Yes, I agree that defining effective requirements is key to a successful project launch. With products and systems becoming more and more complex, it seems that the majority of my time is used to properly gather, define, adjust and trace project requirements. I expect this trend to continue to grow as system complexity continues to increase.
That scenario you describe, Naperlou, is definitely spot on with what I've continually heard from engineers and industry folk. Siloed, oftentimes, proprietary and custom-built systems that have little integration with the rest of the engineering tool suite. I think while the aerospace companies might still use their proprietary systems (afterall, they've made a huge investment), many other companies, including automotive makers, are branching out into the requirements traceability function as part of a broader PLM effort.
Beth, you are correct. Tools that pull in all requirements and information across the system can be a real differentiator. I "grew up" in the aerospace industry (primarily space). We put a lot of effort into requirements, traceability and testing, of course. In the early days much of what we had was home grown. The projects were big enough that this was not an issue. After getting out into the commercial world, I was appaled at the lack of requirements traceability and the risky situations companies put themselves in when developing products.
With the new standards mentioned by Jim in the article, it is no longer sufficient to handle requirements manually in many areas. I recall a discussion on Embedded.com on certification of engineers in the areas mentioned being required at some point. That is how critical software and requirements traceability is.
With embedded systems an important part of all types of products, even mainstream consumer household goods, the software piece of development plays an increasingly important role so you are absolutely right that the entire development team needs to care--not just the software guys.
Unfortunately, automated requirements traceability and vertification of code, if practiced at all, is typically performed in a separate system that has little to no integration with the other primary engineering systems like PDM, CAD, and ECAD. Sensing the need and spying opportunity, most of the leading PLM vendors have made it a priority to change that scenario, either acquiring or building out requirements and traceability functionality as part of their integrated PLM suites.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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