Ahlman Engineering Methods

Product Development

System Architecture

System Architecture Concept

What is System Architecture?

System Architecture is the Form and the Function defined through a Concept including interfaces and contexts of application.


Read below to better understand the level of detail typically associated with system architecture definition as well as more tangible examples.

System Architecture Definition - How Detailed?

Automotive System Architecture Decomposition Example

This figure represents the top level, first and second level of form and function decomposition of an automobile and its chassis system. A modern automobile concept is made up five major systems shown here at level1.


We have then broken out the "chassis" concept, from the level 1 decomposition, into the six major systems that represent the modern chassis concept for an automobile.


This figure of automotive decomposition represents the level of detail associated with system architecture definition of its concept (the form and function) including interfaces and contexts of application.

Automotive System Architecture Decomposition

Automotive Frame Architecture Example

These two automotive frames shown below are from two different eras and a little different application, but they serve the same basic function as the "foundation" and primary structure for the car. However, they are fairly different concepts in form and the resultant interfaces they utilize. As a result, there are significant tradeoff differences between these two concepts including:

  • Weight
  • Cost
  • Complexity (the number and type of interfaces)
  • Strength and Stiffenss
  • Manufacturing
  • Assembly


What is the best Concept (System Architecture) for your system? We have a clearly defined method and the background to achieve the best system architecture for your application.


Read onward to better understand the importance of system architecture definition and our framework to help you determine the best concept for your system to achieve your goals within your constraints.

Ford GT40 Frame Comparison

System Architecture Importance

System architecture (the "Concept" as depicted in this figure below) definition dominates the system results. System architecture has the greatest leverage on your products' outcome with respect to its goals as this figure clearly depicts.


One cannot design or develop their way out of system architecture issues (although many try with great expense and time) once a project has moved passed the concept definition phase of a product or system.

System Architecture Influence Chart by Stefan Thomke

System Architecture - Industry Challenge

We have shown the importance of system architecture and architecture's significance to success is well known throughout industry. However, system architecture continues to be defined mainly by judgment rather than a rigorous process including system architecture and engineering tools and methods. Any significant product or system has far more needs and criteria for success than can be achieved by judgment and inspection alone.


Unfortunately, dominant system architecture issues are not uncovered until late in the product development process, when it is too late to fix (even though band-aids are always attempted) and results in missed targets, additional development time and ultimately higher costs.

System Engineering Vee

Industry Challenge Compounded

System architecture definition issues are often compounded by inadequate definition of:

  • Goals
  • Constraints
  • Boundaries
  • Context


Many teams are on a design journey, we call “design by walkabout”, with no clear destination. This inadequate definition is inefficient, low performing and costly. “Lack of time” is often used as reasoning for lack of rigor regarding system architecture definition. A company cannot afford to shortcut this crucial step.


Please read onward - we have developed a rigorous method and process utilizing known system architecting and engineering tools. And we have the critical knowledge and application experience to achieve high performance results.

Ahlman's System Architecture Method

Ahlman Engineering originated and developed a clearly defined method and process to efficiently and effectively determine the best architecture for your system goals, within its constraints, boundaries and context.


The method is a hierarchal synthesis of qualitative and quantitative tools and methods within a holistic system architecting framework. Plenty of “white space” remains still requiring the “art” of architecting.


Let us help you define the best architetcure for your system!

System Architecture Definition Framework by Ahlman Engineering

System Engineering

We are System Engineers

By Nature

We automatically think and act holistically.


By Education

Our founder's Master Degree in System Design and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology helps provide us a formal framework and tools to apply.


By Experience

Decades of chassis and vehicle dynamics (a large and complex system) design and development work continually reinforce the need to find the best "balance" for a system rather than optimizing individual components.


Ahlman Engineering's ability to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts encompasses the entire product development range.


Ahlman Enigneering System Engineering

Our System Engineering Tool Examples

Simple System Engineering Tools Include:

  • Hierarchy
  • Decomposition
  • Abstraction
  • Chunking
  • Aggregation


To more complex tools including:

  • System Engineering Vee Process
  • Concept Mapping as shown here


To tools that identify critical form and function as well as resultant critical design parameters:

  • Concept Screening
  • Quality Functional Deployment
  • Design of Experiments and Response Surface Equations
    • Quick Turn-Around Analysis
    • True Sensitivities
    • System Optimization
Ahlman Engineering Requirements Cascade Example