Skip navigation

Engineering Systems

Systems Thinking Applied to Safety

Engineering has experienced a technological revolution, but the basic engineering techniques applied in safety and reliability engineering, created in a simpler, analog world, have changed very little over the years. In this groundbreaking book, Nancy Leveson proposes a new approach to safety—more suited to today’s complex, sociotechnical, software-intensive world—based on modern systems thinking and systems theory.

Meeting Human Needs in a Complex Technological World

Engineering, for much of the twentieth century, was mainly about artifacts and inventions. Now, it’s increasingly about complex systems. As the airplane taxis to the gate, you access the Internet and check email with your PDA, linking the communication and transportation systems. At home, you recharge your plug-in hybrid vehicle, linking transportation to the electricity grid. Today’s large-scale, highly complex sociotechnical systems converge, interact, and depend on each other in ways engineers of old could barely have imagined.

Design structure matrix (DSM) is a straightforward and flexible modeling technique that can be used for designing, developing, and managing complex systems. DSM offers network modeling tools that represent the elements of a system and their interactions, thereby highlighting the system’s architecture (or designed structure). Its advantages include compact format, visual nature, intuitive representation, powerful analytical capacity, and flexibility.

Every enterprise evolves continuously, driven by changing needs or new opportunities. Most often this happens gradually, with small adjustments to strategy, organization, processes, or infrastructure. But sometimes enterprises need to go beyond minor fixes and transform themselves, in response to a disruptive event or dramatically changing circumstances—a merger, for example, or a new competitor. In this book, enterprise architecting experts Deborah Nightingale and Donna Rhodes offer a framework for enterprise transformation.

Breakthroughs in medical science, innovations in medical technologies, and improvements in clinical practices occur today at an increasingly rapid rate. Yet because of a fragmented healthcare delivery system, many Americans are unable to benefit from these developments. How can we design a system that can provide high-quality, affordable healthcare for everyone? In this book, William Rouse and Nicoleta Serban introduce concepts, principles, models, and methods for understanding, and improving, healthcare delivery.

Delivering Customer Value through Flexible Operations

In recent years, management gurus have urged businesses to adopt such strategies as just-in-time, lean manufacturing, offshoring, and frequent deliveries to retail outlets. But today, these much-touted strategies may be risky. Global financial turmoil, rising labor costs in developing countries, and huge volatility in the price of oil and other commodities can disrupt a company’s entire supply chain and threaten its ability to compete.

How America Can Build a Low-Cost, Low-Carbon Energy System

Energy innovation offers us our best chance to solve the three urgent and interrelated problems of climate change, worldwide insecurity over energy supplies, and rapidly growing energy demand. But if we are to achieve a timely transition to reliable, low-cost, low-carbon energy, the U.S. energy innovation system must be radically overhauled.

Human and Machine in Spaceflight

As Apollo 11’s Lunar Module descended toward the moon under automatic control, a program alarm in the guidance computer’s software nearly caused a mission abort. Neil Armstrong responded by switching off the automatic mode and taking direct control. He stopped monitoring the computer and began flying the spacecraft, relying on skill to land it and earning praise for a triumph of human over machine. In Digital Apollo, engineer-historian David Mindell takes this famous moment as a starting point for an exploration of the relationship between humans and computers in the Apollo program.

Project teams can improve results by recognizing that the future is inevitably uncertain and that by creating flexible designs they can adapt to eventualities. This approach enables them to take advantage of new opportunities and avoid harmful losses. Designers of complex, long-lasting projects—such as communication networks, power plants, or hospitals—must learn to abandon fixed specifications and narrow forecasts. They need to avoid the “flaw of averages,” the conceptual pitfall that traps so many designs in underperformance.

Overcoming Vulnerability for Competitive Advantage

What happens when fire strikes the manufacturing plant of the sole supplier for the brake pressure valve used in every Toyota? When a hurricane shuts down production at a Unilever plant? When Dell and Apple chip manufacturers in Taiwan take weeks to recover from an earthquake? When the U.S. Pacific ports are shut down during the Christmas rush? When terrorists strike?