Systems engineering and PLM

Introduction

Systems Engineering and PLM –
What’s going on in industry?
What’s the research situation?
What are IT providers doing?

Not so long ago – perhaps for 10 or 15 years – product innovations mostly originated from the machine-building engineer’s field of specialization. His inventions, development methods, new manufacturing processes, modern technologies for surface finishing and many other aspects made products ready for the market and led to these being attractive for the purchaser due to their attractive shape, good kinematics and safe operation. The use of software, for example CAD, CAM and CAE, contributed enormously to this.

Today the situation has fundamentally changed. Estimates indicate that around 90% of all innovations in the meantime come from the informatics branch – even for machinery and plant. Top of the list here is embedded software, i.e. software integrated into the product that is primarily responsible for its functionality. And by connecting these products to the Internet, the door to the next generation of intelligent networked products has already opened.

The changeover from mechanical product to intelligent system is taking place imperceptibly. It is, however, causing a considerable shift in the industry. The conventional methods of product development no longer suffice to manufacture the systems demanded by the market in the necessary quality. There is also a lack of specialists trained in an interdisciplinary manner who are capable of managing the corresponding projects.

In this respect, Systems Engineering is nowadays an often-heard buzzword. Even small and mid-range companies are beginning to consider whether this term conceals methods that could offer help in the construction of machinery, plant, components or consumer goods.

And, of course, the question must be asked as to which role System Engineering plays in relation to product lifecycle management.  Is it possible to simply extend PLM to cover more than mechanical parts and electronics and indeed include informatics? Does its role require a more thorough description when your own management also finds the PLM umbrella catering for software data?

In the same way that industry is now commencing a discussion with the scientific and research world on how to better get to grips with the development of multidisciplinary systems, it is also starting a discussion with the suppliers of standard software for engineering on what tools they need for this.

On all three levels – in industry, in research and teaching, and among IT providers – Systems Engineering is currently one of the central questions, if not the most important question of all. In the near future, we shall examine this question in detail in the PLMportal, taking a look at various industrial sectors. We shall also be including contributions from the scientific world and taking a look at what software manufacturers operating in the PLM field are doing behind the scenes.

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