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Managing Product Lifecycles for a Sustainable Future

Updated: Feb 8, 2023

This is the opening lecture of my course in Product Lifecycle Management, and I make the case that we must look at systems far larger than the technology used to manage engineering data.

I was also interviewed on this lecture by Craig Brown, of the Digital Enterprise Society in a podcast called What's Wrong with Systems Engineering?

The course is based on three aphorisms:

Decomposition Creates Dysfunction

Decomposing tasks into components enables detailed understanding and increased efficiency at a component level but creates dysfunction at a systemic level. The whole may be less than the sum of the parts.

For case studies, see "For Better Products we Need Better Cultures (on the GM Ignition Switch Recall) and "Complexity Beyond Imagination" (on the Boeing 737 Max) in My Writing | Patrick Hillberg

The Past Century has Not Prepared Us for the Next Decade

The first industrial revolution, initiated by James Watt's steam engine, Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, and Thomas Jefferson's Declaration of Independence, all originating in 1776, led to the second revolution, initiated by Henry Ford's mass production and Alfred Sloan's (of GM) bottom-line economic metrics. These (along with Simon Kuznets' development of GDP in 1934) led us to our modern means of describing "the economy". Note, therefore that after 300,000 years of human history, our definition of the economy is less than a century old.

Further, this definition has never accounted for "negative externalities" or those cost borne by those who are not part of the market contract between buyer and seller. An example of this is the ability of the modern airline system to transport people from place to place and transmit disease throughout the world. The negative externality which will most impact the coming century, and most notable the coming decade (the 2020's) is climate change.

For deeper comments on this, see "A Bat Sneezed and the Economy Collapsed" and "MPL for Sustainability", also found at My Writing | Patrick Hillberg.

My students will learn more from each other than they will ever learn from me.

This is discussed in class, not here, but my general premise is to create a Learning Organization within the course, so that students are learning from each other. (But I get to choose the topics. 😊)


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