Systems Engineering – Perspective

Engineering arose from the need to harness increasingly complicated knowledge to provide solutions for humanity. Simple needs were addressed by individuals. As the needs grew, the number of designers/implementers increased, as did the number of disciplines that needed to be addressed. This drove a transition from artisans to craftsmen to teams of craftsmen. As knowledge advanced, the craftsmen included scientists, and then discipline specialists and engineers. Relatively isolated products could be successfully designed often in a single discipline. As product s applied multiple disciplines, teams of scientists and engineers formed to address solutions.

Systems Engineering had its formal beginning in the major weapons programs and logistics of World War II (although systems approaches can be found in communications systems earlier in the 20th century)1 . Systems Engineering grew through its application in Cold War activities that required various suppliers to work together but lost visibility through the 1970’s and 80’s as companies brought varied disciplines “in-house” to control IP and quality. During this time, many issues driven by complexity were being discovered and (re-)addressed by the software community. By the early 1990’s, the rise of Mechatronics and larger systems of systems (such as the Global Positioning System) brought the need to revisit formal processes for analyzing, designing and managing project developments. The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) formed to address this need (1995)2.

INCOSE has made splendid progress in formalizing and promoting engineering practices as applied to systems. I recommend contributing to the discipline and organization, by becoming a member INCOSE and joining a chapter and participating in working groups3. Bring and share your skills, experience and perspectives.

This juncture offers the opportunity to examine current formalism and offer additions and perspective for practicing engineers.

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  1. From INCOSE – the International Council on Systems Engineering, Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. Originally formed as NCOSE (National Council on Systems Engineering) in 1990, the organization expanded its scope to INCOSE in 1995. Some history here.
  3. We have been members of INCOSE since 1997 and associated with chapters when they were available locally.