What makes a truly good Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) tool for engineers? It’s a question that we confront in most of our design projects and in our daily pursuit of systems engineering excellence at Shoal. As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of systems engineering practices, collaboration, flexibility, and seamless design development have become paramount. In this article, we have compiled key recommendations from recent projects at Shoal to ensure that MBSE tools empower engineers, enhance productivity, and deliver better outcomes for our clients.
1. Foster collaboration
A good MBSE tool should prioritise collaboration among engineers. Taking inspiration from the versatility of applications like OneNote, the tool should provide features that allow multiple engineers to work concurrently on a model, ensuring real-time collaboration, feedback, and effortless synchronisation. This collaboration-centric approach will enhance team efficiency, enable effective communication, and promote collective ownership of the design process.
2. Support agile design development
Mistakes and blind alleys are all interrogated as part of any engineering process. An MBSE tool should embrace this reality and provide engineers with the freedom to explore various design pathways. To facilitate this, the tool must offer a robust undo functionality, enabling engineers to rectify errors or backtrack without limitations. Version control mechanisms, including branch and merge capabilities, are vital to manage design iterations effectively and avoid the loss of valuable work.
3. Create a streamlined user experience
An MBSE tool should ensure engineers can maintain a seamless workflow and support productivity. Laggy performance and excessive actions that only appease the tool can disrupt engineers’ concentration and impede productivity. Strive for a basic user interface (GUI) that is highly responsive and intuitive, allowing engineers to focus on the design rather than grappling with the tool’s intricacies. Incorporating features like quick filters, customisable search options, and Jira-style bulk operations will empower engineers to efficiently navigate through the model and locate desired entities with ease.
4. Produce views for different stakeholders
A good MBSE tool extends beyond systems engineers. It needs to provide a range of views suitable for non-technical stakeholders. Being able to use graphics and Visio-style tools for object sizing, positioning, and alignment enables engineers to present their work in a visually appealing and easily understandable format. The tool should offer flexible view options, including containment, visibility of specific aspects, and dynamic content, allowing engineers to tailor the representation as per the needs of diverse stakeholders.
5. Align with standard Systems Engineering methods
An effective MBSE tool should align with standard Systems Engineering (SE) methods, such as requirements derivation, interface control, allocation, and decomposition. This alignment ensures that the tool complements established engineering practices and seamlessly integrates into the overall development process. By facilitating these essential SE activities within the tool, engineers can save time, improve accuracy, and streamline design workflow, leading to enhanced stakeholder outcomes.