Wednesday, September 14, 2011
The advantages of using labeled graphical models, diagrams, tables of data and similar non prose descriptions compared to natural language or prose descriptions have been discussed several times. Now we make a distinction between two types of models. One type is, as stated, a non-prose description of something. The second type is analysis models; either static models that predict performance or dynamic models referred to as simulations. Static analysis models may be strictly analytical or may be machine readable and executable. Modern simulations are typically machine readable and executable. This is an arbitrary distinction as the DoD defines a model as a physical, mathematical, or otherwise logical representation of a system, entity, phenomenon, or process. (DoD 5000.59 -M 1998)
In Chapter 5 it was stated that PBSE is model based but includes prose documents as well. The models used in PBSE can be either the first type or the second type. Now we want to introduce a different approach to using models for systems engineering. This approach is called Model Based System Engineering (MBSE) and it strives to accomplish system engineering with models that are machine readable, executable or operative. An INCOSE paper11-1 defines MBSE as an approach to engineering that uses models as an integral part of the technical baseline that includes the requirements, analysis, design, implementation, and verification of a capability, system, and/or product throughout the acquisition life cycle.
This chapter is an introduction to MBSE; no attempt is made to review or even summarize the extensive literature on MBSE. MBSE is rapidly evolving, facilitated both by development of commercial tools and by an INCOSE effort to extend the maturity and capability of MBSE over the decade from 2010 to 2020. Whereas we attempt to describe how MBSE offers benefits compared to traditional prose based systems engineering it isn’t claimed that pure MBSE is superior or inferior to methodologies that mix MBSE, PBSE and traditional methods. The intent is to provide an introduction that enables readers to assess how MBSE can be beneficial to their work and to point the way toward further study.
Traditional systems engineering is a mix of prose based material, typically requirements and plans, and models such as functional diagrams, physical diagrams and mode diagrams. Eventually design documentation ends in drawings, which are models. MBSE can be thought of as replacing the prose documents that define or describe a system, such as requirements documents, with models. We are not concerned as much with plans although plans like test plans are greatly improved by including many diagrams, photos and other models with a minimum of prose.
To some it may seem difficult to replace requirements documents with models. However, QFD can be stand-alone systems engineering process and QFD is a type of MBSE. Although it does not attempt to heavily employ machine readable and executable models, QFD is an example of defining requirements in the form of models. Another way to think about requirements is that mathematically requirements are graphs and can therefore be represented by models. A third way to think about requirements as models is as tree structures. Each requirement may have parent requirements and daughter requirements and just as no leaf of a tree can exist without connection to twigs, twigs to limbs, and limbs to the trunk no requirement can stand alone. Trees can be represented by diagrams so requirements can all be represented in a diagram.
Throughout this book there is an emphasis on representing design information as models in order to reduce ambiguity and the likelihood of misinterpretation of text based design information. There is also an emphasis on using analysis models and simulations as much as possible throughout the life cycle of a system development. The use of models and simulations improves functional analysis, design quality, system testing and system maintenance. Think of MBSE as combining these two principles; then it becomes clear why MBSE is desirable. Another way to look at traditional systems engineering vs. MBSE is for traditional systems engineering engineers write documents and then models are developed from the documents. In MBSE the approach is to model what is to be built from the beginning.
Model based design has been standard practice for many engineering specialties since the 1980s. Structural analysis, thermal analysis, electrical circuit analysis, optical design analysis and aerodynamics are a few examples of the use of Computer Aided Design (CAD) or model based design analysis. It is systems engineering that been slow to transition from non-model based methods, with the exception of performance modeling and simulation. To achieve the benefits of MBSE systems engineers need to embrace requirements diagrams, Use Case analysis and other MBSE tools along with performance modeling and simulation.
11.1 Definitions of Models As Applied to MBSE
Models have been referred to throughout this material without providing a formal definition or defining the types of models typically used in systems engineering. Formally, a model is a representation of something, as described in the DoD definition given above. For our purposes a model is a representation of a design element of a system. Types of models of interest to MBSE include11-2:
Schematic Models: A chart or diagram showing relationships, structure or time sequencing of objects. For MBSE schematic models should have a machine-readable representation. Examples include FFBDs, interface diagrams and network diagrams.
Performance Model: An executable representation that provides outputs of design elements in response to inputs. If the outputs are dynamic then the model is called a simulation.
Design Model: A machine interpretable version of the detailed design of a design element. Design models are usually represented by CAD drawings, VHDL, C, etc.
Physical model: A physical representation that is used to experimentally provide outputs in response to inputs. A breadboard or brass board circuit is an example.
Achieving machine readable and executable models means that the models must be developed using software. Useful languages used by software and systems engineers for such models are the Unified Modeling LanguageTM (UML®) and its derivative SysML™. A brief introduction to these languages is presented here along with references for further study.