Chris Shepherd - Systems Engineer
 ► What is Systems Engineering?

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What is SE?

Unsurprising as this may seem INCOSE (the International Council on Systems Engineering) define Systems Engineering as "the discipline of developing systems products or processes based on a total systems perspective and utilizing a systems engineering approach." It was conceived of, and introduced by, the US Government to counteract the difficulties encountered in the engineering of increasingly large, complex, and inter-disciplinary systems. Systems Engineering has evolved to aid in the design of other types of systems, including small systems.

 

Some Principles of Systems Engineering
Systems Engineering has as its basis a few simple but powerful principles. These are outlined below:


Systems Engineering Principles

  • Iterative Top-Down Design This means that a complex system is designed by breaking it down into its component sub-systems and then repeating the process on each sub-system until all that remains are easily designable components.

  • Bottom-Up Integration Large systems are built by taking the lowest level components and putting them together one level at a time. As each level of integration is completed it is tested to make sure it works. Bottom-up integration is top-down design in reverse.

  • System Life Cycle A life cycle is the progression of a system from inception (NPIP Phase 1), to implementation (NPIP Phases 2 & 3), operation (NPIP Phases 4 & 5), maintenance and eventually its shutdown, disassembly and disposal (not covered by NPIP but included in item 9 of the GPS Environmental Policy Statement).

  • User Perspective Systems Engineering attempts to build systems that take into account what the user wants, needs, prefers, is happy with and can use.

The principles of Systems Engineering are very powerful and can be used in a very wide variety of different situations where a methodical and holistic approach is needed.
 

Defining Terms


Systems Engineering Terms

  • Architecting The process by which a system is created, designed and built.

  • Complexity The degree to which a system has a design or implementation that is difficult to design or verify.

  • Design The process of defining the architecture, components, interfaces and other characteristics of a system or component. The result of the process.

  • Development The process of translating a design into hardware and/or software components.

  • Heuristics Empirical rules of thumb derived from experience and judgement, useful for attacking problems too complex to be solved by analytical techniques alone.

  • Requirements Statements which identify the essential needs for a system in order for it to have value and utility.

  • Specification A document that describes technical requirements and verification procedures for items, materials and services.

  • System An integrated composite of people, products and processes that provide a capability to satisfy a stated need or objective.

  • System Architecture The underlying structure of a system.

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