New method for complex designs

With a method for designing complex systems, Mats Nordin, research leader at FOI, has developed the way Swedish submarine design is conducted by showing that economic, operational and technical factors need to be included in design and decision-making processes.

In Mats Nordin´s doctoral thesis “A Novel Submarine Design Method- Based on technical, economical and operational factors of influence “ different approaches and analysis methods are put together in order to make sure that economic, operational and technical factor are used in a structured way.

All parts are included in the design by combining an integrated domain driven design approach, a generic design object for the operational analysis simulation and a Monte Carlo model. By merging the above together in the new method, a designer or a design team of a new project can get more information early about possible designs and hence make better decisions together with the stakeholders and decision makers on which design to use.

- My most important results include how I connected models and formed a coherent method for technical optimization by including economic and operational factors. This has several implications for a company: companies will need more knowledge about the use of the future product and how to make the product and will therefore demand higher competence among its staff. By doing so, the company reduces its risks and have a better understanding of the operational aspects and economic realities and the project in general. This could not only be applied by submarine, but also for merchant shipping companies, says Mats Nordin.

A few things surprised Mats Nordin – for instance how little economists, legal experts, operators and designers speak to each other.

- Hindsight it seems almost trivial that people do not talk to each other. Previously the classical Swedish method included a few but knowledgeable experts that met and decided what to do. However to date, with the introduction of Anglo-Saxon business models and companies, focus has shifted towards a more top-level decision-making by the higher management that have less knowledge about the actual details. This is why it is often the wrong people that meet and decide, says Mats Nordin.

It is not only submarine design and the shipping industry that might benefit from Mats Nordin´s doctoral thesis. Also companies within air and automobile will be able to better design for costs and consequences by using a more through model for risk judgment.

- All factors are important for the understanding of an entire project, even though of course some factors are more important in certain parts of the projects, says Mats Nordin.

Mats Nordin´s research also have implications for higher education.

- It is important that the person that has responsibility for keeping the production project together have knowledge and focus on time, result and money. That person however, also needs to have broad and deep knowledge, both of the system but also the operational domain. Therefore, the education should develop to match this demand for broader and deeper knowledge, says Mats Nordin.

The knowledge from the new method has already started to be implemented in submarine design at FMV and FOI and, according to Mats Nordin, the model works very well.

- This method should be used in early stages in order to increase the understanding of the product that should develop; you need to know when and why something is designed. For instance, when you work with energy systems in nuclear power-station, it is important to see the overall picture in order to make a better design. It is not always cheaper in the beginning, but in the long-run it is both more effective and safer – hence, more cost-effective, says Mats Nordin.

For more information, please contact Mats Nordin, mats.nordin [at] foi.se

Text: Carolina Kihlström