Digital Engineering for E/E
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Predictions for 2020 – The Arrival of Digital Engineering for E/E

It is not only a new year but the beginning of a transformational decade. We will see more and more companies move from a tool-centric design process to a model-centric design process–known as Digital Engineering.  But why the migration?

Digital Engineering is part of the larger Digital Transformation movement. Many companies have recently embarked on their own Digital Transformation journey with their sights set on improving efficiency and competitiveness. A recent IDC study showed that 90% of small- and medium-sized businesses are budgeting for the digital transformation, and 73% have already begun the process. The top goal for many of these companies making the digital transformation journey is to improve product development and design processes. That is a telling statement – product development complexity may be outgrowing the tool-centric design process.

The First Prediction – The Realization of Digital Engineering

In 2018, the Department of Defense (DoD) published a Digital Engineering Strategy as the basis for future DoD programs. A goal of the strategy is the adoption of a model-based design process that provides a single source of truth. As products become more complex the ability to build a high-fidelity model becomes paramount. Any complex product development effort can benefit from Digital Engineering.

A model-based design process is more rigorous than the current document-driven process. Systems Engineering defines relationships in the model between structure, requirements, and behavior that convey the project or product purpose. The model is decomposed into an architecture consisting of electronic subsystems and the logical interconnection, for example, ECUs or ECMs and wire harnesses). The model creates a design envelope for each of the design elements. The design envelope may be too restrictive, and any change requests need to go back to Systems Engineering for reconciliation at the project level. Systems Engineering is the only authority to modify the model.

Consequently, the entire product team has a single source of truth built from relationships that will improve product quality, safety and align with the system’s purpose.

The Second Prediction – The Model Becomes Relevant Throughout the Life Cycle

Model realization requires the model to move from Systems Engineering to detailed design. Today, the model resides in, and more or less never leaves Systems Engineering. This will change. Maximizing the value of Digital Engineering requires the model to remain relevant throughout the design process. When this is achieved the real value of a model-based process is realized.

Zuken recently acquired Vitech Corporation, a leader in Model-based Systems Engineering (MBSE) design solutions. Now, Zuken has both the MBSE piece and the detailed design piece which allow us to close the design process gap keeping the model alive through design for electrical and electronic systems.

For E/E subsystems, the design envelope is now conveyed programmatically versus manually. Closing the design process gap between systems engineering and detailed design is already happening today.

V-model for Model-based Design
V-model for Model-based Design

Closing the Gap with Architecture Optimization and Verification

The Third Prediction – The Digital Thread Plays a Big Role

From the E/E design process perspective, the need for a Digital Thread is clear. As the adoption of Digital Engineering gains momentum, the Digital Thread acts as the communication backbone. The Digital Thread contains the discussions, negotiations, and approvals that occur during the design process, along with the Technical Data Packages (TDP). For an example of a Digital Thread or Intelligent Information Management (IIM) solution, look at Anark Corporation. Anark offers a browser-based environment that supports procurement, design, and manufacturing for electrical, electronic and mechanical design. As digitalization occurs in the Digital Engineering process, the Digital Thread provides the communication and traceability backbone. Look for this digital communication and intelligent information management backbone to become a hot topic of discussion in the coming year.

A New Decade

The new decade will see transformational changes in how products are defined, designed and manufactured. Historically unconnected design processes suddenly become connected through the model and the digital thread. The model provides the all-important design envelope for the design teams to operate within and the test teams to verify against. Ultimately, the model becomes more and more relevant throughout the product life cycle – the single point of truth.

Written by

Bob Potock is Vice President of Marketing for Zuken USA, Inc. and has held positions at companies that include Altium, Mentor Graphics, AT&T Bell Labs and Intel. Bob enjoys living in Colorado and a range of outside activities that include mountain biking, hiking, fly fishing and golf.

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