Getting Started with Systems Engineering
With the ever-increasing adoption of “smart,” mechatronic products requiring a combination of a mechanical, electronics, and computer engineering, the discipline of systems engineering has never been more important. Given the complexity of modern products, systems engineering’s methodical approach for product definition and realization is being done by most companies whether they realize it or not.
The systems engineering process flow is often represented as a “V” diagram and as with any process there are many variations of it (to get a quick sample do a Web image search of “systems engineering”). Rather than presenting yet another “V” diagram to gain an understanding of how to better manage a systems engineering process, it is simpler to just focus on the two main aspects of systems engineering and its main sub-processes:
- Requirements development
- Functional breakdown and logical analysis
- Product design
- Sub-system integration
- Verification that requirements are met
- Validation of product behavior
As mentioned, most companies developing mechatronic products do perform systems engineering sub-processes – some more formally than others. For instance:
- With software, it is very common to see solutions that manage detailed requirements and their associated test cases for verification. Teams developing mechanical and electronics hardware, the need still exists, but adoption of formal tools has not been as common.
- Many companies organize their bills-of-material based on a functional breakdown to facilitate the eventual sub-system integration from various engineering disciplines as designs are completed. Unfortunately, this approach fails to properly capture the logical relationship between sub-systems and how they interact.
Another common issue is that companies rely too much on costly physical prototypes, or even worse, early production runs, to validate if the final user/consumer will accept the product. Companies are not taking advantage of modern simulation and product behavior modeling software to validate product performance enough early in the product development process as the system functional breakdown and product design occurs.
Lastly, even if every one of these sub-processes are pursued, it is often with unique tools and systems that do not allow for the easy flow and exchange of information between product development participants.
Considering the status quo and the issue highlighted above, what is really needed for effective systems engineering is:
- Capture requirements for hardware and software.
- Define test cases to verify that requirements are fulfilled.
- Model a product’s sub-systems based on function and their logical relationship to one another.
- Virtually model product behavior to validate that a system meets end user expectation.
- Perform product design with kinematics and/or virtual simulation to further validate and verify system performance.
- Ideally perform #s 1-5 with tools that provide easy data exchange and traceability between the various stakeholders from requirements through product design, verification, and validation.
The traditional “V” diagram falls short in properly conveying how this systems engineering flow should be executed because most do not convey feedback loops and parallel activities. So, rather than being constrained by the “V” shape just because “verification” and “validation” are the goals, the following can be used to convey a systems engineering target.
Pursuing the full scope of systems engineering processes may seem daunting, but the Dassault Systèmes 3DEXPERIENCE solution provides capabilities for each of these systems engineering needs with increasing levels of capabilities so companies can improve their systems engineering process over time while still having a unified approach. The following table summarizes the key systems engineering capabilities offered with 3DEXPERIENCE:
and Test Case