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Analysis and Design
Systems that Require Engineering
Earlier we listed examples of various types of systems. Some of these systems
are workflow-based systems that produce systems, products, or services such as
schools, hospitals, banking systems, and manufacturers. As such, they require
insightful, efficient, and effective organizational structures, supporting assets,
and collaborative interactions.
Some systems require the analysis, design, and development of specialized structures,
complex interactions, and performance monitoring that may have an impact on the
safety, health, and wellbeing of the public as well as the environment, engineering
of systems may be required. As you investigate WHAT is required to analyze, design,
and develop both types of systems, you will find that they both share a common
set concepts, principles, and practices. Business systems, for example, may require
application of various analytical and mathematical principles to develop business
models and performance models to determine profitability and return on investment
(ROI) and statistical theory for optimal waiting line or weather conditions, for
example. In the case of highly complex systems, analytical, mathematical, and
scientific principles may have to be applied. We refer to this as the engineering
of systems, which may require a mixture of engineering disciplines such as system
engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and software engineering.
These disciplines may only be required at various stages during the analysis,
design, and development of a system, product, or service.
This text provides the concepts, principles, and practices that apply to the
analysis, design, and development of both types of systems. On the surface these
two categories imply a clear distinction between those that require engineering
and those that do not. So, how do you know when the engineering of systems is
Actually these two categories represent a continuum of systems, products, or
services that range from making a piece of paper, which can be complex, to developing
a system as complex as an aircraft carrier or NASA ’s
International Space Station (ISS). Perhaps the best way to address the question:
What is system engineering?
What Is System Engineering?
Explicitly System Engineering (SE) is the multidisciplinary engineering of
systems. However, as with any definition, the response should eliminate the need
for additional clarifying questions. Instead, the engineering of a system response
evokes two additional questions: What is engineering? What is a system? Pursuing
this line of thought, let’s explore these questions further.
Defining Key Terms
Engineering students often graduate without being introduced to the root term
that provides the basis for their formal education. The term, engineering originates
from the Latin word ingenerare, which means “to create.” Today, the
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), which accredits engineering
schools in the United States, defines the term as follows:
- Engineering “[T]he profession in which knowledge of the mathematical
and natural sciences gained by study, experience, and practice is applied with
judgment to develop ways to utilize economically the materials and forces of nature
for the benefit of mankind.” (Source: Accreditation Board for Engineering
and Technology [ABET])
There are a number of ways to define System Engineering (SE), each dependent
on an individual’s or organization’s perspectives, experiences, and
the like. System engineering means different things to different people.
You will discover that even your own views of System Engineering (SE) will
evolve over time. So, if you have a diver-sity of perspectives and definitions,
what should you do? What is important is that you, program teams, or your organization:
Establish a consensus definition.
Document the definition in organizational or program command media to serve
as a guide for all.
For those who prefer a brief, high-level definition that encompasses the key
aspects of System Engineering (SE), consider the following definition:
- System Engineering (SE) The multidisciplinary application of analytical, mathematical,
and scientific principles to formulating, selecting, and developing a solution
that has acceptable risk, satisfies user operational need(s), and minimizes development
and life cycle costs while balancing stakeholder interests.
This definition can be summarized in a key System Engineering (SE) principle:
System engineering BEGINS and ENDS with the User.
System Engineering (SE), as we will see, is one of those terms that requires
more than simply defining WHAT System Engineering (SE) does; the definition must
also identify WHO/WHAT benefits from System Engineering (SE). The ABET definition
of engineering, for example, includes the central objective “to utilize,
economically, the materials and forces of nature for the benefit of mankind.”
Applying this same context to the definition of System Engineering (SE), the
User of systems, products, and services symbolizes humankind. However, mankind’s
survival is very dependent on a living environment that supports sustainment of
the species. Therefore, System Engineering (SE) must have a broader perspective
than simply “for the benefit of mankind.” System Engineering (SE)
must also ensure a balance between humankind and the living environment without
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