Advanced systems engineering research unit

Systems thinking and collaboration for the value creation of the future

An excerpt from an interview with Roman Dumitrescu, Harald Anacker and Arno Kühn

The Product engineering research unit is focused on interdisciplinary, technology-driven development that takes the entire innovation process into account — from strategic planning right through to a successful launch on the market. Director Roman Dumitrescu and Division Manager Arno Kühn and Harald Anacker explain how companies can meet the challenges of climate change, the pandemic and geopolitics though systems thinking and collaboration.

Why should companies place product engineering high on their list of priorities?

Roman Dumitrescu: Product engineering is the key to almost everything; from product design to business models, it enables companies to set the right course so that they can produce their products sustainably and successfully launch them on the market. Our task is to provide methods and technologies to support companies in this essential work. In order to bring together experts from all the different disciplines, it’s essential that companies apply systems thinking and utilize systems engineering methods. This will enable them to start thinking about the associated value creation chain early on in the product engineering process.

Arno Kühn: We don’t just see the digital transformation as a challenge — it’s also a vital source of solutions! For example, IT systems can support complex processes, and smart data collection can optimize production machinery. The digital transformation affects the entire company, from engineering to production and beyond.

The challenges facing the industry sector are more dynamic and diverse than ever. What advice do you have for your partners here?

Harald Anacker: First and foremost, we encourage them to apply systems thinking. Companies need to systematically integrate this approach throughout their entire organization, so that the effects of each individual’s actions become transparent. You can’t manage complexity away. You need to understand and bring it under control. For example, what effect does choosing certain materials or designs have on sustainability or supply chains? What are the opportunities and risks associated with choosing a particular location for production? Being able to conduct our lives and business in a secure environment is no longer something we can take for granted. Systems engineering methods can help with all these considerations.

Zitat von Dr.-Ing. Harald Anacker
© Fraunhofer IEM

Arno Kühn: Another important strategy for the future is focusing on collaboration. No company can or should be expected to meet the complex demands of the modern-day world on its own. Cross-company collaboration is also a solution to the tricky issue of skilled worker shortages — companies are struggling to find qualified experts these days, and it’s very difficult for SMEs in particular to recruit people with technology and digitalization expertise.

Collaboration can take different forms, from working together in an innovation cluster such as the “it’s OWL” network, to the further education and training courses we offer at the Fraunhofer IEM Academy, right through to new collaboration models that ensure industry companies always have access to the latest research knowledge. Last but not least, having a company culture of positivity and willingness to adapt to change is just as important as having specialist knowledge.

Zitat Dr.-Ing. Arno Kühn
© Fraunhofer IEM

How does sustainability — the problem of the century — affect product engineering?

Roman Dumitrescu: If you’re going to take this topic seriously, you need to develop a vision for sustainability at your company that covers all possible dimensions. The product engineering process and our system-focused approach gives companies a radical insight into the consequences of their own business models. Our studies have shown that well over 90 percent of industry companies’ greenhouse gas emissions come from the downstream processes in their supply chains, e.g. the next customers in the chain. So in order to be sustainable, we need to radically change how we think, act and do business.

Looking to the future, what does your research unit have planned for the coming months?

Harald Anacker: First of all, we want to make our own calls for greater collaboration a reality, starting with our own institute: Our new IoT Xperience Center at Zukunftsmeile 2 is the ideal environment for collaborating with companies in order to bring topics like connected industry and 5G to life. The IoT Xperience Center is there to represent a number of labs and events that have not yet attracted the attention they deserve due to the pandemic. We want to make up for lost time.

Strategic product and business design research groups

Bunte Papierkugeln am Rand und eine gelbe Kugel in der Mitte, die wie eine Glühbirne aussieht.
© / Adobe Stock

Innovation management

In the innovation management group, we develop strategies, methods and tools to convert the innovation potential of digitalization into products, services and business models. In particular, we focus on identifying and evaluating new technologies, developing innovations in an agile, customer-centric manner and on the shift to data-driven services and business models. With innovative formats such as the corporate makeathon, we foster enthusiasm and inventiveness so that the team can develop solutions away from the core business environment.

