Product Development: Need and Product Lifecycle

by | July 29, 2020

Electronic microchip with fingers close-up. Man hand holds microcircuit.

We are going to take a look at how we do product development if we add the systems engineering process to that context. And one key concept that we’re going to discuss is the concept of the lifecycle and after you go through this, you realize that it is common sense, and you know it almost seems trivial, but you would be surprised to know that most people involved with product development do not take into account these principles. What it means is that products have a life cycle. It is not about just to get a prototype. A materialized product needs to do something later on for the benefit of society and the financial benefit of whoever is investing in this development. And to make sure that you have a successful product, you have to look throughout the lifecycle during the first phase of the design. So, what that means is that you have to look forward, making sure that you do the right things earlier so that there are no problems later. We are going to see what that entails in terms of the discipline and the conceptual tools that we are going to be sharing with you. To do that, we are going to start by defining the type of systems that we are discussing. We are discussing synthetic engineered systems, and more specifically what that means to us is that we are going to be discussing technical systems. There is also a part of the enterprise of bringing systems into being that has to do with the business aspects, as well as schedule, budget, and resources. That falls more on what we would call program management, but we are not going to dwell on that. We want to focus more on the technical aspects, but we will see that we really cannot completely decouple from the business implications of what it means to bringing systems into being.

To go forward we have to define this engineered system. These systems have a functional purpose; a response to an identified need. They also have the ability to achieve some stated operational objective. And they are also brought into being and operate over a life cycle, beginning with the need and ending with phaseout and disposal. They are composed of a combination of resources, their subsystems, and related components that interact with each other to produce the system response or behavior. They are part of a hierarchy and are influenced from external factors from larger systems of which they are part. And they are embedded into the natural world and interact with it in desirable as well as undesirable ways. This is part of the terminology of systems engineering, so functional purpose in response to a need is important. We design products and systems in response to a need. There has to be a need that is normally the catalyst for any market driven product, and someone has identified that need. Someone sees it as a business opportunity. When you respond to a need, when you solve someone’s problem, they usually do pay you money for it because they know that you are going to satisfy that need. You also have to understand the solution, both qualitatively and quantitatively. And from that, you can then come up with a functional purpose and it needs to be very well stated because everything is going to come from there. If you have a functional purpose that is clearly articulated, then you can get very clear operational objectives for the product. It is not good enough to have a prototype. Products need to operate over the life cycle. How long is that life cycle? What is the environment over the life cycle? Does it change? What are the requirements? What is going to happen is that the characteristics of that product over the lifecycle is going to influence what you do at the very beginning of the design. Complex products are also composed of a combination of resources. These are more than just components. They are subsystems and components that interact with each other, and they are really tightly coupled with the definition of systems and the hierarchies of the system, both logical and functional, and physical. So, we have to consider the combination of resources that need to come together to make this system realizable. And part of systems engineering is also figuring out what are, for example, the different engineering disciplines that you need, and what is the expertise that you need. This combination of resources is a super set of not just what the system entails, but also what is the collateral resources, documentation, repair and maintenance concepts, and facilities.

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