RDECOM charts way ahead for systems engineering

Systems Engineering Viewpoint by Thomas Haduch.

Program managers, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command; and life cycle sustainment commands are responsible for Army weapon systems management from inception to retirement.

Product Lifecycle Management, or PLM, encompasses development, engineering, manufacturing, test and logistics activities – all of which require creation of and access to a large set of data about a product.

Product Data Management, or PDM, is the business function within PLM that is responsible for the creation, management and publication of and access to product data.

The process provides a central knowledge repository for process and product history, and promotes integration and data exchange among project managers, engineers, quality assurance and sustainment teams. This ensures everyone is on the same page by using a single, authoritative set of product data, with high standards of quality control for accuracy and currency throughout a product’s life cycle.

Enterprise Product Data Management, or ePDM, is an Army initiative to create the infrastructure needed to manage all the information related to a product across the life cycle and the product’s multiple stakeholders.

The goal is to integrate people, data, tools, processes and organizational systems by providing product data that can be shared across the Army enterprise. The ePDM will help program managers reduce time to fielding, improve quality through the use of digital data and modeling tools, foster prototyping, track and predict costs and help transition technology opportunities.

The Army seeks to develop technology solutions that meet the requirements of a complex world. But complexity breeds more complexity, resulting in new system designs, which are more difficult to develop, build, manage and maintain because of system requirements for interoperability and the ability to operate in complicated system of system environments.

Currently, product data are stove-piped, expensive and time consuming to manage and maintain because data are stored across multiple organizations in disparate systems, which still include paper documentation and 2-D drawings. Through a systems engineering approach, the Army is analyzing its data processes and requirements to optimize data sharing methods, reduce costs and manage risk through the use of an Army-wide ePDM approach.

Imagine a future communications device in the hands of Soldiers in the field. The product will have gone through an intensive research and development phase, collaboration with industry for product development and production and fieldingto sustainment upgrade capability support. Each step of the development requires engineering data, such as CAD models, technical drawings, specifications, design analyses, test data and more. This makes the need critical for an ePDM based enterprise approach as part of the systems engineering process.

In the future, the data about every component of weapon systems will be managed by an ePDM approach that holistically captures the system throughout its life cycle. RDECOM’s ePDM goal is to provide mission system support to the U.S. Army Materiel Command engineering and logistics communities with a single authoritative and agile enterprise system.

The ePDM capability supports science and technology, systems engineering, system development, and acquisition logistics business needs, to include:

  •         Technology assessment/development
  •         Prototype integration
  •         Modeling and simulation
  •         Design
  •         Configuration management
  •         Trade studies
  •         Logistics support analysis

By introducing consistency, the ePDM will keep projects on track from research and development to fielding throughout the project lifecycle. The ePDM will also provide needed engineering product data to downstream business systems such as the Logistics Modernization Program to provide more integration between engineering and logistics business processes.

In March 2014, RDECOM formed a working group to discuss and determine the product data business processes that require cost effective and enterprise-wide implementation and how to best achieve the planned goals. We hope these efforts will ensure RDECOM engineering data system owners have a voice in defining the engineering product data business processes to be included in the AMC solution.

The ePDM has a bright future at RDECOM as the command continues to provide outstanding engineering support to our Soldiers.The chief systems engineers from across the command and I are collaborating on developing a strategy of enterprise practices, training and tools intended to achieve a degree of consistency in how systems engineering is applied to all technology development projects. At the same time, we will focus on ensureing the decisions, instructions and tools add value, not hinder innovation.

Editor’s note: Thomas Haduch is director of Systems Engineering for the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering command. The RDECOM PDM Working Group also contributed to this column.

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This column appears in the May/June 2015 issue of Army Technology Magazine, which focuses on Future Computing. The magazine is available as an electronic download, or print publication. The magazine is an authorized, unofficial publication published under Army Regulation 360-1, for all members of the Department of Defense and the general public.

RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command. AMC is the Army’s premier provider of materiel readiness–technology, acquisition support, materiel development, logistics power projection and sustainment–to the total force, across the spectrum of joint military operations. If a Soldier shoots it, drives it, flies it, wears it, eats it or communicates with it, AMC provides it.