A System of Systems (SoS) is comprised of various independent, but interconnected, systems that function as part of a much larger, complex collective.
The SoS concept gained formal recognition in the 1990s in the aerospace and defense sectors. Increasingly complex military systems necessitated a systems approach by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) that required integrations and interoperability among various subsystems.
System of System Engineering (SoSE)
System of Systems engineers design, manage, and integrate the combined systems so they function cohesively. SoS engineers must take a holistic approach and take into account diverse stakeholder needs, balancing technical requirements, operational needs, and user expectations.
Systems in manufacturing SoS setups may include systems for production line operations, quality control, supply chain management, maintenance and monitoring, information technology, logistics, HR, environmental control, CRM, and R&D.
Seamless integrations are key to a robust SoS. Data from disparate systems must be standardized, mapped, reliably processed, always up to date, and available to relevant internal and external stakeholders to drive continuous improvement.
The integrated systems exhibit behaviors and properties that differ from the individual systems. In many cases, this is an enhancement, but integrations can also cause issues that require planning, maintenance, and ongoing optimizations.
Integrated systems can be designed for flexibility and scalability so systems can be added or removed from the SoS when market demands require production to be scaled up or down.
Systems of systems continue to grow in complexity with the rise of AI, IoT, big data and other advanced technologies.