Hände an PC und Handy, darüber ist ein Analytics Dashboard eingeblendet.
© everythingpossible / Adobe Stock

Production management

The production management group researches and develops approaches for the successful design of production and value creation systems. One area of focus is intelligent data analysis in the context of production. The basis for this is the systematic introduction of industrial information and communication technologies and the comprehensive development of data sources for the purposes of Industrie 4.0. By successfully applying methods from machine learning and data analytics, previous processes can be optimized and untapped potential for value creation can be harnessed.

Business-Personen sitzen am Flat Table und halten ein Meeting.
© / Adobe Stock

Business configuration

Digitalization is altering the foundations of every company in terms of its strategies, structures, processes and culture. In the business configuration group, we develop approaches and methods for shaping digital transformation in a successful way. Our activities range from the development of customized digitalization strategies and the optimization of value creation processes and structures right through to the design of digitalized working environments.

Systems engineering department

The digitalization-driven shift from mechatronic systems to globally distributed systems that communicate with each other and with people via the internet and operate as a network offers a wealth of potential for innovation. Key development challenges are the increased interdisciplinarity and complexity of the systems themselves. The Systems Engineering department is concerned with the central question of how these complex systems can be developed efficiently. Systems engineering is at the heart of the approach. Methods and means of expression are devised to bring together experts from all fields of study. Key topics are system analysis, modular architectural design, the integration of mechanical and electrical functions or the design of innovative combinations of material and services. The department also examines how digital technologies such as augmented and virtual reality are changing everyday product development work.

Systems engineering research groups

Mann im Labor, der ein 3D-gedrucktes MID-Teil in ein Tauchbad senkt.
© Fraunhofer IEM / Wolfram Schroll

Integrated mechatronic systems

In the integrated mechatronic systems group, we develop strategies, methods, tools and prototypes that are enablers for the Internet of Things. The focus is on spatially integrated products that are characterized by enhanced intelligence and an increasing degree of networking. By tapping into technology potential, e.g. for additive manufacturing, the starting point is established — from empowerment and design to joint prototype development. Significant emphasis has been placed on linking generative and selective metallizing manufacturing technologies.

Vier Personen im SE Live Lab, von denen sich zwei Frauen über ein CAD-Modell austauschen.
© Fraunhofer IEM / Wolfram Schroll

Digital product engineering

Thanks to specialized software tools, the digitalization of the product creation process continues to progress within the specialist disciplines. However, interdisciplinarity and mastery of product complexity can only be achieved through Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE). In the digital product engineering group, we pursue the objective of end-to-end digital product engineering, taking into account industry-specific requirements. This covers topics such as digital twins, the use of artificial intelligence methods in product engineering, product lifecycle management and end-to-end tool chains.

Vier Personen im SE Live Lab, die am Blackboard CONSENS modellieren.
© Fraunhofer IEM / Wolfram Schroll

Engineering management

The complexity associated with the development of intelligent technical systems (e.g. autonomous networked vehicles, product service systems, etc.) is growing exponentially. Existing methods, processes, tools and organizational forms are not capable of meeting heightened requirements. In the engineering management group, we work on new approaches to support the systems architects of tomorrow and on rolling out systems engineering in companies. This includes, but is not limited to, training concepts, role and task design, raising awareness and communication strategies.

Zwei Männer sitzen im AR VR Lab und testen einen VR-Handsschuh.
© Fraunhofer IEM / Wolfram Schroll

Augmented and virtual reality

Augmented and virtual reality are innovative technologies that are increasingly finding their way into the industrial sector. We design intuitive user interfaces at every stage of the product development process. With our partners, we explore new use cases and implement them using the latest hardware. For us, technologies are a means to an end. With a systematic approach, we analyze the usage requirements and use them to implement user-centered visualization and interaction solutions.

