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Technique of using knowledge from various branches of engineering and science to introduce technological innovations into the planning and development stages of a system. Systems engineering was first applied to the organization of commercial telephone systems in the 1920s and '30s. Many systems-engineering techniques were developed during World War II in an effort to deploy military equipment more efficiently. Postwar growth in the field was spurred by advances in electronic systems and by the development of computers and information theory. Systems engineering usually involves incorporating new technology into complex, man-made systems, in which a change in one part affects many others. One tool used by systems engineers is the flowchart, which shows the system in graphic form, with geometric figures representing various subsystems and arrows representing their interactions. Other tools include mathematical models, probability theory, statistical analysis, and computer simulations.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on systems engineering, visit Britannica.com.
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