Configuration and Systems Engineering

by Kim H Pries and Jon M Quigley

Configuration management quality will have a significant impact on the system. If configuration management is necessary for component development, producing a collection of parts that make up a system is even more complicated. Developing and delivering a workable system to test and subsequently delivering it to the customer requires close attention to the configuration. Consider, for example, developing an electrical system for a car. We have a number of electronic control units (ECUs) that comprise the system. We deliver multiple releases of the vehicle systems during the development of the system. The individual ECUs have dependencies with the other ECUs.

For each component of the system we will need to attend to the configuration elements for each of the components. Poor configuration management will have severe impact upon system development. So how do we model this situation? The configuration will be hierarchical in structure, much like an organization chart or an indented bill of materials. For the most part, this model should be sufficient to establish basic dependencies. If we have more significant concerns about some components, we can also take the time to do a systems-level failure mode and effects analysis (SFMEA) to try and avert potential interaction catastrophes. We can also use orthogonal arrays—similar to those in designed experiments—in order to provide test scenarios for stimulating the component subsystems as well as individual arrays for each component for the purpose of stimulating output signals, digital or analog.

Lifecycle management software acts much like software configuration management software but on a much larger scale. In effect, we have a controlled “bucket,” which allows us to check in all documents related to a specific project. Can we still make mistakes? Of course! Like anything else, the proper use of our tools requires individual commitments as well as a strong management commitment to the configuration management process. Take a look at for an example of lifecycle management software (we have no business involvement directly with Oracle, other than as users of some of their products).

Let’s review our tools, then:
• Bill of materials at high level
• Lifecycle management software

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