The objective of this collaborative research project is to assess multidisciplinary optimization (MDO) methods as coordinating frameworks for the systems engineering process during the detailed design of large-scale complex systems. Systems engineering is the process that coordinates the integration of many design teams within a large project. The research addresses simultaneous optimization of the system design and the systems engineering process itself. The emphasis of the work is on the detailed design phase, in which an organization is divided along component lines rather than by engineering discipline, and the design of thousands of components occur in parallel. The research will first investigate payoff measures of the system in a relevant context and formulate these measures into optimization objectives and constraints. Next, several MDO methods will be examined for their potential to facilitate systems engineering process coordination, and formal metrics will be established to measure effectiveness of the methods. These methods will be assessed using a simulation of the design of a gas turbine engine as a representative example of a large-scale complex system. The simulation will include both physics-based analyses and behavioral models that describe the action of component design teams in response to different process coordination approaches.
The engineering effort devoted to detailed design in systems such as aircraft significantly exceeds the effort expended on the earlier phases of conceptual and preliminary design. If successful, this research can potentially introduce improved ways of organizing the detailed design of large-scale complex systems to reduce cost overruns and schedule delays. The research program may also reinvigorate the study of MDO in a new and meaningful way. To encourage continued research in this area, a graduate seminar course on the applicability of MDO to systems engineering management will be created, employing the simulation as a pedagogic aid.