Labs and testing facilities



Immerse yourself in the fascinating possibilities that augmented and virtual reality have to offer.



Promote innovation in the inspiring working environment of the IdeenTriebwerk.



Discover the application areas of molded interconnect devices (MIDs) in combination with 3D printing.


Systems Engineering Live Lab

Develop technical systems and intelligent products through interdisciplinary collaboration.

Selected publications concerning product development.

A full list of our publications can be found here.


Merkelbach, S.; Enzberg, S.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: „Towards a Process Model to Enable Domain Experts to Become Citizen Data Scientist”, 5th IEEE International Conference on Industrial Cyber-Physical Systems (ICPS 2022), 24.-26. Mai 2022, Online
Kürpick, C.; Dumitrescu, R.; Falkowski, T.; Fechtelpeter, C.; Kühn, A.: Digitalization and Sustainability in Strategic Management: Research Agenda toward Dual Transformation. IEEE ICE IAMOT, Nancy, Frankreich, 2022
Förster, M.; Kürpick, C.; Hobscheidt, D.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Cross-industry methods for strategic planning of the digital transformation of small and medium sized enterprises, Procedia CIRP, 32th CIRP Design Conference, March 2022, Gif-sur-Yvette, France
Joppen, R.; Kühn, A.; Förster, M.; Dumitrescu, R.: Evaluation of Industry 4.0 applications in production, Journal of the Knowledge Economy, 2022


Hemmelgarn, F.; Ehlert, P.; Mager, T.; Jürgenhake, C.; Dumitrescu, R.; Springer, A.: "Evaluation of different additive manufacturing technologies for MIDs in the context of smart sensor systems for retrofit applications," 14th International Congress Molded Interconnect Devices (MID), 8th - 11th February, 2021, pp. 1-8
Kharatyan, A.; Jürgenhake, C.; Dumitrescu, R.: Towards generative design in the development of mechatronic integrated devices (MID), 31st CIRP Design Conference 2021 (CIRP Design 2021), Procedia CIRP Vol. 100, 2021, Pages 373-378
Kharatyan, A.; Tekaat, J.; Japs, S.; Anacker, H.; Dumitrescu, R.: Metamodel for safety and security integrated system architecture modeling. In: Proceedings of Design Conference, 16.-20. August 2021, Cambridge University Press, p. 2027-2036, 2021
Tekaat, J.; Anacker, H.; Dumitrescu, R.: The Paradigm of Design Thinking and Systems Engineering in the Design of Cyber-Physical Systems: A Systematic Literature Review. In: Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Symposium on Systems Engineering, 2021
Wilke, D., Schierbaum, A., Kaiser, L., & Dumitrescu, R. (2021). Need for action for a company-wide introduction of systems engineering in machinery and plant engineering. Proceedings of the Design Society, 1, 2227-2236.
Rasor, R., Göllner, D., Bernijazov, R., Kaiser, L., & Dumitrescu, R. (2021). Towards collaborative life cycle specification of digital twins in manufacturing value chains. Procedia CIRP, 98, 229-234.
Bernijazov, R., Dicks, A., Dumitrescu, R., Foullois, M., Hanselle, J. M., Hüllermeier, E., Karakaya, G., Ködding, P., Lohweg, V., Malatyali, M., Meyer auf der Heide, F., Panzner, M., & Soltenborn, C.: A Meta-Review on Artificial Intelligence in Product Creation. Proceedings of the 30th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence. 30th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence - Workshop “AI and Product Design,” Montreal, Kanada, 2021
Eckertz, D.; Anacker, H.; Dumitrescu, R.: Augmented Reality-based Product Validation to Support Collaborative Engineering of Complex Technical Systems. International Conference on Remote Engineering and Virtual Instrumentation (REV). Online. 2021 (Best Paper Award) 
Dumitrescu, R.; Albers, A.; Riedel, O.; Stark, R.; Gausemeier, J.: Engineering in Deutschland – Status quo in Wirtschaft und Wissenschaft - Ein Beitrag zum Advanced Systems Engineering, Paderborn, 2021
Asmar, L.; Grigoryan, K.; Low, C.; Yee, J.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Structuring Framework for Early Validation of Product Ideas, International Journal of Integrated Engineering, 2021
Gabriel, S.; Niewöhner, N.; Asmar, L.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Integration of agile practices in the product development process of intelligent technical systems, Procedia CIRP, 31st CIRP Design Conference, May 2021, Enschede, the Netherlands, vol. 100, pp. 427-432
Wegel, A.; Sahrhage, P.; Worthmann, F.; Rabe, M.; Dumitrescu, R.: Referenzarchitektur für Smart Services. Stuttgarter Symposium für Produktentwicklung 2021, Stuttgart, 20. Mai 2021
Gabriel, S.; Grauthoff, T.; Joppen, R; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Analyzing socio-technical risks in implementation of Industry 4.0-use cases, Procedia CIRP, 31th CIRP Design Conference, May 2021, Enschede, the Netherlands, vol. 100, pp. 241-246
Förster, M.; Rabe, M.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.:  Practical Approach for the Development of Digital Guidelines for Smart Cities, 2021 IEEE European Technology and Engineering Management Summit, Dortmund 
Niewöhner, N.; Lang, N.; Asmar, L.; Roeltgen, D.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Towards an ambidextrous innovation management maturity model, CIRP, 2021


