What is Lean Systems Engineering?
Systems engineering refers to the development and delivery of complex systems, often a mixture of computers or controllers, sensors and plug-and-play devices. Lean Systems Engineering is intended to develop complex systems with a minimum number of components, lowest practical cost and fewest total software modules while maintaining
Lean System Engineering or Lean SE can be described as an effort to deliver complex systems faster, better and cheaper. Lean Systems do not have to be less complex; in fact, many new systems are growing ever more complex as they rely on more sensors, modules from different vendors and software components from ever more suppliers. Lean
Systems Engineering can also refer to the application of lean principles to the system engineering process, streamlining hardware development, software testing, gathering customer requirements or administrative processes.
Lean System Engineering and INCOSE
The INCOSE Handbook describes Lean Systems Engineering as the application of lean engineering principles and tools to systems engineering. INCOSE states that LSE should be applied through the product lifecycle, from initial design to destruction or disassembly.
The INCOSE Lean System Engineering or LSE Working Group was assembled in 2005. In 2011, the LSE WG was one of the largest working groups in INCOSE. INCOSE calls these experts Lean Enablers for System Engineering or LEfSE.
Why Is Lean System Engineering New?
Lean Production is standard in many factories. Lean as a management objective is more recent, with the application of value mapping and lean management coming to the forefront in many organizations as a response to the Great Recession (2008-present) as an effort to cut costs and eliminate waste strategically instead of just reducing headcount. While Lean Engineering principles can be applied to systems engineering, it has not yet been implemented through many organizations on a systems level. Lean Systems Engineering is also harder to implement down the supply chain, though it is more easily applied by the system integrator to areas it controls like supply chain management, top level design, unit testing, and the integration and verification and validation phases.
Lean system engineering may be new to managers who don’t consider Lean principles to be something to apply to management of programs and projects. This is an extension of the reluctance by managers to fight the natural growth of administration over time. After all, managers only gain importance and prominence by justifying their need or growing headcount. Look at organizations from the National Health Service in the UK to school districts and universities in the US that will cut teachers and nurses while still growing the number administrators. Applying value mapping principles to systems engineering projects forces managers to admit that they may be wasting time on non-value added activities of their own design.