements, scope, and focus changes, the compliance needs also  change. An IP subsystem that did not need to handle a certain type of compliance may suddenly need to handle compliance with a strict standard like ISO 26262. 

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How to Handle Complexity in ISO 26262 Hardware Design and Software Design

So, how can you mitigate the complexity of ISO 26262 hardware design and software design? 

Using an IPLM tool like Helix IPLM is key. 

Helix IPLM is a unique IP lifecycle management platform, offering the full traceability needed for ISO 26262 compliance. Helix IPLM can understand the usage context and hierarchies when managing compliance. Plus, Helix IPLM is keeping track of important information like metadata attached to the IPs as they change and evolve, allowing for automation of the compliance workflow.  By using Helix IPLM, you’ll be able to set up effective compliance workflows for ISO 26262 hardware and software design.

Here’s how to handle complexity in ISO 26262 design by using Helix IPLM:

  1. Create surveys and survey lists.
  2. Ensure compliance in changing hierarchies automatically.
  3. Manage compliance in evolving IPs automatically.
  4. Enable flexibility in compliance levels, such ASIL A–D.

Learn more about how Helix IPLM can help you build effective ISO 26262 compliance workflows. 

Get in touch with one of our experts today. We’ll provide you with evaluation resources — like ISO 26262 Compliance in an IP-Based Development Flow — and provide guidance on how Helix IPLM will help your business.

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