EVERETT, Wa., 24 April 2014. “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower,” James DeLaPorte, business transformation consultant, DeLaPLM Consulting, says, quoting Steve Jobs. “Innovation is the lifeblood of business,” he adds during his “Rise of the Systems Engineer for the 21st Century” presentation during IESF 2014 at the Future of Flight museum in Everett, Wa.
“The role of the systems design engineer is far more important that many people perceive it to be,” DeLaPorte says. “Consumers want features, really smart and intelligent things, and things need to be automatic;” yet, they also want low cost, easy and cheap to fix, and work forever. “Who is going to create all that? The systems engineer is going to do it, and create that environment.”
Everything used to be mechanical, but electronics and software changed everything, DeLaPorte reminisces. Then, the “modern systems engineer was born. Engineers now had to concern themselves with system functionality, system response, and user interface.” For example, flight control systems were originally all mechanical (pulleys, cables, and actuators), then were redesigned to analog and then digital controls.
At the same time, however, the design room organization has largely remained the same, DeLaPorte laments. Design rooms are typically managed by structures folks, who see the housing or platform; that is, structural engineers see the plane, while systems engineers see all the systems that make up that plane. Structures engineers drive the schedule, systems engineers lag the structures folks, structural changes late in design are difficult and expensive, systems can be inadvertently compromised in design, and systems design and systems features are what the consumer wants most (more concerned about the systems features than the structure housing them), he says.
How do we change this?, DeLaPorte questions. Wait for new design room management, ask for more systems design budge, or ask for more time? “Let’s change the organization and make the systems engineers more dominant,” he recommends. “Bring the system design to the lead function; let the systems design mature before committing to the structures design; and fully design and simulation systems designs first. Let form follow function; the resulting design will be better accepted by customers, and happy customers will buy more products.”
If DeLaPorte were king for a day, he’d implement the following workflow:
- Mission concept review
- System requirements review
- Mission definition review
- System definition review
- Systems design review
- Structure design review
- Joint prelim design review
- Critical design review