Systems Engineering

Systems engineering is the engineering discipline that was born out of the need to have the methods and tools for managing effectively the development and acquisition of complex systems.  With origins dating to the 1940’s at AT&T’s Bell Laboratories, systems engineering by the 1960’s had achieved maturity and had demonstrated its efficacy in its application to various weapons and space programs.  Systems engineering processes, when applied appropriately, bring rigor to the management of a system's development from initial concept to system retirement.  The principal objectives of systems engineering are to make certain that the delivered system satisfies the intended mission requirements and that the developmental and financial risks to the program are minimized or controlled.

Effective systems engineering of a complex system lies in part in the ability to consider and address the vast landscape of the factors impacting the design, production, and operation of the system and to seamlessly integrate a broad spectrum of engineering disciplines and specialized skills that inevitably are required over the system life cycle.  While the systems engineering framework is largely formulaic, effective application of the framework requires resourcefulness and creativity, a clear understanding of the operational context, an appreciation of the relevant technologies and their future evolution, and the prescience to visualize the future impacts that early system decisions might have on the execution of the program.  The prototypical life cycle of a system is comprised of the following phases:

  • Requirements definition,
  • Concept definition,
  • Preliminary design,
  • Detailed design,
  • Production or fabrication,
  • Operation and maintenance, and
  • System retirement.

Enveloping the life cycle, the systems engineering process provides the program manager with decision points or gates and the information to determine the readiness of the system to progress to the next phase.  Each phase of the life cycle presents risks that have the potential for a system failure.  Classic and occasionally infamous examples of failed system acquisitions can be traced back to the lack of rigor in the critical requirements and concept definition phases or the failure to control the resulting system baseline.

ASI’s systems engineering capabilities are based on decades of experience assisting our customers in acquiring new systems and capabilities.  The projects range from being part of a systems engineering team on large complex systems to providing the systems engineering team on small projects.  Most projects have been performed for customers with a legacy of strong systems engineering processes.  For other customers, we have been the vanguard for introducing these processes into their projects.  We have the ability and experience to tailor these potentially onerous processes to match the specific needs and constraints of the project.  To our systems engineering projects, we invariably bring

  •   Knowledge of systems engineering best practices,
  •   Experience structuring and managing projects and programs,
  •   Strong domain expertise in relevant engineering disciplines: electrical, mechanical, civil, ocean, network, and computer science,
  •   Understanding of the system operations and the operational environment,
  •   Exceptional experience in operations analysis, system trade studies, technology assessments, testing, and verification.

We have applied these capabilities to space-based, airborne, terrestrial, and marine systems.