What is Systems Engineering?
Written By: Mark Taber
2/1/2021 Read Time : 2:30 min
Systems engineering delivers a master plan for creating, building, and manufacturing complex products in the form of a holistic, multi-disciplinary, and collaborative approach to design and maintenance.

As products grow in complexity, it is increasingly difficult creating and communicating design ideas that all stakeholders can easily understand. Simply put, collaborating and communicating about a product or system is difficult unless everyone involved is working from a single model. That’s why a growing number of organizations are embracing systems engineering—specifically, model-based systems engineering

What is Systems Engineering?

Systems engineering provides access to a common system model or set of system models, enabling engineers and those from different domains of expertise to more easily access, edit, and approve product designs. In turn, they can more readily express ideas, make decisions, and ask questions about the model. This eliminates the need to continually request input and information from design engineers, and enables everyone to work together as one product engineering group.

With model-based systems engineering, organizations efficiently capture and communicate design intent through a common language, improving stakeholder communication and buy-in. Then, system of systems visualization can be enabled by an asset library, thus reducing complexity, enabling planned reuse, and implementing product lines that maximize cost savings and productivity. As a result, stakeholders across organizations can: 

  • Explore options rapidly and early
  • Improve cross-discipline collaboration 
  • Achieve high rates of reuse
  • Accelerate time-to-market

Vaillant Group Case Study

The Vaillant Group, a family-owned company founded in Remscheid, Germany, in 1874, is a global market and technology leader in the field of heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) technologies. Driven by changes to the heating and cooling industry, the Vaillant Group develops high-efficiency products that conserve resources and enhance people’s quality of living.

Today, the complexity of Vaillant’s heating and cooling solutions is changing rapidly. The company must comply with a tangle of regulations that vary dramatically from one market to the next. Regulation topics range from the power plug to environmental requirements. Vaillant’s solutions are highly configurable: boilers, controllers, solar panels, and more can be upgraded and enhanced depending on the customer’s needs.

Now, electronics, software, and connectivity play a central role in Vaillant’s heating and cooling solutions. Features are no longer delivered just through mechanical components like they were 20 or 30 years ago. Instead, they are delivered and enabled by smart software. Delivering software updates over time is challenging.

To manage this escalating complexity, Vaillant turned to Windchill Modeler as a follow-on to its Windchill PLM initiative. In accordance with its 10-year digital transformation roadmap, the company used Windchill Modeler to implement a standardized requirement management and model-based systems engineering (MBSE) approach. The initiative started with customer needs and continued all the way to the market launch of the solution.

Based on the engineering v-model and the MBSE methodology SPES (software platform embedded systems), Vaillant embraces the idea that different engineering disciplines must work together when defining and specifying architectures. Windchill Modeler is the design platform where teams collaboratively define and manage specification models for every context: from a set of buildings, to the climate system, to the heating or boiler system.

The shift to Windchill Modeler allowed the company to converge on a single systems engineering methodology and solution, standardizing from a range of different tools and approaches. Everything is specified at an early stage. Everything is connected to requirements. The systems model becomes the means of communication, for the system and software architecture on all levels of abstraction and with all stakeholders. The model is the common platform for joint decisions, a single authoritative source of truth. 

As a result, Vaillant now creates architectures in a consistent way and saves them to a library for reuse, as well as for customer support purposes. The organization can now focus on developing the best solution across disciplines, instead of optimizing within just one.

Most importantly, now Valliant can frontload its development process. Engineering domains are enjoying improved ease of communication and collaboration. Interface issues become apparent much sooner. Teams can now identify and resolve issues earlier in development, instead of running into them when assembling the first physical build.

Learn more about Vaillant Group’s digital transformation here.

Tags: Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
About the Author Mark Taber

Mark Taber is Vice President of Marketing. In his current role, Mark is focused on helping manufacturers drive digital transformation, with a foundation of PLM and the digital thread, within the enterprise and across enterprises.

Mark has more than 30 years of experience working in the areas of process automation, application integration, cyber security, and development. Prior to PTC, Mark was CEO of Active Endpoints (acquired by Informatica), a process automation firm. A graduate of the Wharton School, Mark currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.