Stories abound of cost overruns, schedule delays, low reliability, and product failures related to development of large-scale systems and platforms. Despite focused efforts to reduce development risk through disciplined and rigorous development programs, a number of factors in today’s development ecosystem make it increasingly challenging to achieve consistent quality and cost-effectiveness throughout the development lifecycle.

As systems become more complex, contractors are moving into the role of systems integrators while subcontracting out subsystems to a global network of suppliers. Communicating design results between organizations employing vastly different design and data management environments adds significant potential for misunderstandings, errors, and omissions. Protection of intellectual property (IP) also becomes an issue.

The growing importance of embedded software, electromechanical subsystems (mechatronics), the frameworks in which they communicate (networks), and the advanced wiring systems that connect them (harnesses), adds complexity to the task of integrating system components. Traceability back to requirements becomes more difficult when system components and subsystems incorporate a variety of technical disciplines. Consequently, critical issues frequently do not become apparent until well into the development lifecycle.

A model-driven development process incorporates tools and capabilities that facilitate uncovering critical problems early in the development cycle, well before system integration begins. Model-driven development provides a structure for managing complexity while, at each design stage, making it possible to directly link design functionality back to the program’s original requirements and functional specifications. A virtual prototyping infrastructure, in which models from different domains can be integrated at each stage of the design lifecycle, allows system integration issues to be identified and addressed earlier in the process. This not only helps reduce overall program time and cost, but makes these easier to predict, reducing risk.

As contractors well know, how early or late significant problems are identified has a huge bearing on program success or failure. With advances in modeling languages and automation, model-driven development can now be extended across design domains. With today’s model-driven technologies, system integration no longer needs to wait until the physical systems are ready. Virtual system integration can take place at the time of system requirements definition, during preliminary design or during detailed design, allowing critical problems to be uncovered well before final system integration.

Model-driven development methodologies have been pioneered and proven over the decades, and continue to evolve to address industry challenges. Integrating model-driven development methodologies into the platform development lifecycle has the potential to significantly reduce risks to schedule, cost, and quality for contractors, their primes, and ultimately, their end customers.

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