Managing Engineering Complexity: Are you ready?

By | 4 minute read | July 19, 2018

Get Connected with Chris O'Connor

Connected – This is one of the defining words of our world today. We have never been more connected – from the devices we wear on our bodies, to our cars and houses, to the manufacturers who build our things and, lastly, to the outer world where we get to experience the fruits of our newly connected lives. IoT is being embraced by societies everywhere, whether they know it or not – bridging the link between customers, businesses and their physically connected devices. What this means for you as a manufacturer of something physical is that you are now putting chips and digital connections in places you never imagined adding value, boosting your warranty, connecting with clients or creating new services. Don’t let engineering complexity sideline your need for speed.

Develop and deploy faster in a dynamic environment

To us in IBM this means we see you having to start at the base of your engineering lifecycle. You must develop with IoT in mind and that requires thinking systems that can accommodate those thoughts. Creating a distributed system of systems requires a responsive approach to its demands. This is what we at IBM call Continuous Engineering. Engineers now must focus on users, markets and regulations and all the requirements that come with them. By implementing a requirements management, quality management, traceability, model-based systems engineering, as well as change and configuration management, enterprises are now able to keep the development and quality costs low, achieve a faster time to market and ensure they can deploy fast in a very dynamic context.

An infinite complexity loop

So, here is the complexity loop we are in: Customers demanding more capabilities leads to more complexity in IoT systems, constantly feeding data into the development processes, leading to new security and safety standards requirements, new use cases, and the need to adapt fast to changes that companies cannot always predict. These actions lead to the demand for even more complex IoT systems. And with these new changes, new customers’ demands arise and the loop continues perpetually.

Let’s zoom in for a second and see what that means for one of the most exciting industries today – automotive engineering, i.e., how we build a car. What characterizes the OEM leaders today is the desire for speed in product development and a capability of overcoming the complexity of connecting requirements, design, development, validation and deployment within their engineering process and throughout their supply chain. And how they do that?

Managing engineering complexity

Well, they rely on flexible, robust systems-oriented engineering approaches. They understand that the growing capabilities of the IoT bring new use cases and variables to product and service development, making it hard to predict exactly which development capabilities will be required over time. Not managing this new added complexity properly will put companies at the mercy of new failure modes with unpredictable consequences … and most importantly, they will competitively fall behind their rivals!

While concepts for Minimum Viable Product (MVP) are fine for app development, it’s a non-starter for compliance, safety and regulatory intensive products. Companies must rethink how to manage engineering complexity. Engineering processes require a living system where information is available on-demand. The status of compliance to standards must be knowable at any time from any place.

Compliance, safety and transparency are paramount

The right engineering focus now effectively meets safety-critical process standards and reporting regulations among product variants, extends requirements management, traceability and system modelling – across all subsystems and even the supply chain. This means we are simply putting to use more data than previously used across the entire product lifecycle, dynamically, at a complexity level that combines mechanical and digital artifacts in even the simplest devices and in large permutations of possibilities. It is here where thinking machines, or artificial intelligence (AI) becomes key. With AI you can drive better engineering outcomes, including insights drawn from test, warranty, and operational data. Furthermore, you gain insights across the thread of IoT and product lines of engineering data. That’s a fast way to improve the quality of requirements.

This is the world we deal with today, and this is how organizations are thinking to prepare themselves to lead their industries, regardless of whether they are making cars, planes, trains, or lawnmowers.

IoT drives product innovation throughout the lifecycle

Let’s take our work with Mahindra & Mahindra. Their Automotive Division was struggling with the increasing complexity of their electrical and electronics systems. They realized their pain points were the lack of tooling and automation in the engineering process of the prior mentioned components which led to redundant work and lack of governance. By implementing IBM IoT solution for Collaborative Lifecycle Management and other IBM software they addressed these two issues by managing product innovations throughout the development process.

Overcoming engineering complexity at Mahindra & Mahindra

IoT drives product innovation throughout the lifecycle


Accelerating product development with cloud

Another example is Panasonic Automotive, the leading manufacturer of Automotive systems. They are using a cloud-based version of IBM IoT Team Concert software to connect its many global teams throughout the entire development cycle. This helps them to accelerate development, eliminate more errors and, in the end, improve the quality of embedded software in automotive systems.

These companies are riding the wave of engineering complexity, managing it with success and getting all the benefits. They are taking in their customers’ feedback, they are taking in their machines and process feedback and use it to develop a better product that matches the new demands and requirements. It’s the future coming to life today. Don’t let the future escape you.

Learn more

Don’t get caught in the engineering complexity loop: connecting requirements, design, develop

ment and deployment. Discover how you can speed product development in a software-centric, data-driven world. Read our interactive paper to learn more about product development in the age of IoT.