Systems Engineering is not about soldering circuit boards

When developing masterplans for airports, one has to consider a tremendous amount of explicit and implicit variables. Examples are traffic outlooks, airline segmentations and stakeholder requirements. Despite all these variables, we have experienced that in most cases development plans are not in line with the strategic roadmap and the process of truly engaging stakeholders. As a result, the plans are often not sufficient to cope with the modern challenges in aviation. In fact, most masterplans we have assessed are good starting points, but lack quality when it comes to implementation. As a consequence, many projects developed at airports do not add sufficient value to the strategic roadmap. We find that doubtful, and we think airports can do much better. Therefore, we introduce Systems Engineering (SE).

Systems Engineering is a problem-independent, solution-independent and technology- independent method for project development. SE uses life-cycle-oriented principles and methods, based on systems thinking for defining, conducting and controlling the engineering content of a project.

Many think that Systems Engineering is a very technical tool. In fact, it is not. SE is not about soldering circuit boards as many people think. SE is a modern and progressive approach to project management and project development. It is a very effective method in other industries and AirportCreators is now bringing SE to aviation. Our experiences shows that SE turns out to be a very effective tool for airport master planning, project management and project development, resulting to better masterplan(s) and better projects that will have the support of the stakeholders and will benefit your business.

Don’t fall into the trap of specifying solutions.

SE is a needs driven method instead of design driven approach, aiming to maximize the benefits to stakeholders. SE stretches the solution space and leaving maximum room for non-traditional solutions and creativity. SE focuses on helping master planners and developers to structure problems, challenges and contextual information like environmental boundaries, sustainability challenges and market disruption into one overall strategic roadmap.

Explicit decision making

Systems Engineering supports policy makers and decision makers in focussing on the needs instead of the things: it provides focus to the right things at the right time, preventing teams to dive into details, so to be called ‘solutions’.

You may recognize that airport development is in fact a long and multidimensional trajectory of decision making. Research has shown that most projects at airports fly of course because of implicit decision making in which information is lost over time. SE is breaking with this old approach by introducing an explicit, traceable and transparent way of decision making. Decision makers at all levels of the organisation now have all the required information on the spot to make the right decision.

Setting up the strategic roadmap and masterplan according to the Systems Engineering principles is advantageous when defining and starting up projects. Projects are better capable to contribute to the strategic roadmap as they are derived from it. The strategic roadmap and master plan will no longer be a cloud in the sky but a firm and robust starting point to all the projects and – eventually – operational processes on the airport. The gap between high level plans and daily business will disappear.

Systems Thinking: the real new way of working at airports

Systems Thinking is one of the core principles of Systems Engineering. An airport is part of a bigger system (like a traffic and/or environmental system) but also a result of several sub-systems (like runway system, baggage handling system, passenger flow system, etc.). By defining the strategic road map with use of SE-techniques all needs and values of stakeholders are considered and communicated back and forth on all levels of detail. Stakeholders gain much more understanding in choices airport master planners have to make because the bigger picture is in place.

So, what’s in it for you?

Sounds technical? Don’t let yourself be intimidated by some new terms. Working according to SE-principles supports an explicit way of working and avoids making assumptions on decisions. SE prevents project stakeholder falling into the trap of jumping right to solutions instead of needs.

When finishing a project in which SE is used as organizing and developing principle the contribution to the strategic road map is known of every nut and bold in the airport. One never has to ask themselves anymore: “what is this thing doing at my airport!?”.

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