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Make or buy? Using off-the-shelf vs. in-house tools for electrical and electronic systems development

Many modern products, including automobiles, aircraft and industrial machinery, contain sophisticated electrical and electronic (E/E) systems. E/E systems now deliver much of the product’s functionality but impact key parameters such as reliability, cost, and weight. While E/E systems development has traditionally been supported by in-house tools, powerful commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software solutions are now available to support E/E systems development, including wire harness manufacturing. Companies must weigh several factors when deciding whether to continue investing in in-house (proprietary) software development or to adopt COTS solutions. In particular, needs for flexibility, enterprise integration and IP protection impact this 'make or buy' decision in the E/E domain.


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Why to consider COTS tools in the E/E domain

Several factors impact ‘make or buy’ analysis. All these factors apply to deciding between COTS and in-house E/E systems development software. Of these factors, perhaps the most difficult to manage is human: psychological attachment to previous endeavors. This paper examines the trade-off between developing in house and buying a COTS system, a task often referred to as the ‘make or buy’ decision, specifically for the E/E systems development domain. We will look at:

  • How E/E systems development processes have changed and the approaches used to choosing software
  • Various actors in the decision making process
  • Technical considerations of the systems regarding their capabilities

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