Technical Report: Transforming Systems Engineering through Model-Centric Engineering

Report Number: Technical Report SERC-2017-TR-101

Report Name: Transforming Systems Engineering through Model-Centric Engineering

Publication Date: January 18, 2017


Executive Summary

This is the final technical report of the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) research task RT-157. This research task (RT) addresses research needs extending prior efforts that informed us that model-centric engineering (MCE) is in use and adoption seems to be accelerating. Model-centric engineering1 can be characterized as an overarching digital engineering approach that integrates different model types with simulations, surrogates, systems and components at different levels of abstraction and fidelity across disciplines throughout the lifecycle. Industry is trending towards more integration of computational capabilities, models, software, hardware, platforms, and humans-in-the-loop. The integrated perspectives provide cross-domain views for rapid system level analysis allowing engineers from various disciplines using dynamic models and surrogates to support continuous and often virtual verification and validation for tradespace decisions in the face of changing mission needs. NAVAIR senior leadership confirmed in late 2015 that the research findings and analysis validated their vision hypothesis. They concluded that NAVAIR must move quickly to keep pace with the other organizations that have adopted MCE and who continue to evolve at an accelerating pace enabled by the advances in computational and modeling technologies, and improved methods.

In March of 2016, there was a Change of Command at AIR 4.0 (Research and Engineering). NAVAIR decided to accelerate the Systems Engineering Transformation (SET). The “roll out” strategy is a layered approach where evolving research needs are provided by SERC research. This research provides analyses into NAVAIR enterprise capability, and builds on efforts for cross-domain model integration and model integrity (per RT-157).

The path forward has challenges but also many opportunities, both technical and sociotechnical. It must include a modeling framework with high-performance computing (HPC) that enables single source of truth (SST), integration of multi-domain and multi-physics models, and provides for a method for model integrity. The modeling and infrastructure for a digital engineering environment is a critical step to enable an SST. While there are literally thousands of tools, they are often federated and there is no one single solution that can be purchased. Every organization providing inputs to this research has had to architect and engineer their MCE environment. Most organization use commercial tools, but also have developed the integrating fabric between the different tools, models, simulations and data. Some organizations have encoded historical knowledge in reference models, model patterns to embed methodological guidance to support continuous orchestration of analysis through new modeling metrics, and automated workflows. NAVAIR is making strides to develop an Integrated Modeling Environment (IME) that captures
requirements to link artifacts and evidence in support of decision-making addressing all required checks and risks. Key questions remain as to how to do that in the context of a new operational paradigm between government and industry using a new framework described herein.

The kickoff of this research task in January 2016 defined a research plan to investigate challenge areas including,
but not limited to:

  • Cross-domain integration of models to address the heterogeneity of the various tools and
  • Model integrity to ensure trust in the model predictions by understanding and quantifying
    margins and uncertainty
  •  Modeling methodologies that can embed demonstrated best practices and provide
    computational technologies for real-time training within digital engineering environments
  • Multidisciplinary System Engineering transformation roadmap that looks across:
    • Technologies and their evolution
    • How people interact through digitally enabled technologies and new needed competencies
    • How methodologies enabled by technologies change and subsume processes
    • How acquisition organizations and industry operate in a digital engineering environment
      throughout the phases of the lifecycle (including operations and sustainment)
    • Governance within this new digital and continually adapting environment

The strategic plans of SET and overarching goals of this research have been expanded through the next phase of this task, which has support from new research collaborators from Georgia Tech and University of Maryland.