Today’s Benefits and Challenges of a Model-Based Enterprise

This is part 2 of a 3-part series about model-based enterprise (MBE). This blog series explores the transition into MBE that manufacturing organizations are undergoing from traditional product lifecycle methodologies.

The 2017 Model-based Enterprise (MBE) Summit showed a significant shift towards MBE-based solutions. Many presenters correlated business success to MBE pilot programs. In my own research at Purdue University, MBE has proven to provide significant competitive advantage for manufacturers. So – why aren’t more companies making the transition?

An average engineer who relies on 3D annotated models rather than 2D drawings spends 24 percent less time on engineering documentation, translated to an average of 40 standard work days.

It’s not so easy to move away from 2D drawing reliance to a holistic model-based approach. The industry has yet to develop consistent standards, requirements, and software capabilities needed to make MBE a truly viable approach to doing business. More than that – companies themselves are hesitant to change from tried-and-true business processes.

Current State of a Model-Based Enterprise

When proposing MBE adoption, decision-makers must assess the total, long-lasting impact, not just the immediate benefits. The 2014 Model Based Enterprise Study showed that an average engineer who relies on 3D annotated models rather than 2D drawings spends 24 percent less time on engineering documentation, translated to an average of 40 standard work days. The enhanced visualization, documentation, and communication enables engineers to:

  • Spend 6.6 fewer hours per week on engineering documentation
  • Address 2.5 fewer emergency issues per month
  • Perform 4.9 fewer fit assessments per month (Jackson 2014)

It is not just designers and engineers that benefit from a 3D model. For every 3D model user in design, engineering, or manufacturing, there are 30 potential 3D model users in marketing, product documentation, sales, support, or customer service (Miller 2017). All in, organizations save time and resources while supporting, maintaining, and selling improved products in a more cohesive manner.

5 Challenges to Implementing Model-Based Enterprise

Despite the benefits, there isn’t an on/off switch to transform into a model-based enterprise. Multiple compounding factors limit a company’s ability to implement MBE.

Software Limitations in Model-Based Enterprise

Most of today’s CAD and PLM tools are optimized for a drawing-based workflow and don’t support a model-based process. The tools can’t adequately represent specifications, convert specifications into another format, or provide reuse (Fischer 2017). These software limitations are improving all the time with new software tools and updates.

As indicated by manufacturing and product lifecycle management (PLM) expert Jim Zwica, “Tools exist that can enable MBD, but typically the information needed to create a fully designed model is not all housed in just one engineering space. The information you need to create a master model is scattered throughout an organization. This effect can be a big hindrance to implementing MBD.”

Challenging Supplier Collaboration

Within a product design and manufacturing enterprise, designers and engineers have access to specialized training and software for 3D modeling. Individuals with access to specific workstations or viewers can easily view the information. However, without specific software or hardware, suppliers can’t access the MBD. For example, Boeing has moved to a completely digital approach, requiring suppliers to have the native system or third-party viewer to access information. One source describes this as “complex and expensive” and a “horror show” (Brouwer, n.d.).

Legacy Data and Migration Issues

Many manufacturing organizations need to access legacy information that may be decades old. For many, developing an annotated model isn’t logical when organizations still need access to older designs. As Zwica notes, “It’s not feasible to take legacy parts to the MBD level. Instead, it makes sense to use MBD for parts created going forward.”

Tools exist that can enable MBD, but typically the information needed to create a fully designed model is not all housed in just one engineering space. The information you need to create a master model is scattered throughout an organization.

Additional data challenges include:

  • Long-term archival and retrieval (LOTAR)
  • Aggregating product information–materials, data, work instructions, process specs–into the 3D model
  • Possible information loss during transfer (Miller 2017)

Extensive Up-Front Cost

For many companies–especially smaller manufacturers–the biggest drawback to implementing MBE is that capital investment is too large. Transitioning legacy data in drawings into a 3D model is time-consuming and costly (Ruemler 2016). It takes training time and cost to educate employees on a new process, especially one that is so radically different than the norm. Creating the appropriate policies that help to positively influence an enterprise’s decision-makers is critical.

Cultural Challenges

Arguably, the biggest limitation to consider is the massive cultural shift to company internal and external processes. Long-established companies with thousands of components and employees have the most to gain from change yet show the most resistance. Rigid processes, overlapping management, siloed teams, and lack of a model-based champion create personnel and management challenges. While significant, changing a company-wide culture is not insurmountable. With the right pilot program, training, and reinforcement in place, organizations will more easily recognize the potential to transition to MBE.

Benefit of Moving to a Model-Based Enterprise

Many manufacturers leverage both 2D drawings and 3D models throughout the product design process. One research report indicates that the industry may only be accepting of MBE as long as 2D drawings are still available (Miller 2017). While companies have clear hesitation in moving away from 2D drawings, I believe there will come a time when we do away with 2D drawings completely.

While significant, changing a company-wide culture is not insurmountable. With the right pilot program, training, and reinforcement in place, organizations will more easily recognize the potential to transition to MBE.

I believe that using both 2D drawings and 3D models presents an illusion of innovation and change, and in reality organizations are clinging to inefficiencies. Change isn’t easy, and organizations shouldn’t simply dump 2D drawings tomorrow. Manufacturers need to put a plan in place and start following processes to move away from 2D drawings. The future of MBE shows enormous benefits and potential that cannot be ignored for comfort’s sake.

References

Brouwer, J. (n.d.). Redefining 2D/3D. Tech-Net, Inc. Retrieved from http://tecnetinc.com/redefining%202d%203d.html.

Brouwer, J. (n.d.). The death of the drawing. Retrieved from http://www.tecnetinc.com/The%20Death%20of%20the%20Drawing.html

Fischer, B. (2017). Barriers to MBD and MBE: Real, perceived, and self-inflicted. TDP, 360. MBE Summit 2017.

Jackson, C. (2014). Quantifying the value of model based definitions: saving time, avoiding disruptions, eliminating scrap. Retrieved from http://www.lifecycleinsights.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/LCI-MBD.pdf.

Miller, A. M., Hartman, N. W., Hedberg, T., Feeney, A. B., & Zahner, J. (2017). Towards identifying the elements of a minimum information model for use in a model-based definition. In ASME 2017 12th International Manufacturing Science and Engineering Conference collocated with the JSME/ASME 2017 6th International Conference on Materials and Processing (pp. V003T04A017-V003T04A017). American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Zwica, J (2018). Personal interview

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