Many questions have been asked regarding what exactly systems engineering is and what the roles of systems engineers are. The questions mainly asked are if systems engineers perform general works or whether they specialize in specific tasks.
The question of whether system engineering is the overall process of managing a project or a life cycle of roles such as program verification and validation. It is even worth to either define the system engineering process as an attitude or a discipline. This research will entirely look at the many definitions of systems engineering and the roles that are played by the system engineers.
The research will mention eleven roles that are executed by system engineers and some of these roles will be described as life cycle rules while others will be described as project management roles and others will fall on either group. The paper will also try to distinguish the roles played by system engineers from those played by subsystem engineers.
The Role of a System Engineer at the System level
Many companies have system engineering departments and the department’s main role is to check the product delivered to the customers.
Engineers who work on the subsystems (elements that combine to form the whole system) are not always referred as system engineers but are referred with names according to the subsystem they work on; for example a software engineer will work on developing the software subsystem of the whole system, a Hardware engineer deals with the hardware subsystem of the whole system.
Requirements owner role
This role requires the system engineer to translate the customer needs into a set of well structured requirements which aid in the development of the whole system and the subsystems. The requirements should capture the external interfaces and ensure that the functional architecture of the needs is captured as well (Roger1985).
The role of the subsystem engineer at this point is to assess the impact of the requirements to the system as a whole and its subsystem and decide which requirements should be modified.
Subsystem specifications creation and maintenance is the other role that is handled by the subsystem engineer with various factors playing a major role in the formality of determining the requirements required. The factors include the degree of the customer needs, the company’s culture and the size of the project. Large projects mainly involve intense communications processes with formal processes (Roger 1985).
System designing role
At this role the system engineer will create the high level system architecture and then select the its major components. The system designer (Subsystem engineer) then investigates the possible ways of developing the system from pieces he possesses.
He then compares those ways with the system requirements to ensure that the system’s functionality captures all the requirements stated in the previous stage.
The system designer fine tunes the design and also describes in detail the needs of the other lower subsystems. And finally he confirms if the subsystems can meet the specifications available or if it is possible to develop them.
Mainly the role of system engineers at this stage will be to focus on the architecture, high level design, integration and verification of the subsystem. The lower level development of the subsystem will be the role of the system designer (Matty1997).
The system design role comes after the requirement engineer has come up with the requirements and the functional structure. The two tasks work together in the selection of the subsystems and the explanation of the subsystem requirements.
System analysis role
System analysts (subsystem engineers) at this stage try to confirm if the system designed meets the system requirements stated. The things to be analyzed will be system throughput and output, memory usage, and the system response.
The work of the system engineer is to model the complex parts of the system to investigate if they are able to work well and interface them with the outside world. Modeling will also assist the system engineers to understand the operations of the system.
The system engineers carry out such modeling with various powerful simulation tools. The type of project will determine the extent of analysis to be carried out with complex and risky projects requiring higher levels of analysis.
Validation and verification role
So as to ensure that the developed system meets the stated requirements, validation and verification engineers develop a verification program and sometimes the system engineers also come up with the test plans and procedures and determine what’s supposed to happen during an event.
Verification and validation engineers are responsible for answering such questions and should also be able to predict behaviour of the events in advance.
Verification and Validation engineers are also able to fully understand the system design so that they are able to respond to any anomalies that may occur and incases of emergencies are aware of the experts to call (Fisher1992).
The role of the verifications and validations depends on the organizational structure; in some organizations a system test group performs these roles while in others the roles are performed by both a group of system engineers and the system test group.
Logistics and Operations (LO) Role.
System engineers at this face will demonstrate to the customer of how the system will operate. They are also asked questions by the customers regarding the operation of the system, and will also settle any anomalies that will arise. Logistics engineers are to aid the design and development stage by bringing maintenance and logistics concerns to these stages (Roger1985).
On the other hand logistics and operations engineers who at this stage are the subsystem engineers will be responsible for determining the logical operations of the system so as to ascertain if the system will satisfy the requirements that were stated.
They are supposed to understand the design and the operational aspects of the system and have clues on the instructions to be given to users on how to operate the system. All these operations are entrusted to the Logistics and operations engineers since they are responsible for developing a user’s manual (Webster 1994).
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