Systems Engineering and Model-Based Systems Engineering

The development of smart, connected products is a highly interdisciplinary process. Not only must the engineering disciplines traditionally involved in mechanical, electrical/electronic and software development be integrated in the development process at an early stage but also new stakeholders , so that their various requirements can be incorporated: the production planning department, which has to develop the appropriate systems, the service department, which will be offering the product as part of a service package, and external partners, with whose systems or platforms the products are to be connected.

How important are Systems Engineering (SE) and Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) in the context of Industry 4.0 and what role do they play?

Domain-specific IT tools and methods provide little support for this interdisciplinary process. One recommended alternative is Systems Engineering, an approach used in the aerospace industry. It supports all the disciplines involved in development throughout all the phases of the product engineering process, independently of the procedural model being used – regardless of whether it is based on the classic V model or on agile approaches. The requirements and functions of the system and its subsystems, as well as their interaction, are modeled, simulated and validated in abstract form on the basis of the stakeholder analysis.

An SE-based methodology that is becoming increasingly popular in industry is Model-based Systems Engineering with the help of SysML. MBSE formalizes the methodology employed for system modeling and system validation, making it easier for models to be exchanged with other participants in the process and reused.

Although Systems Engineering methods and tools are already being used at many companies, their use generally takes place separate from the discipline-specific development processes. On one hand, the challenge involves establishing a cross-discipline development process for smart, connected products and, on the other, integrating the tools and methods in the PLM processes in such a way that traditional functions such as version, change and configuration management can be used on the MBSE artifacts. MBSE also has a major impact on how companies are organized and requires a new type of employee with new skills, which is why support for its implementation should be provided by competent partners.

Developing smart, connected products is an interdisciplinary process. It can only work if all those involved speak the same language.
Markus Brandstaetter , Senior Consultant, PROSTEP AG