Reinhart, F.; von Enzberg, S.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Machine Learning for Process-X: A Taxonomy. In: Machine Learning for Cyber Physical Systems, Technologies for Intelligent Automation, vol. 11, Springer, 2020.
Japs, S, Kharatyan, A., Tekaat, J., Kaiser, L., Dumitrescu, R.: Method for 3D-Environment Driven Domain Knowledge Elicitaion and System Model Generation. In: Proceedings of the 16th International Design Conference (DESIGN 2020), Cavat, Dubrovnik, Croatia, May, 18-21 2020.
Boulougouris, E.; Dahle, M.; Tolo, E.; Papanikolaou, A; Jürgenhake, C.; Svendsen, T; Bjelland, M.; Kanellopoulou, A.; Xing-Kaeding,Y.; Symonds, G.; Stokke, T; Bollaert, P.; Sørfonn, I.; Launes, M.: TrAM – Transport: Advanced and Modular. In: Proceedings of 8th Transport Research Arena TRA 2020, April 27-30, 2020, Helsinki, Finland


Tekaat, J.; Kharatyan, A.; Anacker, H.; Dumitrescu, R.: Potentials for the Integration of Design Thinking along Automotive Systems Engineering focusing Security and Safety. In: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 19), Delft, Niederlande, 5.-8. August 2019
Wortmann, N., Jürgenhake, C., Seidenberg,T., Dumitrescu, R., Krause, D.: Methodical approach for process selection in additive manufacturing.  In: Proceedings of International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED 2019), August 4-8, Delft, Netherlands, 2019
Asmar, L; Grigoryan, K.; Low, C.; Roeltgen, D.; Kuehn, A.; Dumitrescu R.: Structuring framework for early validation of product ideas. In: ICME´10, August 29 - 30 2019, Melaka, 2019
Küster, T.; Masuch, N.; Fähndrich, J.; Tschirner-Vinke, G; Taschner, J.; Specker, M.; Iben, H.; Baumann, H.; Schmid, F.; Stöcklein, J.; Röltgen, D.; Trinoga, M.: A Distributed Architecture For Modular And Dynamic Augmented Reality Processes. In: Proceedings Of The 17th IEEE International Conference On Industrial Informatics (INDIN 2019), July 23-25 2019, Helsinki
Lipsmeier, A.; Kühn, A.; Joppen, R.; Dumitrescu, R.: Process for the development of a digital strategy. In: Teti, R. (Ed.): 13th CIRP Conference on Intelligent Computation in Manufacturing Engineering, Gulf of Naples, Italy, 2019
Bretz, L.; Kaiser, L.; Dumitrescu, R.: An analysis of barriers for the introduction of Systems Engineering. In: Procedia CIRP Volume 84, 2019, Pages 783-789
Massmann, M.; Meyer, M.; Dumitrescu, R.; von Enzberg, S.; Frank, M.; Koldewey, C.; Kühn, A.; Reinhold, J.: Significance and Challenges of Data-driven Product Generation and Retrofit Planning. In: Proceedings of the CIRP DESIGN, Mai 2019 (CIRP)
von Enzberg, S.; Sahrhage, P.; Kühn, A.: Big Data-Architekturen – die sicheren Häuser in der Fertigung. In: Fabriksoftware 4/2019, Gito-Verlag Berlin, 2019.
Wortmann, F.; Joppen, R.; Drewel, M.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Developing and evaluating concepts for a digital platform. In: IAMOT 2019 – Managing Technology for Sustainable and inclusive Growth, 2019


