Development manager at industrial company

As a development manager the reduction of development costs and time to market is one of your main concerns. A lack of interoperability involves huge costs. In a fast changing world, it is also important for you to keep up with this pace and stay up-to-date and innovative. You do not want your business to rely on only one tool vendor, as a lock-in will not allow you to be flexible.

  • Reduce costs by introducing solutions which investments are profitable
  • Stay up-to-date in a constantly changing environment
  • Ensure that lock-in is prevented to be able to be flexible
As the world becomes more and more interconnected, interoperability becomes more important. Costs involved with a lack of interoperability are very high. For example, studies show that insufficient interoperability in the supply chain in the US automobile sector increases the operating costs with at least one billion dollar. 86% of this amount can be attributed to problems in data exchange [1].

Figure 1: Traditional interoperability approach by using 1:1 adapters (colours of arrows indicate dominant language)

Traditionally, an adapter is created to provide interoperability with one tool. Very quickly, this leads to a large number of adapters that becomes impossible to manage. Adopting standards is a common way to ensure interoperability. As the demand for plug-and-play relationships increases, standards become even more important. In order to reduce costs of integration and to facilitate flexibility, solutions based on standards are most promising [2].

Also for tool interoperability, the potential of standards is high. In the context of CRYSTAL this is the kind of interoperability that we speak about. The aim of CRYSTAL is to support the development of a solution to make engineering tools interoperable. This solution offers both technical interoperability, and interoperability on the semantic level.

The benefits of such a solution are that integrations can be completed faster and at much lower costs. Mostly, tools are proprietary and heterogeneous and they have a specific view on data which does not correspond with the view other tools have. As this makes it difficult to exchange data between tools, a standard is a good way to go. Although each tool must invest in building an adapter to make sure data from the tool can be exchanged with other tools, this investment has only to be made once. Instead of having to set up bilateral agreements with every tool that the tool itself wants to exchange with, it only has to map its own data to the standard.

Figure 2: Crystal Interoperability approach using n:n adapters and a common IOS language (blue colour arrows)


As the tool landscape is evolving continuously and at a large speed, a standard is a good way to establish interoperability. This interoperability issue could also be solved by using tools from one single vendor only, but in the complex and evolving environment of system engineering this will not offer a full solution.


[1] Brunnermeier, S.B. & Martin, S.A. (2002). Interoperability costs in the US automotive supply chain. Supply Chain Management, 7(2), 71-82.
[2] Chari, K. & Seshadri, S. (2004).   Demystifying integration. Communications of the ACM, 47(7), 58-63.