Fraunhofer IPK

Institute for Production Systems and Design Technology

Systems Engineering

Holistic model-guided Engineering

Systems engineering is a discipline which brings together various approaches and methods for the development of complex systems. Generally speaking, the complexity of a system can be measured in terms of the variety of different elements that go to compose it. The complexity of a product service system (PSS), for instance, stands in relation to the integrated composition of product attributes and functions in the direct context of the services for which it is used, and which are simultaneously developed. The challenge in mechatronic systems, on the other hand, is coordination of development work in the three separate disciplines of mechanics, electronics and software. Yet in both these cases complexity is determined by sophisticated coordination between the various strands of development or areas of activity in a development project. Thus, it is apparent that structured purposeful coordination between the cast of expert actors is a key factor in the successful development of complex systems.

Three dimensions of coordination may be identified within complex systems development projects:

  • Coordination between those responsible for various phases of the lifecycle (such as development, manufacturing, maintenance, repair and overhaul),
  • Coordination between those responsible for various organizational areas (such as the development department, project management, quality management, and marketing) and,
  • Coordination between the various disciplines with responsibility for the design of various system components or modules (such as mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, and computer      scientists).

There are procedures and methods which support coordination on all these three levels. Here too, we can distinguish between three dimensions of support:

  • Support for the planning and control of workflows (approaches, processes, etc.),
  • Support for the planning and control of projects focused on calendar dates and resources, and
  • Support for the design of system components /modules.

The Virtual Product Creation (VPC) division of Fraunhofer IPK develops methods for all of these areas which support individual actors in a systems development project in their own work and in coordinating their own work with that of their colleagues and external partners. Our research scientists and engineers are currently focused on the following issues:

  • How targeted coordination between the experts for different phases of the lifecycle can contribute to the development of more sustainable products;
  • How purposeful linkage between the various areas of activity in a product development project – such as requirements specification, functional modeling and product structure development – can      streamline analysis of system dependencies;
  • How integrated development of products and services within their context of use can create product service systems (PSSs);
  • How closer linkage between project management and development departments can better guarantee adherence to project planning.

When addressing all these issues, it is particularly important not to rely exclusively on a pure process-oriented approach, but always to take account of the possibilities offered by modern IT support and to factor them in the actual particular conditions pertaining to the developer company. Our long proven record in process consulting and our deep knowledge of the IT tools used in virtual product

For all enquiries about Systems Engineering, contact Dr.-Ing. Michael Schmitz at the Virtual Product Creation division.