Printing Robots
03-01, 12:00–12:30 (UTC), Gather Town

Heidelberger Druckmachinen is world's leading manufacturer of printing presses and printshop software. My team is leading the effort to introduce Robot Framework to the test automation of the printshop universe, and you'll learn about our journey, challenges and hopes for the future.

The humble printer is a very needed piece of equipment. But we all know how it sometimes misbehaves. Now imagine having a whole factory-sized floor full of various printing presses, printing 24x7, pushing hundreds of paper sheets per day, where each minute spent on troubleshooting failing process is a minute wasted. Welcome to our world.

Printing industry is very complicated and poses interesting challenges for test automation. The number of customers - printshops - is limited, but every one of them is distinct, and to push forward in ever accelerating manner, while maintaining backwards compatibility is challenging, to say the least.

Our customer - Heidelberger Druckmachinen AG - is industry leader, but that does not mean that the past few years had been easy. A lot of people who had literally invented modern printshop workflows and software are already nearing retirement. The system had been continuously evolving for past 20+ years, and the technology behind it is certainly market-tested - but bugs occur nevertheless. Domain complexity leads to test automation being more difficult that it is necessary, and team members tend to specialize in very narrow fields, despite best intentions.

Changes in market and customers' expectations had also driven the company to embrace digital transformation, and now there are multiple initiatives taking place in the cloud. There are myriads of configurations and interfaces to cover with automation: on premise, in the cloud and hybrid, local and distributed, desktop UI, API and Web UI, Windows and MacOS. And the release cycle accelerates, with hopes for achieving continuous deployment for cloud components.

My team started test execution and automation at the beginning of 2020. We faced many challenges along the way, but we have also learned much. Growing a team from a single person to 8 (and counting), doing increasing amounts of manual testing while researching ways to automate as much as possible - this was certainly an exercise in humility. In the end it paid off. We are finally at the stage where it is easier to automate a new test case than not to do it.

During this talk you will learn:

  • how my team organized work around manual test cycles to fit in the automation effort
  • how management approval played key role in enabling our efforts, and what helped us gain traction
  • where we introduce the Robot Framework tests first, why, and how it backfired
  • how we integrated 3rd party tools with Robot Framework
  • which libraries enabled us to reach most impressive results
  • the wins, including reduction in test execution time from 7h to 1,5h
  • how we approach quality regarding our own work, in order to make it easier for other contributors to work with test automation code
  • what challenges lay still ahead of us, and what ideas do we have to approach them

This will be a ride through seemingly mundane world of printing - but I can promise you, it will be anything but boring.

Software tester and automation engineer since 2010, with years-long experience with Robot Framework. Passionate about this technology, and about teaching people around me about it, and how to make best of it. During the years I've used Robot Framework with almost every library imaginable, in almost all imaginable settings. The projects I was involved in were as diverse as possible: e-commerce platform, desktop logistic software, CAD software for car design, dental x-ray management software, internet marketing automation software, API platform, you name it. For past 3 years I had been building a test department of about 10 people that is introducing Robot Framework as leading automation solution at one of the major German companies producing printshop equipment.