Model Based Matters is the newest series from Siemens software, where Tim Kinman and I sit down to chat about what is happening around model-based systems engineering (MBSE). He is the Vice President of Trending Solutions and the Global Program Lead for Systems Digitalization here at Siemens Digital Industries Software. In this first episode we cover MBSE in broad strokes, but throughout the series we will have in-depth discussions from industry specialists and subject matter experts on nearly every model-based matter.
Whether you are just learning about MBSE or have been using one of its predecessors already, episode one provides a great introduction to how this methodology has evolved, what it means to develop a complex system and some of the mounting pressures in development that will require a new process to stay competitive.
What is model-based systems engineering?
It is an updated way to look at the development process, from the initial concept all the way through the product lifecycle. It is not a tool, it is a methodology that relies on centralized, consistent, and accurate information on the entire development process. It starts with defining an architecture for what the product will be, that can include requirements from customers, regulators and even manufacturing limitations, often called the product definition. This single architecture is refined in the relevant groups – electronics, mechanical, electrical and software engineering and even business groups – to define the product more fully throughout development and uncover any integrations problems early in development.
Many of the ideas of model-based systems engineering evolved from the systems engineering processes used by aerospace and automotive companies to create their complex products. These legacy practices relied on documents instead of a comprehensive model, or a digital twin, which left pathways for miscommunication and error in the development process. Documents can be spread across organizations, with different people holding onto older or newer versions that do not provide an accurate description of the project. The move away from mostly mechanical products has strained the efficacy of legacy systems engineering processes, adding far more complexity across the enterprise.
Connecting the complex
The systems being engineered for automobiles and airplanes were already complex mechanically, they controlled explosions to move us around the world and defied gravity to give humans flight. But these systems have only become more complex with the introduction of more engineering domains like electronics and software. These changes brought integration challenges to development that are only exacerbated by the large supply chains of such complex products.
As an example, emergency braking in a vehicle requires sensors gathering data on the position relative to other objects. Often the supplier for these will also provide the software that integrates these components into the whole car. The software needs to integrate with the electrical control system for the car’s brakes and pull in the anti-lock braking systems to stop safely. The electrical components also require power, they need to be able to draw from the power circuit of the car without impacting other systems. This integration hurdle is multiplied hundreds if not thousands of times for a single car or aircraft, but it also impacts other systems from the energy sector or the medical field. Every complex product can benefit from the greater visibility afforded by MBSE.
It’s really systems of systems
The hundreds to thousands of systems an individual vehicle or product need to work harmoniously to deliver the right product set out in the architecture and doing so is no small task. But many of these products will not function in their own bubble and will be part a yet another system. For automotive that may be for safety functions – allowing vehicles to communicate and navigate the roads collaboratively, or more simply to share information on new and unique traffic situations for autonomy. Something as ubiquitous as a cellphone is a system of systems, within yet another system working on providing everything you ask of it while also contributing to a collective understanding (think traffic updates, those rely on GPS data from many users) or being able to push the right security update to many different devices without breaking their functionality. The ground an individual product can cover in such a connected world is amazing and model-based systems engineering is here to help organize the data and make it actionable. For the full story of how MBSE is changing the way we develop for the better, listen to the full episode. And make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss out on our next discussions where we talk defining the product and how to enable the communication to create it.
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