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May26

4 Benefits of a Reference Architecture (particularly in MBSE)

by dlong

David Long, Vitech President

Influenced by the broad applicability of systems engineering and the fact that it is generally taught top-down, many systems engineers believe that they consistently engage in a variant of clean-sheet design. While systems engineering certainly enables fresh thinking and new looks into a problem space, the reality is that we operate within existing organizations tuned to specific markets. Though a medical device company may demonstrate excellence in systems engineering, it is unlikely that it will choose to apply that excellence to design a new aircraft. The same is true for an aerospace and defense firm that is unlikely to cross into the medical space. Organizations are classically built around product lines or – if there is too much time between generations – product families, variants, and other combinations of related systems. Though we don’t always make them explicit, most organizations revolve around reference architectures.  More...

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Categories: MBSE

May19

The Hidden Costs of Bookkeeping in Systems Engineering

by dlong

David Long, Vitech President

Systems engineering can be characterized by many dualities – architecture and analytics, process and innovation, technical and communication. Perhaps most critical is the duality of inspiration and perspiration. Good systems engineering is defined by fresh thought, creativity, and ideation. But inspiration alone is not enough. There is a tremendous amount of bookkeeping (“perspiration”) in systems engineering – managing requirements, maintaining traceability, tracking budgets for key performance parameters, managing risks, assessing impacts, and more. 

Emphasizing one aspect at the expense of the other is not the answer. If we focus purely upon inspiration, we overlook the technical details necessary to successfully engineer a system. Perhaps we end up with a catastrophic systems failure simply by making a units error. Perhaps we deliver a system but ultimately fail validation, losing sight of the driving customer needs. In either case, we fail to deliver the required value to the customer and the stakeholders in an effective and efficient manner. If we tilt in the other direction and focus purely upon perspiration, we do little more than clerk for the project manager – unfortunately an apt description of systems engineering in some circles. We manage requirements, police processes, and produce specifications, but we fall well short of delivering the necessary business value. Systems engineers are not the source of all innovation, but done well, systems engineering is a team activity that “collects and organises all the information to understand the whole problem, explores it from all angles, and then finds the most appropriate solution” (Richard Beasley, Rolls Royce Fellow). We must embrace both inspiration and perspiration. But that does not mean that we should not manage – and perhaps even mitigate – the cost of bookkeeping. More...

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Categories: MBSE

May12

One Model to Coordinate them All

by dlong

David Long, Vitech President

Requirements models, activity models, interface models, parametric models, reliability models, thermal models, power models, finite element models, … the list goes on and on. In this drive towards model-based systems engineering (MBSE) – and ultimately model-based engineering to connect the product lifecycle – how can we make sense of this vast portfolio of models? How can we effectively manage the models and use them to gain leverage over the problem at hand so that we engineer the system rather than becoming distracted by our models? First, we must understand that many so-called models are not models at all (at least not in a sense that brings value to our efforts). Second, we can engineer the model portfolio itself. With apologies to J. R. R. Tolkien, while there may not be one model to rule them all, there certainly is one model to coordinate them all.  More...

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Categories: MBSE | Misc

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