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A new approach to systems engineering

Worldwide IoT and Industrial Digital Strategist, IBM

Today’s smarter products have more electronics and lines of code than ever before. These products present a tremendous challenge to manufacturers, many of whom are just beginning to embrace systems engineering as a way to harness complexity. Adding fuel to the fire is the fact that mass-market consumers are demanding bargain-priced, customized products that meet their ever-changing requirements. And they want them now.

As a result, manufacturers are struggling along several fronts: managing complexity, achieving quality, getting products to market faster and staying on top of changing customer needs. A smart systems engineering approach offers a way to develop complex systems that promise to reduce your costs, satisfy your customers and make your engineers happier. 

Enterprises need a way to make change part of the fabric of product development. Continuous engineering is the answer. It is an enterprise capability that speeds delivery of increasingly sophisticated and connected products by enabling businesses to derive and apply insight while managing cost, quality and risk. 

Continuous engineering helps you deal with the effects of all the changes within the ecosystem where your product lives. It treats product development as an iterative process, applying techniques from practices such as agile development and lean engineering to embrace change. While it retains the necessary rigor and milestones, the methods used are adapted to incorporate changes. 

Continuous engineering signifies a new approach to systems engineering. It keeps the overall systems focus, levels of abstraction and core activities that form the basis of systems engineering but puts a new spin on how the activities are conducted. It also adds some fresh ingredients to pull in market and operational knowledge from outside traditional processes and suggests ways to exploit strategic assets, such as engineering data and reusable code.

In continuous engineering, the “V” no longer represents a sequential series of steps (unlike the traditional V-model for systems engineering); instead, it represents activities that are conducted iteratively (and, to the greatest extent possible, in parallel) as needed throughout the product development process, relationships between activities and linkages among engineering, operational and market data. 

This illustration shows the importance of data relationships in an engineering context. Best practices in continuous engineering include sharing data across engineering disciplines, reusing design elements whenever possible and incorporating market and operational data into product development activities. Open standards such as Open Services for Lifecycle Collaboration (OSLC) help link data and engineering tools to make continuous engineering a reality. 

Continuous engineering offers game-changing opportunities to capitalize on new technologies so you can radically improve efficiencies and reduce costs while keeping up with the shifting demands of customers who are snatching up smarter products by the dozens.