March 20, 2009

System engineering/ System thinking – difficult to grasp

Just a short one today (yes I promise :p)

After spending sometime today, and yesterday trying to understand 'system engineering' (SE), I am afraid I have produced little result. Some of the sources I used are

  • System Engineering Management (1991) Benhamin S. Blanchard
  • System Engineering Method (1967) Harold Chestnut
  • System Enginering from Wikipedia

Some initial readings suggests

  1. It's been around for ages
  2. Mirrors the system thinking principles from Peter Senge, but has a more engineering focus
  3. Employs some very similar tools and procedures to DFSS  like QFD, optimisation, simulation 

This kind of makes me wonder how different is system engineering from DFSS. Both appear to address the issue of design in the early stages, but one seem to focus on the product design (DFSS) whereas the other focus on the whole system (SE) i.e.how the whole company/organisation operates.

Part of my problem in understanding system engineering concept I believe may be my lack of background knowledge /experience in engineering type work. I find it interesting that the subject is not usually taught in undergraduate level (Wikipedia) simply because undergrad students do not have the background knowledge to appreciate the 'power' or 'application' of system engineering. This is precisely my problem as I flick through the pages, many ideas are 'high level' talks about being holistic , interdisciplinary, customer focus etc , complicated by complex process flow charts of how processes in a systems should look like. 

I guess I shouldn't confuse myself with too much details. Perhaps I should think about system thinking from its conceptual viewpoint, compare that to DFSS or concurrent engineering, and see what are the similarities and differences.


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Sue

    I’ve been trying to understand more technical tyhings today.One of them was the zero phenomonen. Apparently mathematicians are very suspicious of numbers like zero. This can be explained by the fossil joke. A museum guide was showing agroup of children around and he told them that a fossil bone was sixty five million years old. “How do you know so exactly?” one of them said. “Well, when I came to this job I was told that it was 65,000,000 years old…...and that was 4 years ago.”

    20 Mar 2009, 21:24

  2. first I just want to say I didn’t like the second question at all…
    and I haven’t looked at systems engineering that deeply but from what I understood from quickly scanning the books and net, system is a collection of organized things (wiktionary) hence it can be the whole organisation , a process or a product…
    And technical things that they talk in those books can be used for any of those, as long as you have the (engineering) background to mathematically define the “things”...
    I think you should do the last thing you wrote Louis…
    Well good luck : )

    22 Mar 2009, 02:47

  3. I didn’t really understand how I should go about with the 2nd question but what I did was that I took a look at some of the books and compared a couple of factors between SE and CE. for example, view point, use of tools, concept, use of FEMEA and QFD.

    Some of the factors had an overlap some others were different.

    While I finished the 2nd question, I don’t think there was much learning from it to be honest, as it is something hard to understand for people without the engineering thinking or background i guess.

    02 Apr 2009, 00:36


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