Röltgen, D.; Bansmann, M.; Nickchen, D.; Wortmann, F.; Dumitrescu, R.: Datenbrillen im Kontext Industrie 4.0 – Bewertung von Anwendungsszenarien von Augmented Reality auf Basis einer Technologie-Roadmap. In: Gausemeier, J. (Hrsg.): 14. Symposium für Vorausschau und Technologieplanung. 8.-9. November 2018, HNI-Verlagsschriftenreihe, Band 385, Paderborn, 2018
Joppen, R.; Enzberg, S.; Kühn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: A practical Framework for the Optimization of Production Management Processes. The 16th Global Conference on Sustainable Manufacturing, Kentucky, 2018
Mager, T.; Jürgenhake, C.; Dumitrescu, R.: Functionalization of additive manufactured components with laser direct structurable varnish (Arbeitstitel). The 13th International Congress Molded Interconnect Devices 2018, September 25th – 27th, Wuerzburg, 2018
Bernijazov, R.; Hillebrand, M.; Bremer, C.; Kaiser, L.; Dumitrescu, R.: Specification Technique for Virtual Testbeds in Space Robotics. 4th International Conference on System-Integrated Intelligence: Intelligent, Flexible and Connected Systems in Products and Production, Hannover, 2018
Dumitrescu, R.; Kühn, A.; Thielemann, S.; Steffen, D: Entwicklung intelligenter technischer Systeme. Zeitschrift für wirtschaftlichen Fabrikbetrieb (ZWF), 113(6), 2018, S. 420-425
Mittag, M.; Rabe, M.; Gradert, T.; Kuehn, A.; Dumitrescu, R.: Building blocks for planning and implementation of smart services based on existing products. In: CIRP IPS², May 29-31, Linköping, 2018
Kühn, A.; Joppen, R.; Reinhart, F.; Röltgen, D.; Von Enzberg, S.; Dumitrescu, R.: Analytics Canvas Framework for the Design and Specification of Data Analytics Projects. In: CIRP, 2018, May 23-25, Nantes, 2018

Got any questions or requests? Please get in touch!

Roman Dumitrescu

Contact Press / Media

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Roman Dumitrescu

Director Advanced Systems Engineering

Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM
Zukunftsmeile 1
33102 Paderborn

Phone +49 5251 5465-269

Arno Kühn

Contact Press / Media

Dr.-Ing. Arno Kühn

Division Manager Advanced System Engineering

Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM
Zukunftsmeile 1
33102 Paderborn

Phone +49 5251 5465-323

Harald Anacker

Contact Press / Media

Dr.-Ing. Harald Anacker

Division Manager Advanced Systems Engineering

Fraunhofer Institute for Mechatronic Systems Design IEM
Zukunftsmeile 1
33102 Paderborn

Phone +49 5251 5465-324