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

Considering a system in its entirety also means to examine all requirements of a system in the course of the entire product cycle, starting with the initial idea all the way to forms of disposal. Next to purely functional and quality-related requirements, other requirements that are of major importance for the product include logistics, manufacturing, quality management, development, care, maintenance and disposal.

During systems analysis, Systems Engineering identifies reliable requirements using Requirements Engineering-methods , develops the system architecture , assembles parts of the system and subsequently tests the requirements with the support of a testing department. Different operations are being regarded from different levels, such as system or subsystem, which consists of several components, or pure hardware- or software-components. The most basic level of observation is determined by that part of the system which is handed over to an internal or external supplier.

A Systems Engineer’s job is to turn a multidisciplinary development into an interdisciplinary one. He is the first person of contact for project management and often takes over the role of technical project manager. Additionally to highly-developed presentation and moderation skills, the Systems Engineer is equipped with the necessary know-how to assess specific decisions on component-level. He further provides involved developers with a basis for decision-making.

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.

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.

Introduction of Systems Engineering

As with every introduction of something new, a change management process needs to be in place for achieving the goal of a successful introduction. In the case of Systems Engineering specifically, it is furthermore essential to stress the fact that putting effort into the development process pays off in the long run and minimizes effort in the final phases. A thorough analysis of requirements, for instance, grants a better understanding of what a system is supposed to provide once finished. It helps the components of the system, put in place by the architecture, to work together and generate the specific behavior the costumer had wished for.

An early effort in analysis and architecture therefore minimizes the risk for deficiencies in development and unwanted surprises. It also guarantees the correct and early assessment of what is realizable and how much it will cost.

Generally speaking, every company does Systems Engineering in one way or another, but rarely in an explicit way. An explicit Systems Engineering guarantees that decisions are being made consciously and at the right time.

An introduction strategy for Systems Engineering must not necessarily entail the introduction of an entirely new process all at once. A successive, more cautious introduction is conceivable, where one person takes over responsibilities for Systems Engineering only implicitly and plays the omniscient contact person in the project. Thus, the importance of such a central role in a real project becomes apparent, which in turn will make it easier to justify introducing that role within the company.

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