A new look at systems engineering

  • 18-Jul-2011 02:16 EDT
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Kevin Baughey, Automotive Industry Director, Enovia, Dassault Systèmes wrote this article in celebration of AEI’s 100th anniversary.

A major influence on the cost of the vehicle and vehicle complexity is the growing use of embedded electronics to enable the features and capabilities that customers are looking for in the modern automobile. At the same time, there will remain high pressure to control costs while improving or maintaining existing quality levels.

New approaches to mobility, sustainability, and infotainment create the need for new combinations of electrical, software, mechanical, and chemical know-how. With this complexity comes increased need for multidisciplinary collaboration and development across various departments, especially as architectures and solutions evolve within the industry to satisfy the changing needs of the customer and environment.

To help control this complexity, the systems engineering discipline provides a collaborative business methodology that manages all the domains of engineering and development from a holistic point of view. This approach is significantly enhanced and improved through a common view on what needs to be accomplished as well as a common model to develop it in, providing a better understanding for all participants of how the system will operate as a whole.

However, systems engineering in its current approach has really been a reactive change process with ineffective traceability back to the requirements given the multiple heterogeneous software tools as well as little to no connected validation of the subsystems. There has been no ability to test what happens to the whole when a part malfunctions and make adjustments within context.

Firms must take a new look at systems engineering and view it not as a tool or solution but as the core process for delivery of products. It becomes the very center of all development activity, providing the framework from which the automotive community develops product and technology.

Increasing vehicle complexity requires the ability to manage development decisions proactively and in ways where the impact of any change can be accessed prior to it being made through virtual design and validation. This can be accomplished through a new platform that enables model-based systems engineering called RFLP (requirement, functional, logical, physical).

RFLP provides a collaborative systems engineering methodology that can capture, manage, and track product requirements with full traceability, all from one engineering desktop window. Model-based engineering as produced by the RFLP approach puts more rigor into the process, providing a link back to requirements for each logical, functional, and physical change.

Based upon a single, open, and scalable service-oriented architecture platform, RFLP provides a unified infrastructure to share whole data across the specific discipline. Engineering domains and solutions are linked together in a common and dynamic engineering template, which allows for virtual simulation and validation at any system level. Components from multiple disciplines are modeled in a way that enables dynamic simulation of the complete system via a virtual prototype.

With this approach, changing the product and/or requirements is completely traceable as to how it impacts the other systems. The requirements are directly linked to the design decision; performance, fuel economy, and cost will all directly influence the design choice.

The demands on the auto manufacturing community are not going to lessen. Remaining successful in the future will require new robust product development approaches that can handle the increasing complexity and rate of change, while pursuing a holistic approach that provides transparency throughout the process, better controlling cost and quality while meeting consumer demand.

Kevin Baughey, Automotive Industry Director, Enovia, Dassault Systèmes, wrote this article in celebration of SAE's centennial. 

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