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Benefits of adopting systems engineering approaches in rail projects

Elliott, Bruce Jeffrey (2014)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Systems Engineering (SE) is being increasingly used in rail projects. However, it is not entirely clear what exactly the return on investing in SE is or how to maximise this return. This thesis describes research into the relationship between the adoption of SE in rail projects and project outcomes.

Using project cost and duration and system performance to measure the benefits of adopting SE is found to be problematic. Theoretical reasons and practical experience lead the writer to believe that many of the benefits of adopting SE on projects are enjoyed as a consequence of reducing change latency - the unnecessary delay in deciding to make a change. A tentative theory of how SE can reduce change latency is proposed and tested against data collected from nine rail projects. The data corroborate several causal mechanisms in the theory but also suggest that change latency depends upon other factors.

For practitioners considering whether to apply SE on a project, the research findings provide encouragement but also a warning that the full benefits of applying SE will only be enjoyed if other pre-requisites for sound decision making are in place. The findings also provide guidance on how to adapt SE practices when applying them to rail projects, in order to maximise the benefits.

The writer argues that change latency is a valuable metric for both practitioners and researchers and that formulating and refining explicit theories about the manner in which SE delivers benefits can assist researchers to build upon each other’s work.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Schmid, Felix and Roberts, Clive
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Engineering & Physical Sciences
Department:School of Civil Engineering
Subjects:TA Engineering (General). Civil engineering (General)
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:5322
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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