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Only those that can harness relentless change to drive rapid product evolution will succeed in the future

Andrew Hawthorn
28 Jun 2022

In the sixth of our “Intelligent Industry: Journey to Farnborough International Airshow” blog series, Andrew Hawthorn builds upon our exploration of faster, more intelligent innovation by considering that the organisations who succeed in the future will be those that invest now in advanced engineering technologies.

The world is becoming more complex, more rapidly

The incessant need of competitors to demonstrate market leadership, sustainability and respond to customers’ increasing demands is putting greater pressure on R&D teams to innovate faster. Therefore, the rate at which we build our systems is growing exponentially because the components we build them out of are rapidly changing, resulting in far more complex systems. This change is happening on multiple axes and so the impact of the change is far greater than the sum of its parts.

System Functionality is increasing exponentially

The amount of code in fighter jets has been growing by an order of magnitude each decade for the last 50 years with the F-35 having some 24 million lines of code.

All industries are seeing similar increases in software complexity.

Battery density has been increasing consistently by 5-8% per year which is exponential growth.

Think about the impact doubling battery density would have on the aviation industry, the way we travel would rapidly change. This doubling has been achieved in the lab.

We are already seeing this with the eVTOL market but as billions of dollars are pumped into battery research, we will see continuous improvements in battery density over the rest of this decade which will mean more and more flights can be achieved with battery power alone.

More complex composites materials and digital analytical automation are reducing the weight of our aircraft components which, in turn, support CO2 reductions of the product operation and offer greater potential for battery powered aircraft.

To succeed, we must embrace agility

As Will Roper (Assistant secretary of the US Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) states: “In today’s era of volatility … the only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility, that’s it. Because nothing else is sustainable; everything else you create, somebody else can replicate”

So, how will we all step up to this challenge?

  • We can look to the INCOSE vision for guidance to what the future holds.
  • We need to develop approaches and tools that support rapid re-design.
  • We must ensure we can deploy updates to our products in a safe and reliable manner.

The INCOSE 2035 Vision

INCOSE has released its 2035 vision which includes global megatrends, challenges, and the future state of systems engineering.

  • Megatrends looks at what will be driving systems engineering in the future and include:
    • Environmental sustainability
    • Digital transformation
  • The challenges consider what problems the community needs to solve and include:
    • Tools and data integration
    • Software complexity, agility, and scale
    • Impact of autonomy and AI
  • The future state of systems engineering will need to include:
    • Impact of digital transformation
    • Impact of AI
    • MBSE – model based practices (including any tooling that can model organisations, behaviour, dynamic systems, as well as the product, fleet, industrial systems, and supply chains)
    • Architecting flexible and resilient systems
    • Engineering trusted systems
    • Collaborative acquisition

The future of Systems Engineering

So how will we solve the challenges of tools and data integration and software complexity, agility, and scale? The industry will need to develop approaches, processes and tools that allow engineers to design their systems right first time and enable faster and more complete testing and analysis to ensure the systems can be trusted.

The technologies that are transforming our products can also transform our approach to systems engineering. For example, digital transformation and digital twins will allow systems engineers to test out new products based on how customers are using existing products. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can be used to collaboratively design new products and re-configure existing products working in much the same way as co-bots that help technicians build physical products.

MBSE (Model Based Systems Engineering) development tools have been used for many years, but they will need further investment to provide greater cross model integration, integrate with AI based support tools, integrate with formal methods based verification tools and support more advanced simulation with Augmented Reality (AR) to allow systems engineers to identify problems early and more easily.

Keeping critical systems safe whilst rapidly reconfiguring them

Underpinning all of this is the fact that we are developing more and more autonomous systems which must be completely trustworthy, yet we are planning on re-configuring them more and more frequently. Over the air -updates are common in the automotive industry and are being applied to the defence and aerospace sectors as well. This enables rapid reconfiguring of operational systems which could have massive benefits in society, but this raises the question:, are we able to manage this rapid change whilst being fully confident in the safety of systems developed and updated in such a way?

DevOps (Development Operations) is the term used to refine the tools and processes used to release software products. A version of this that supports secure products is called DevSecOps. Capgemini also has an approach called High Integrity Agile which turns up the dial on DevOps to not just focus on testing but on other verification and validation techniques like static analysis and evidence generation, collation, and analysis. These techniques also need to be applied higher up at the systems level and they need to cut across all engineering disciplines including electrical and mechanical. Similarly, we need to consider agile assurance of these increasingly complex systems which must combine, safety, security, RAM, and Human Factors assurance. There should also be greater use of formal methods to prove security and safety properties as these are very hard to demonstrate through test.

Another tool that will help ensure the safety of systems that can be rapidly reconfigured is a Digital Twin. For products like vehicles that have many different subsystems, ensuring the compatibility of all subsystems when they can each be separately reconfigured could be achieved by maintaining digital twins that are fully tested in a virtual environment to ensure compatibility of software updates before over the air updates are initiated.

We can satisfy our End Users when we embrace agility coupled with structured insight driven approaches to help us achieve this

Our ability to deliver ever more complex systems that need to be updated at an increasing rate is challenging the traditional approaches and tools that our systems and software engineers use. The organisations that succeed in the future will be those that invest now in advanced engineering technologies that allow systems engineers to easily use AI, AR, Digital Twins, advanced MBSE models, formal methods, and other technologies all within a single environment. Only with these tools connected can we get close to the continual evolution of the underlying technologies and the need to deliver ever more advanced features to our clients.

To read more blogs in the Intelligent Industry: Journey to Farnborough International Airshow series, see quick links below:

A Quantum of Intelligent Industry – Mike Dwyer considers the potential impact that the world of quantum computing, sensing and communication could have on our ability to create new intelligent products and services.

How the advent of advanced air mobility will pave the way for more connected and sustainable aviation – Gianmarco Scalabrin explores how advanced air mobility is ready for prime time and will play a crucial role in connecting communities while helping aviation drastically reduce its CO2 emissions.