ALM+PLE: Unifying Feature-based Product Line Engineering in Automotive Development

Charles Krueger, CEO of BigLever talked about Feature-based Product Line Engineering (PLE) & ISO 26580 Compliance with the Intland codeBeamer ALM/BigLever Gears Bridge. We asked him how he saw the role of integrating ALM and PLE in the future of system-of-systems development.

What’s the role of Product Line Engineering in automotive systems development?

Charles Krueger: PLE has always been seen as a “nice to have”, but not necessarily a “need to have” capability. Some organizations still think they can get away with ad-hoc methods in an increasingly competitive market environment.

Consider this: when an organization is building complex systems, the amount of time spent managing product variations consumes about 2/3 of the time of engineering teams. This has a huge impact. Imagine what you could do if you could remove all that low-value work from your engineering teams’ daily activities, and have them focus on high-value work instead!

The same applies to traceability, good requirements, good processes, which is the domain of Application Lifecycle Management platforms. When using a system like codeBeamer ALM to improve the formality of their lifecycle, organizations reap a return on investment that is much greater than the time required to roll out and maintain such a solution.

How do you see ALM and PLE working together in complex systems engineering?

CK: It’s that complete umbrella of systems engineering processes that need to work together, incorporating electrical, mechanical, and software development. Almost all the different engineering tools used over different parts of the lifecycle have some way of dealing with variability in artifacts in product families. But each of them have their own notion of the truth of what variability is, and how it impacts the lifecycle.

What PLE tools do is that they provide a single, authoritative source of truth about the variation that exists in the product family. The role of integrating ALM and PLE is to provide a common concept that can be used across all the different tools used in managing requirements, code, design, documentation, etc across the entire systems engineering lifecycle.

What are the tangible benefits of taking this approach to unify the lifecycle?

CK: Based on BigLever’s experience, we find that when engineers adopt this approach, their defect rates can be reduced by 80% or more. Development velocity, or the amount of work that engineers can get done over a period of time (adding new capabilities and just getting products out the door) can be tripled by removing manual, ad-hoc, informal processes. This allows teams to focus on creative, innovative work that’s not happening today because you’re focusing on error-prone manual activities.

Another big benefit organizations see is related to regulatory compliance: by following formailzed good practices, developers eliminate opportunities for errors and omissions. They can reduce risks to safety and eliminate misunderstanding across the lifecycle, and that has enormous impact on improving ISO 26262 and ASPICE effectiveness. I’m part of the INCOSE (International Council on Systems Engineering) team developing ISO 26580, the upcoming international guidance on feature-based Product Line Engineering.

More on the Breakfast with Experts Recap can be found at Intland Software