When the chip returns, we have to test it and make sure it is correct before we make any last minute changes. So there is a 72 hour bring-up period, most of us work 18 hour shifts and the campus is open around the clock with three meals served a day.
When you're talking about a short-term crunch period, sometimes those really are unavoidable, because of events that could not have been predicted ahead of time. When that happens, what matters is that the period be A. short, B. bounded, and C. rewarded with extra vacation to balance out the crunch. If an employer does that, it isn't a big deal. When an employer drives people to work 18 hours a day all year around, though, that's a much bigger deal.
That said, to some degree, what you're describing is still a failure of management. The final deadline might not be movable, but the milestones on the way to that deadline are movable, and the number of employees you throw at the problem is also adjustable. There are two ways to trivially fix the problem in your case:
- Move the deadline for the design earlier. This approach will initially mean slightly longer hours during the entire project, but over the long term, will make it worth hiring one or two extra employees to reduce the workload. By doing that, you'll have an entire week or even two weeks at the end of the process for the bring-up period instead of 72 hours.
- Hire contractors to offload most of the testing during surge periods. I guarantee you can find people who will do short-term contracts for a week if you throw the right amount of money in their direction, and I guarantee there are plenty of other companies that need testers only part-time. Work with those other companies and build up a contractor talent pool. Spend two days preparing for the tests, then three days doing the tests. Make a larger quantity of engineering test samples so that you can parallelize the tests better, and use three times as many people during that week so that everybody works sane hours.
This isn't rocket science. Either approach above would make those crunches completely unnecessary, and the combination would do so in a way that isn't even particularly painful for the company or the employees. However, both approaches require management to A. acknowledge that there's a problem, and B. care enough to fix it.