There are many ways to define systems engineering. However, the majority of definitions describe it as an interdisciplinary approach that comprises the complete technical effort needed in order to advance and verify a unified and complete life-cycle optimized set of process solutions, systems and people to fulfill the needs of customers. (Yes, we know that was a mouth full.)
These days, numerous electronics, RF systems and wireless devices involve a number of different disciplines, which means that an approach involving systems engineering is necessary from the outset, to achieve the highest and most consistent functionality of any product.
The Dawn of Systems Engineering
The fundamental concepts of systems engineering have existed for many years. Some of the initial projects which utilized systems engineering processes were managed in the 1940s at Bell Laboratories.
As engineering systems continued to grow, a need arose to involve additional disciplines, and it became necessary to enact a more formalized system in order to ensure that each stage of a project was completed simultaneously by the differing disciplines.
During the 1990s, the National Council on Systems Engineering, or NCOSE, was established to develop supremacy in systems engineering as well as to educate and extend the best practices for systems engineering.
During this period of time, many tools were developed for modeling, engineering and general systems — QFD, UML, USL, etc.
NCOSE became INCOSE — International Council of Systems Engineering — in 1995 to reflect the increasing global interest in the standards and techniques of systems engineering.
The Basics of Systems Engineering
The systems engineering process is governed by a number of requirements. The process of systems engineering ought to ensure that the needs of customers and stakeholders are met in a manner that demonstrates high quality, trust, cost efficiency and completion within the proper scheduled time frame.
To attain this, several steps or tasks are implemented. Using the acronym “SIMILAR” can help people remember them:
State the problem
Prior to embarking on a development, discovery of what is required is necessary. This is a crucial factor in the process of systems engineering, and it typically exists as a problem statement — it is possible for it to take up numerous pages, and it will begin with a top-level analysis of the functions as well as a mission statement. Then, the requirements are expanded to define precisely what is necessary.
It is recommended that mandatory (i.e. requirements that must be included in the design) and preference requirements (i.e. the requirements that are preferred to be included) should be connected to the primary problem statement.
All of the mandatory requirements should be satisfied once the design has been completed; however, it might be possible to handle exchanges with the preference statements in order to provide a system with more usability or cost-effectiveness.
It is vital to understand that the problem statement should underline what must be completed, and not how it should be completed since expressing the ways in which it could be achieved places limits on the development process.
The ways in which the requirements or problem statement might be expressed are numerous. It could be defined as a model or in words. Input should come from a number of interested sources, including operators, suppliers, owners, sponsors, manufacturers, regulatory agencies, acquirers, maintainers, end users and other stakeholders.
Since it is improbable that any single solution would meet all requirements fully, it is required that the systems engineering process involves a stage in which numerous options are evaluated and tested prior to their incorporation into the design. As additional data becomes available, these should undergo more evaluation.
In order to achieve the best perspective, alternative models (either software or hardware) should be built and evaluated; data for simulations should be collected, and prototypes ought to be constructed and measured. This can be completed with as much simultaneity as is thought adequate to enhance speed while reducing risk. Lastly, tests should be performed on the actual system. Alternatives should be compared to requirements for the purposes of evaluating them.
Model the System:
A system model is produced. This utilizes the appropriate alternatives from the investigation portions of the system engineering process. Then, the model is used for the duration of the development process.
Models can take on two forms:
Product — The product models are typically what would be anticipated during a development process. These models supply a platform for later stages such as testing and integration. They also help with studies of trade-offs and risk management.
Process — It is possible to use these models to investigate the effects of postponements, scheduling modifications and other factors on the general end dates. Process models that are enclosed within activities of systems engineering can also reveal items like bottlenecks and other circumstances that become fragmented.
During the systems engineering process, the phase of integration is one of the most challenging because it exposes difficulties as sub projects and systems join to create the overall completed system. The integration phase of the process of systems engineering involves joining the different elements so that they work together as a complete whole. This activity often takes much more time than what is anticipated.
Launch the System:
During the systems engineering process, the launch procedure involves running the system and generating outputs, i.e. allowing the system to act in the intended manner.
During this portion of the process of systems engineering, the system is evaluated to ensure that requirements are met. Metrics and measurements are vital in order to provide a true assessment of whether the system is operating correctly.
Continuing evaluation is always necessary to ensure that systems meet the evolving requirements and perform properly in the various scenarios into which they might be placed, even after the system has been initially assessed. Moreover, continuing evaluation is necessary because some of the initial requirements may not have been accurate, or they might have changed.
It should be noted that the process of systems engineering is not completely sequential. Instead, the functions are performed in an iterative and parallel manner to ensure that development is handled in a quick fashion with the adequate amount of structure.