Making Stuff Need Not Be This Hard

More than 80% of companies have experienced design failures due to poor requirements management

Making stuff is hard.  And it is getting harder.  The world of technology is evolving and making things much more difficult to define, design, build, and maintain. 

We ask our stuff to do more and more stuff. We don’t have a phone, we have a smart phone, we have a bendable smart phone, we want a thought controlled smart phone, we want a phone that changes its color to match our wardrobe du jour.  We don’t want ear buds, we want bone conduction technology activated by our thoughts through a Prussian blue phone.  Today we have a smart phone and tomorrow we want to communicate with and view the augmented world through our virtual reality enabled contact lenses. 

In less than 100 years the automobile changed American culture. Cars used to be solely for transportation, for going to the store, on vacation to see Old Faithful while squabbling with your siblings in the back seat, or for you old folks, cruising Main. They greatly enlarged our lives while becoming one of the most expensive purchases we contemplate. They may cost, or perhaps save, countless lives every year. They have spawned everything from houses in the suburbs to McMansions in the hinterlands, while also creating a new experience called road rage as well as pollution on a global scale.  Our automobiles still largely run on gas, but also on natural gas, electricity (coal?), and hydrogen. They’ve become roaming offices and living rooms, complete with outside communications and entertainment, coupled with a cocoon of safety features insulating us from ourselves and the world. Cars will soon sense when we are inebriated and take appropriate actions to keep us safe. Next, we want to do away with that pesky chore of driving ourselves and want the cars to take that over.

The average car of today has over 30 microprocessors and a luxury car may have more than 100. What were once simple heavy boxes on wheels have become aerodynamic marvels with innovative designs, highly intelligent behavior and reduced weight by 1700 pounds over the past 25 years or so.

And everything else we use is connected. We talk to stuff, and stuff talks to us.  Stuff talks to other stuff and keeps track of stuff. Stuff that used to be dumb stuff like our hair brush, the bathroom scale, our refrigerator, our cars, our televisions, our watches, mirrors, the street we walk on―are all watching and talking and gathering data and the list goes on. George Orwell’s 1984 had only a glimmer of what is possible. Since it is all connected, there is no notion of privacy since it can, and will, all be inconspicuous or even hacked.

You are a product company and therefore conceiving, designing, connecting, maintaining, securing, and listening to all this stuff is your job. And it’s getting harder to stay ahead, to out innovate the competition, to bring stuff to market in a reasonable time, at a reasonable expense. Satisfying all stakeholders is a monumental task.

So, what could go wrong? Apparently, lots of things. Especially the things that start and are driven by product requirements and requirements management. More than 80% of companies in one survey experience design failures due to poor requirements management including excessive product cost, lost time to market, products being shipped without meeting all requirements, time lost in tracing requirements through the product’s lifecycle, product quality shortfalls, and challenges in meeting regulatory compliance.  62% of companies have been reprimanded by regulatory agencies. Source: engineering.com “Design Teams Requirements Management & Product Complexity”

So, what are the root causes of requirements management failure? There are several, but include among them lack of requirements tracing, requirements volatility (changing content), scope creep, inadequate requirements management process, and inadequate tools to support requirements management.

On large projects, the sheer volume of requirements makes the effort to manually trace them into a quest like Don Quixote’s, chasing requirements origins, stakeholders, relationships, and validity instead of windmills.  It simply cannot be done with a high degree of confidence and accuracy. The only way to begin to understand the impact a change has, is to be able to trace the requirement back to its origins, and to its relationship to other design artifacts including, but not limited to, versions of BOMs, parts, software, electronics, CAD models, documents, requirements, process plans, service manuals, etc.

Many requirements are volatile in a sense that they are always changing and have a cascading impact through the project lifecycle. Being able to perform a change impact analysis of proposed and actual changes is mandatory. This includes impact to the requirements themselves as well as to the related design details. The creation and access to a complete Digital Thread is essential in delivering stuff on time, without cost overruns, meeting all requirements, and reducing time in tracing requirements.

The Digital Thread allows teams across the enterprise to follow a product’s digital history and all related digital assets—from the initial requirements planning and analysis, through design, manufacturing, testing, and on to final sustainment and disposal phases. Aras’ Requirements Engineering application, built on the Innovator platform, is a Digital Thread enabler. It allows companies to connect product information generated by a multitude of product functions including:

  • Product Requirements
  • Simulation Models
  • Electronics and Embedded Software
  • Manufacturing Process Plans
  • Service Records
  • Industrial Internet of Things

With full product lifecycle traceability using the Digital Thread, teams across the enterprise are empowered to work concurrently with the latest product information. A new generation of technology is needed to support the end-to-end product lifecycle. Only an innovative and integrated PLM platform approach can sustain the Digital Thread.

Legacy systems and processes cannot manage the complexity of today’s stuff and, no question, the complexity of tomorrow’s stuff.  Tools originally designed to support specific engineering disciplines, like mechanical, are closed, and thus create problems when trying to upgrade or add additional capabilities. This inability to integrate across disciplines can disrupt on-time delivery of new stuff and prevent realization of a complete Digital Thread. The Digital Thread is necessary to connect disparate silos of information as well as manage and understand how to handle the changes made.

You make stuff. You are good at it but want to be better at it, and your company is going to have to be better at it in the future. Making stuff starts with your customers’ needs that you examine and translate into requirements. Making stuff with the Requirements Engineering application from Aras can give you the confidence to make future stuff well into the future.

Anonymous