Case Study: Requirements Management in the Automotive Industry

Posted by Brad Egeland

I would like to share another recent article from InformationWeek. This one concerns how an auto parts manufacturer is managing their parts requirements in a single repository and how critical it is for their teams around the world as they work to both ensure requirements compliance and reduce the costs of re-work and re-engineering that can occur when requirements change and something is missed along the way.

I found this an interesting twist to my experience managing requirements for IT projects and how it’s really not that different – requirements are requirements and they are definitely the lifeblood of a project. You already know I feel this way if you read my previous article entitled, not surprisingly, “Requirements are the Lifeblood of the Project.”

Please, read on….

Delphi Engineers Use a Single Requirements Repository

Requirements management discipline isn’t just for managing code. At auto component maker Delphi, the strategy that developers use to get software right is the same one used to manage all the requirements an automaker gives the company to build a particular piece of a vehicle.

Delphi has created a single repository for all requirements of a given component, helping Delphi’s 1,500 software, electrical, and other engineers discuss and comply with requirements, even when those people are spread around the world, including its 22 software development sites. The repository, based on IBM’s Doors software, also is used for search – for example, to trace details about where within the software architecture and code a particular required function shows up.

“It’s a fairly complex scheme to track requirements, where they were implemented, tested,” says Cory Wentz, Delphi’s lead engineer on the project, and this system “provides the backbone for this.” For a typical vehicle, Delphi can get about 300 different electronic documents, each with 20-30 pages, and the requirements Delphi needs to work may be spread throughout many places in the documents. Besides having search, a central repository lets Delphi engineers compare original specs against changes the customer made along the way.

It’s critical work because if engineers misinterpret or overlook a requirement, or fail to incorporate new requirements that customers frequently add, Delphi must rework the design – which can burn a month of two, says Wentz, and add anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in new design costs, depending on the importance of the requirements. In an industry hit as hard as automotive, he says, “reducing engineering costs is critical for survival.”

This article, originally entitled “Delphi Engineers Use Single Repository,” was written by Marianne Kolbasuk McGee and appeared in the June 8, 2009 issue of InformationWeek.

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