About My Work – Excellence in Engineering Systems

My current research focuses on better designing, building and operating Engineering Systems. I focus on the integration of systems engineering and program management, particularly through the lenses of risk management and lean thinking.

My “academic home” is with the engineering design and operations management community, but the nature of my research is quite interdisciplinary. In particular, I work on the three related fields of:

  • the integration of systems engineering and program management in the design of large-scale engineering systems
  • risk management in the design and operation of engineering systems
  • the application of lean management principles as risk mitigation techniques to the design of engineering systems

Management of Large-Scale Engineering Programs

The average cost overrun of large engineering programs, for example in the aerospace and defense sector, is 45%, with an average schedule delay of close to 2 years. My research identifies the main barriers and challenges that lead to these problems, and develops management approaches to overcome them. Examples include advanced stakeholder integration, management of the extended engineering enterprise, improved technology transition processes, and harmonization and integration of systems engineering and program management.

My research focuses mostly the Aerospace & Defense industry, but includes other industries as well that face complex, multi-company development and system engineering tasks in the multi-billion-dollar range. The main challenges in program management today are:

  • the complex enterprise environment, consisting of a large development- and supply chain, as well as a diverse stakeholder base on the customer side (typically a number of government services)
  • increasing cost constraints and demands for shorter development lead times
  • the central role of (difficult to predict and manage) cutting-edge technology
  • the ongoing developments in the field of program management that has not yet settled on common process model, and its integration with systems engineering.

Risk Management in Engineering Programs

While risk management on a technical level is well understood – for example for reliability and safety assessments – managing the process risks in the development and design of engineering systems is still very difficult. A number of factors introduce a large degree of risk, for example uncertainty surrounding customer requirements, technology capabilities, or production and supply chain performance. My research identifies best practices in risk management, develops new risk management processes and methods, as well as specific recommendations to identify and mitigate the most severe risks.

My current goals in this area are two-fold: First, to understand what the current state of product development-related risk management is in industry and second, to develop an integrated theory and process model (working title: Risk-Driven Design).

My empirical research into “risk management best practices” has shown that only about 30% of current risk management practices have a measurable impact on engineering project and program performance (for example, clearly linking risk management activities to the decision making process (and vice versa) show significant performance improvements). Based on my research, I postulated the following four principles of “risk-driven design”:

  • Principle 1: Creating Transparency Regarding Design Risks
  • Principle 2: Making Risk-Driven Decisions
  • Principle 3: Minimizing Uncertainty in Design
  • Principle 4: Creating Resilience in the Design System
You can read more about this work in this book chapter that I wrote.

Applying Lean Management to Engineering Programs

Successful application of lean principles in engineering programs leads to massive reductions of waste and time to market – sometimes up to 80%. But unfortunately, companies often struggle with effective customization and implementation of lean processes. My research addresses change management and implementation aspects, as well as the identification of particularly effective lean management practices for product development from a risk management perspective.

International Collaborations

I work with a number of colleagues around the globe in sometimes more, sometimes less formal agreements. They include faculty members and researchers from example MIT, DTU, Technical University of Munich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, RWTH Aachen, University of Hull and the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.