Transforming into a Digital Model-Based Enterprise

This is part 1 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.

Digitalization in the product design and manufacturing lifecycle promises to radically streamline and improve the process. It may seem like digital innovations such as digital twin, digital thread, and IoT are all relatively new, but the industry has been transitioning for decades. Take the model-based approach for example.

In 2003, the ASME Y14.41 standard established requirements for creating and viewing annotations on a 3D model. This development become a catalyst for the industry’s acceptance and use of the model-based definition (MBD) concept. I particularly like expert Jennifer Herron’s definition of MBD: “a 3D annotated model and its associated data elements that fully define the product definition in a manner that can be used effectively by all downstream customers in place of a traditional drawing” (2013). An MBD embeds product and manufacturing information (PMI) directly into a 3D model, which promises to:

  • Foster smarter data
  • Minimize or eliminate dependence on 2D drawings
  • Visualize information against 3D product representation
  • Adopt better and simpler standards
  • Remove duplication of effort
  • Re-use information across enterprise functions to be more effective and efficient (Grealou, 2015).

An MBD is a 3D annotated model and its associated data elements that fully define the product definition in a manner that can be used effectively by all downstream customers in place of a traditional drawing.

Although the MBD standard has been around for over 15 years–with the MBD concept impacting the industry for significantly longer–integration continues to be a challenge for many design and manufacturing enterprises. A majority of organizations have one foot in each world – engineers develop product designs in 3D, then transfer information to a 2D drawing. The 2D drawing then becomes the trusted product definition.

Inefficiencies with 2D Drawings

For hundreds of years, engineers manually drew product designs. Thanks to the speed and ease of computer aided design (CAD), engineers left the pen-and-paper standard and began creating models in 3D. During today’s product design process, engineers use the 3D model as a tool to create views and dimensions, which truly defines the product and provides a source of truth throughout the supply chain. Yet, designers and engineers still craft a 2D drawing that represents the 3D object using multi-view orthographic projection.

Dual-wielding 2D drawings and 3D models has become the standard for product design. It may be prevalent, but that doesn’t make it optimal. Consider some of the inefficiencies resulting in this method of product definition:

  • Lost dollars and time during product development. Approximately 33 percent of design time is spent developing 2D drawings—that is, documenting what is already in the 3D model (Miller 2017).
  • Challenges with supplier collaboration. According to a 2012 Supplier Feedback study on 3D Technical Data Packages (TDP), 89 percent of suppliers consider the 3D TDP to be better or much better than 2D drawings when conveying design intent (Herron 2013).
  • Communication inefficiencies. NIST research indicates that poor communication along the supply chain–including format and content of messages–costs the automotive industry alone $5 billion annually. (White 2004)

Dual-wielding 2D drawings and 3D models has become the standard for product design. It may be prevalent, but that doesn’t make it optimal.

2D Drawings Contain Data not Found in 3D Models

2D drawings contain implicit information (such as non-geometric data) requiring contextual understanding to make decisions; 3D models don’t always convey this (Miller 2017). Without implicit and contextual information, companies may experience hindered production efforts, incomplete inspections, and a lack of information for assembly methods (2017). I particularly appreciate how researchers Longueville and Gardoni summarize these problems:

In most systems’ models in the engineering design field, the context is infrequently assessed… Nowadays, companies are evolving in a highly competitive and changing environment and organizations have to adapt their structure and their processes to achieve success. Consequently, the complexity of the models needed to represent systems is growing. Hence, the notion of context becomes crucial and the need for understanding and modeling such phenomena is rising. (2003)

There’s one big catch: we are all human, and each individual interprets implicit information differently. Cognitive, emotional, and social-related visual influences all contribute to these pitfalls (Bresciani & Eppler, 2015). Various interpretations of the technical drawings lead to inconsistencies in the product development process (Ramesh, 2017).

What is a Model-Based Enterprise?

A model-based enterprise (MBE) addresses the challenges associated with creating and interpreting 2D drawings. An MBE is a company that uses a digital model (or the MBD) to drive all engineering activities during product development, manufacturing, and lifecycle support (Herron 2013). MBEs implement policies and procedures to ensure the value of complete datasets as the product definition, either removing 2D drawings altogether or minimizing them to reference documents.

Countless studies show the benefits of adopting an MBE approach:

  • Decreased delivery times
  • Increased efficiency and productivity
  • Reduced scrap and rework
  • Better product quality
  • Improved utilization of 3D assets (Rudeck 2016)

Maintaining Momentum in a 2D and 3D World

As seen throughout the industry, manufacturing organizations are slow to embrace such a change despite the promise MBE and MBD holds. Companies are unsure about what PMI elements to include in 3D models. Others are reluctant to let go of their established process. Some are willing to accept the idea of MBD if they can continue using 2D drawings. Still more will resist making any sort of change for as long as possible due to transition challenges.

I believe that keeping one foot in each world–2D drawings and 3D models–doesn’t move a company forward. It keeps a company static while giving the illusion of momentum.

Personally, I agree with Herron’s assessment as stated in Re-Use Your CAD: The Model-Based Handbook: “The biggest challenge you will face to get a model-based approach adopted is ‘this is not the way it’s done!’” (2013). The most innovative and forward-thinking companies embrace valuable changes to their process, rather than stay static. Implementing such a powerful approach requires organizations to take one step at a time. However, I also believe that keeping one foot in each world–2D drawings and 3D models–doesn’t move a company forward. It keeps a company static while giving the illusion of momentum.

References

Bresciani, S., & Eppler, M. J. (2015). The pitfalls of visual representations: A review and classification of common errors made while designing and interpreting visualizations. Sage Open, 5(4), 2158244015611451.

Herron, J.B. (2013). Re-use your CAD: The model-based CAD handbook. Action Engineering, LLC.
Grealou, L. (2015). Model-based definition: The death of the drawing. LinkedIn. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/model-based-definition-death-drawing-lionel-grealou/

Longueville, B., & Gardoni, M. (2003). A survey of context modeling: approaches, theories and use for engineering design researches. In DS 31: Proceedings of ICED 03, the 14th International Conference on Engineering Design, Stockholm (pp. 437-438).

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.

Ramesh, M. (2017). Model-based definition (MBD): How reusing rich 3D models helps you manage complexity, maximize customer value and move ahead of the pack. Retrieved from https://www.ptc.com/-/media/Files/PDFs/CAD/Model_Based_Definition-eBook.pdf?la=en&hash=CFDD94F5F0313F5DD86EC67CA347D9D1F0CFCEB9

Rudeck, E. (2016). What are the business benefits of using model-based definition? Concurrent Engineering Blog. Retrieved from https://www.concurrent-engineering.co.uk/blog/what-are-the-business-benefits-of-using-model-based-definition

White, W. J., O’Connor, A.C., Rowe, B.R. (2004). Economic impact of inadequate infrastructure for supply chain integration. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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