Balancing capability and affordability for complex engineering systems

‘Balancing capability and affordability for complex engineering systems’ is a joint-paper by Malcolm Courts of BAE Systems Maritime, Nigel Osborne of BAE Systems Maritime and Peter Miles of Catalyze.


In the design of a major new military platform there is a need to determine a technical solution that is deliverable, meets the customer’s requirements for military capability, and is affordable. Traditional ‘waterfall’ development approaches start with the customer developing requirements with advice from scientists and engineers on what is technically feasible. Engineers and designers then seek to fulfil these requirements by developing practical systems using appropriate technologies. The overall design complexity is managed by breaking down the design into a hierarchy of sub-systems, such as propulsion, combat, etc. The end result is a system definition that can be costed.

This linear process fails in well-known ways. Firstly, the hierarchical top-down decomposition fails unless considerable effort is expended on understanding the interdependencies and constraints on sub systems that are necessary to ensure satisfactory system integration. However the overriding problem now is affordability, as budgets shrink at the same time as opportunities grow to spend on increasingly complex technologies. In short, what is technically possible at the top end of capability is almost always not affordable.

In order to address both of these problems a concurrent approach to requirement generation and system synthesis is needed together with a framework to manage communication, understanding and decision making across all work-streams. This paper presents a framework that combines best practise from the fields of decision analysis and engineering systems analysis. In applying and developing this framework we have refined the application of existing techniques and introduced new techniques such as genetic algorithms to allow more rigorous exploration of what is possible.

Balancing capability and affordability for complex engineering systemsBalancing capability and affordability for complex engineering systems