I hope that you will find a place on the wiki for this description and a
summary of the discussion. (01)
Ed Barkmeyer wrote:
> I strongly suggest that we stay carefully on the topic that Andreas
> raised. 'Systems engineeering', as an engineering discipline, is about
> _artificial_ things. So its definition of 'system' is constrained to
> such things. While there are certainly "systems" in nature (the
> argument for 'intelligent design'), we don't engineer them, although we
> may analyze them to provide engineering insights. If we waltz off into
> the philosophical question of what a 'system' may be, we have lost sight
> of the objective.
> Matthew West wrote:
>> The two things that characterise a system for me are:
>> 1. It has a function/capability/purpose.
>> 2. Has parts that can be replaced by functionally equivalent parts.
> A project in which I was engaged about 7 years ago, an outgrowth of
> which was support for ISO 10303-233 and SysML, defined 'system' as:
> a complex of software, hardware, and human resources that jointly
> accomplishes one or more business functions. A system may be
> pre-designed or arise ad hoc by action of one or more of the
> participating human or software resources.
> And I should be careful to say that the intent of the definition is that
> a system is a complex of any combination of software, machines, and
> humans. There is no requirement for a system to have all three types of
> This is a slight generalization of Matt's characterization, in that it
> recognizes the existence of parts with subfunctions, without requiring
> And this leads to a concept that is critical to systems engineering, but
> is only assumed in the above characterizations: subfunction. Borrowing
> from INCOSE, the NIST paper defines:
> System design =
> (1) a specification of the structure of the system, ...
> (2) a breakdown of system functions into subfunctions assigned to
> nominal component subsystems, coupled with a specification for the
> information and materials that must be available at the component
> interfaces in order for the subfunctions to be accomplished.
> Systems engineering is about WHAT components do, HOW that is part of the
> intended system function, and HOW they relate to each other. It is also
> about capturing constraints on the system and how those constraints are
> allocated to (or interpreted for) the components. It is the
> 'encapsulation' of HOW the components do WHAT they do, within the given
> constraints, that creates substitutability.
> The other idea that is commonly associated with a 'system' (from the
> 'systems engineering' point of view) is heterogeneity, either in the
> nature of the parts, or in the collection of views (specifications of
> structure) that are required to understand the implementation of the
> functions. (One can leave the design of a purely mechanical system to
> mechanical engineers, or a purely electrical system to electrical
> engineers. It is only when there is a mix of human parts, software
> parts, major electronic/electrical components, and major mechanical
> components that it becomes a 'systems engineering' project.)
> Back to Andreas' original point, I have never seen an ontology for
> systems engineering concepts. It was the original goal of INCOSE (about
> 10 years ago) to organize the knowledge of experienced systems engineers
> into a real engineering discipline, one that could be taught. What Matt
> and Ian describe is an activity that was ongoing early in that effort,
> and I personally don't know whether INCOSE (as a body) believes it has
> achieved its goal. Ontology development is about engineering existing
> knowledge -- it presumes that the knowledge to be engineered is
> agreed-on by the community it intends to serve. In systems engineering,
> are we there yet?
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