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Combining Systems Architecture And Systems Engineering In An Engineering Management Program

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Examining the Synergy between Eng'g Mgmt & Sys Eng

Tagged Division

Engineering Management

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.333.1 - 11.333.10



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Paper Authors


Jonathan Weaver University of Detroit Mercy

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JONATHAN M. WEAVER, PH.D. is an Associate professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Detroit Mercy (UDM). He received his BSME from Virginia Tech in 1986, his MSME and PhD in ME from RPI in 1990 and 1993, respectively. He has several years of industry experience and regularly consults with an automaker on projects related to CAD, DOE, and product development. He can be reached at

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Michael Vinarcik University of Detroit Mercy

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MICHAEL J. VINARCIK, P.E. is an Interior Trim Engineer with Ford Motor Company and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Detroit Mercy. He received a B.S.(Metallurgical Engineering) from The Ohio State University in 1990, an MBA from the University of Michigan in 1997, and an MS Product Development from the University of Detroit Mercy in 2004. He has fifteen years of automotive experience and is active in numerous technical and professional societies.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Combining Systems Architecture and Systems Engineering in an Engineering Management Program


The discipline of systems engineering is receiving more attention from both the academic and practicing engineering communities. Many high-profile engineering failures (including several recent NASA missions and a variety of product recalls) have all been traced to breakdowns in systems engineering.

However, the architecture of an engineering system has an even greater impact on its performance, robustness, and properties. Outstanding systems engineering and detail design cannot salvage an architecture that is fundamentally flawed. Despite architecture’s importance, many organizations do not explicitly explore alternatives and “jump” directly to systems-level design. This prematurely collapses the design space and squanders the opportunity to explore alternatives at the least costly phase in the design process.

Therefore, it is important to educate engineering managers about the key role that both systems architecture and systems engineering play in the success or failure of an engineering system. It is the belief of the authors that this may be accomplished reasonably well in a single course in programs where a more in-depth course sequence is not a realistic option. Although combining these topics restricts the depth at which either may be taught, there are natural synergies that allow this combination.

The goal of this combined course is to familiarize the engineering management students with both systems architecture and systems engineering, to understand the common pitfalls associated with each, and to begin to develop a mindset that continually considers architectural and systems engineering consequences of management decisions. The course focuses more on the “what” and “why” of systems architecture and systems engineering and less on the “how.” Detailed discussion of specific tools (such as DOORS) is omitted or significantly abbreviated to allow more time to be spent on fundamentals and case studies.


The authors are associated with the University of Detroit Mercy’s Master of Science in Product Development (MPD) program. This program is offered by the College of Engineering and Science and the College of Business. It was developed in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Rochester Institute of Technology and six industrial partners: Ford, General Motors, IBM, ITT, Polaroid, and Xerox. The United States Navy and the National Science Foundation also provided input.

The MPD program is cohort-based and operates on a two-year cycle from initiation through thesis completion. Students are immersed in the program through a two-week long “January Experience” that includes coursework and a design challenge (in recent years this has been a radio-controlled robotics competition). The lead author is a recent MPD graduate (working in industry) who has twice been invited to assist with the “January Experience” for subsequent

Weaver, J., & Vinarcik, M. (2006, June), Combining Systems Architecture And Systems Engineering In An Engineering Management Program Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1205

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