Within the scope of Systems Engineering (SE) the system is regarded in its entirety. The system is seen as more than the sum of its parts, be they software-, hardware-, mechanics- or optics-components. The methods of Systems Engineering can generally be applied to systems that entail more than mere software for a regular computer.

Basics

In systems engineering, considering a system in its entirety also means taking into account all the requirements placed on the system throughout the entire product life cycle, from the initial idea through to disposal. In addition to the pure requirements on the product with regard to its functionality and quality (here, for example, the aspects of safety and security play a major role), there are additional requirements, for example, from the disciplines of logistics, production, quality assurance, further development, care, maintenance or disposal. In addition to the classic approaches of systems engineering, agile procedures such as Scrum, Kanban, lean management or rapid prototyping can help here.

Within the framework of systems engineering, resilient requirements are identified in the system analysis using requirements engineering methods, the system architecture is created, the parts of the system are assembled and then tested, supported by a test department. Various approaches can be used for this purpose. These include Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), which can lay the foundation for Model-Driven Systems Engineering (MDSE). There are also domain-driven and test-driven approaches. When choosing an approach, the framework conditions of the respective project must be considered in each case. The consideration of the activities takes place on different architecture levels, like system, subsystem, which consists of several components, or pure e.g. hardware or software components. The lowest level of consideration is given by the part of the system that is passed on to an internal or external supplier.

In systems engineering, one ensures that a multidisciplinary development becomes an interdisciplinary development. This creates transparency, increases knowledge transfer within the team, improves collaboration and shortens cycle times. In this process, systems engineering is the first point of contact for project management and sometimes also acts in the role of technical project management. In addition to good facilitation skills, systems engineering must have sufficient knowledge to evaluate individual decisions at the component level. Furthermore, one ensures that the people involved in the development have a basis for decision-making.

In addition to the information on this page, you can find more knowledge about systems engineering in our downloadable brochure under  downloadable brochure under "WISSEN for free", the books of the SOPHISTs and the in-house and open trainings of the SOPHISTs.

 

Areas of Application

The areas of application for Systems Engineering are complex systems, such as Smart Eco Systems, railway vehicles and the controls of individual aspects, motor vehicles and their control modules, radar systems, building control, heating systems or medical treatment units. The role of Systems Engineering grows increasingly important with Smart Eco Systems due to its individual subsystems intricately interacting to form a whole. Application areas for Smart Eco Systems include Industry 4.0, Smart Home, Smart Health, Smart Grid, Smart Mobility, Smart Farming and Smart Rural Areas.

Notations

In the disciplines of analysis and architecture, Systems Engineering uses modeling notations  such as UML  (Unified Modeling Language) and SysML  (System Modeling Language). In analysis, textual descriptions serve as additions to mostly non-functional requirements. UML-diagrams used during analysis are the class diagram as an information model, use case- and activity-diagram for the functional perspective and state machine for the behavior-oriented perspective. SysML includes next to UML also block diagrams as an information model. To build the architecture in UML, component diagrams and sequence diagrams are used, to which are added block definition- and internal block-diagrams in SysML. System integration does not use model-based notations. The field of testing works with its own well-established notations. Those are mostly prose-based, but can be more formalized, too, as in the case of test automation.

Motivation for Systems Engineering

In the context of systems engineering, it is important to motivate that it is worth investing effort as early as possible in the development process in order to be able to save effort at the end. For example, sufficient analysis of requirements brings a better understanding of what a system should do later, and that the components of the system that follow from the architecture work together correctly and together exhibit the behavior desired by customers. Thus, early effort on an analysis and architecture simultaneously minimizes the risk of erroneous development, as well as unwanted surprises. In addition, it ensures that it is clear at an early stage what is feasible and what it will cost. Furthermore, systems engineering supports, for example:

  •     making the complexity of systems controllable,
  •     to support impact analyses for further development and error management,
  •     to be able to react more quickly to changes in new framework conditions
  •     manage system variants and
  •     achieve shorter development times.

 

Introduction of Systems Engineering

As with every introduction of something new, it is important to establish a change process to achieve the introduction goal.

Typically, every company is already doing systems engineering in some way. However, this systems engineering is not explicit. Explicit systems engineering ensures that decisions can be made deliberately and at the right time.

As an implementation strategy of systems engineering, it is not only possible to imagine the complete introduction of a new process from the beginning. Rather, a gradual, cautious introduction is also possible, in which one person initially only implicitly assumes responsibility for systems engineering and plays more of an omniscient contact person in the project. In this way, the importance of such a central role in a real project is seen, so that its establishment in the company can be motivated more easily.

Last but not least, the introduction of systems engineering means a comprehensive and sustainable change in development processes for many companies and additionally requires a further development of the corporate culture. Here, change management approaches and agile methods and ways of thinking can prove helpful.

 

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