The GAO report examines practices that leading commercial companies use to develop complex cyber-physical products, like those increasingly acquired by government agencies. It finds:
- Leading companies use an iterative structure with overlapping cycles of design modeling, validation testing, and production planning. Knowledge about the product increases through each cycle.
- Companies start with a high-level business case and refine it as they gain knowledge. The outcome is a minimum viable product (MVP) that meets essential user needs.
- Companies use digital engineering tools like digital twins and 3D printing to quickly model and test design concepts with users. Physical and digital prototypes are integrated for system-level testing.
- As design matures and risks decrease, companies increase investments. They off-ramp capabilities as needed to meet schedule.
- For manufacturing, companies optimize factory layouts and processes using digital models. Modular designs allow customization and reuse.
- After delivery, user feedback informs improvements to the MVP and development of the next iteration or new product.
The report concludes practices that propel iterative cycles provide valuable insights for framing changes to acquisition processes as agencies increasingly acquire cyber-physical systems.