Simulating the Sociotechnical Process of Designing Complex Engineered Systems
In 1984, Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin, published his book Augustine’s Laws about the challenges in developing complex defense systems. His celebrated 16th Law whimsically observed that the cost of military aircraft had been experiencing exponential growth: “In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.” As of today, the trends noted by Augustine have not abated, as evidenced by the recent F-22 and F-35 military aircraft development programs. This cost escalation is hypothesized to stem not only from the ever-increasing increasing technical complexity of the systems being designed but also from the associated challenges in formulating design requirements and appropriate incentive structures for the thousands of individual designers situated in the context of the engineering firm. These issues transcend the technical complexity of the product itself and extend into the sociotechnical realm of how the design process is formulated, organized, and managed. The growing interest in the engineering design research community to understand these issues has motivated several workshops sponsored by NSF and NASA that have brought together researchers from fields including decision science, economics, game theory, collaborative design, industrial psychology, and organization theory.
In this talk, I will describe some of the characteristics of the problem by discussing several case studies of recent aerospace development projects. I will also discuss relevant methods for modeling the design process for complex engineered systems, including my work in simulating the decision-making behavior of design engineers. My approach formulates agent models to simulate a designer’s actions as influenced not only by the design artifact but also by the incentives implied by the organizational structure, schedule, and development budget. I will also discuss initial work in implementing these models in multi-agent simulations of design teams.
Dr. Brian German is an Associate Professor in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. His primary research interests are aircraft multidisciplinary design, multi-objective optimization, and simulations to model the process of designing and developing complex engineered systems. Dr. German has led research projects sponsored by NSF, NASA, AFRL, and Northrop Grumman. He is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), a member of the AIAA Multidisciplinary Design Optimization (MDO) Technical Committee, and Chair of the AIAA Transformational Flight Program Committee. Dr. German is a recipient of the Sigma Gamma Tau Outstanding Aerospace Engineering Professor Award, the Northrop Grumman Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Lockheed Martin Dean’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He is a former Fulbright student scholar, a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellow, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow. Dr. German received the NSF CAREER award in 2012.
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