System Design Process for Whole Life Cost Reduction

Improvement of System Design Process for Whole Life Cost Reduction

The provision of service by a system demands cost-effective delivery of capability, through life, and the effective management of engineering service challenges such as Whole Life Cost (WLC), Obsolescence, Maintenance, Repair, Upgrade, Technology Insertion and System assurance / (Re)Certification. These represent challenging demands for system designers in industry, who need to understand, design and implement appropriate characteristics and process for System Design. This research project investigates the system design characteristics and the industrial system design approaches and process that are necessary to achieve an optimised system design from whole life cost as well as engineering service perspectives.

This may be described as encompassing how best to achieve, for example, “System design for obsolescence management” or “system design for WLC” etc. and the focus of the research will be the system partitioning / modular structure represented by the “System Architecture Design”. This refers to the partitioning, by the designer, of the system into component subsystems, with the corresponding allocation of requirements, specification of properties and interfaces. This System Architecture Design, selected by the designer, can have a significant impact on the service delivery and through-life performance, whole life cost and risk. Consider, for example, the following two scenarios in which several technologies are becoming obsolete at a period in the system lifecycle: a) If the obsolete technologies are distributed widely throughout the system then an extensive major upgrade of the system will be necessary and this is likely to be very expensive and highly disruptive to the continued delivery of capability and service. b) At the other extreme, if the obsolete technologies are clustered into one modular “subsystem” then the obsolescence may well be managed with far less disruption and cost. As systems become increasingly closely coupled and complex, achieving the design characteristics as in scenario (b) requires increasingly sophisticated design processes, methods and tools in order to achieve an optimised overall design. This illustration provides an example of the sort of consideration that would be appropriate in an overall “System Design for Service Provision” approach and the characterisation and development of such an approach is the focus for the proposed research.

Key research challenges:

  1. To study examples of impact of coupling between the mechanical, electrical and software components for whole life cost of a system, obsolescence management, maintenance-repair-overhaul and System requalification.
  2. To develop a novel methodology and its associated tool to improve the system design process and partitioning to reduce the engineering service cost whilst minimising the effort and elapsed time needed to evaluate and optimise the concept design options for the High Value Systems.
  3. To demonstrate the recommended System Design for Service Provision approach in a real life engineering system.


Phil John, Principal Investigator

Essam Shehab, Co-investigator