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The recent development of systems engineering can be dated from two events. First, following the lead of the US Department of Defense and its introduction of standards for contractors, systems engineering was taken up by companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin and, in the UK, British Aerospace, Marconi and the Lucas Group. Second, in August 1990, a group of individuals interested in systems engineering met in Seattle (Box 10 - extract from a paper presented at the International Committee for Systems Engineering Symposium in 1996). This was the beginning of first the National Council on Systems Engineering and then the International Council on Systems Engineering.
You should now read the document "Box 10- The recent development of systems engineering" in the section titled 'Extra reading materials'.
The other modern development of a variant of systems engineering occurred in the UK from the late 1970s onwards. Under the direction of John Parnaby, Lucas Engineering and Systems Department was established to improve the effectiveness of the disparate group of factories that made up the group.
Many were in need of urgent reorganization and updating in terms of their manufacturing approaches and methods. In response to this need, Parnaby and his staff developed methodologies for product and manufacturing and business systems engineering.
Parnaby (1995) stated:
A system is an integrated combination of components designed to follow a common purpose. A systems philosophy demands that an un-coordinated, piecemeal activity is replaced by a coordinated approach in which the identity of the separate parts of the system are subsumed by the identity of the total system. Systems engineering is an art, based on control systems principles, for designing complex systems. Individual elements and subsystems are fitted together to achieve an overall system purpose objective in the most effective way, at the lowest cost, with minimum complexity.
The Lucas approach to manufacturing systems engineering (MSE) is illustrated in Figure 45. This illustrates the activities undertaken as part of the concept design of the system. The methodology lays particular stress upon the need to establish business targets and market plans as the basis for the design of the system. The methodology is designed to be implemented through the work of a multidisciplinary task-force. The members of the task-force can be classified into the three groups shown in Figure 46.
Figure 45- Manufacturing systems engineering methodology
Figure 46- The composition of the MSE task-force
As the statement made in the last paragraph of the extract in Box 10 suggests, there remains some uncertainty about the nature and extent of systems engineering.
This uncertainty is reflected in the numerous definitions of systems engineering that are current. A selection of these definitions is given in Box 11.
You should now read the document "Box 11- Definitions of systems engineering", in the section tilted 'Extra reading materials'.
From the definitions of systems engineering in Box 11 summarize the characteristics of the approach.
For the answer to the previous activity; read the document "Answer- definitions of systems engineering", in the section titled 'Extra reading materials'.
This topic has examined the historical development of systems engineering and modern concepts of the subject.
It has discussed:
The beginnings and early development of the subject as policy analysis
The use of systems engineering in organisations
The development of methodologies associated with information technology.