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While preparing my presentation for the Dutch Model-Based Definition solutions event, I had some reflections and experiences discussing Model-Based Definition. Particularly in traditional industries. In the Aerospace & Defense, and Automotive industry, Model-Based Definition has become the standard. However, other industries have big challenges in adopting this approach. In this post, I want to share my observations and bring clarifications about the importance.

 

What is a Model-Based Definition?

The Wiki-definition for Model-Based Definition is not bad:

Model-based definition (MBD), sometimes called digital product definition (DPD), is the practice of using 3D models (such as solid models, 3D PMI and associated metadata) within 3D CAD software to define (provide specifications for) individual components and product assemblies. The types of information included are geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T), component level materials, assembly level bills of materials, engineering configurations, design intent, etc.

By contrast, other methodologies have historically required the accompanying use of 2D engineering drawings to provide such details.

When I started to write about Model-Based definition in 2016, the concept of a connected enterprise was not discussed. MBD mainly enhanced data sharing between engineering, manufacturing, and suppliers at that time. The 3D PMI is a data package for information exchange between these stakeholders.

The main difference is that the 3D Model is the main information carrier, connected to 2D manufacturing views and other relevant data, all connected in this package.

 

MBD – the benefits

There is no need to write a blog post related to the benefits of MBD. With some research, you find enough reasons. The most important benefits of MBD are:

  • the information is and human-readable and machine-readable. Allowing the implementation of Smart Manufacturing / Industry 4.0 concepts
  • the information relies on processes and data and is no longer dependent on human interpretation. This leads to better quality and error-fixing late in the process.
  • MBD information is a building block for the digital enterprise. If you cannot master this concept, forget the benefits of MBSE and Virtual Twins. These concepts don’t run on documents.

To help you discover the benefits of MBD described by others – have a look here:

 

MBD as a stepping stone to the future

When you are able to implement model-based definition practices in your organization and connect with your eco-system, you are learning what it means to work in a connected matter. Where the scope is limited, you already discover that working in a connected manner is not the same as mandating everyone to work with the same systems or tools. Instead, it is about new ways of working (skills & people), combined with exchange standards (which to follow).

Where MBD is part of the bigger model-based enterprise, the same principles apply for connecting upstream information (Model-Based Systems Engineering) and downstream information(IoT-based operation and service models).

Oleg Shilovitsky addresses the same need from a data point of view in his recent blog: PLM Strategy For Post COVID Time. He makes an important point about the Digital Thread:

Digital Thread is one of my favorite topics because it is leading directly to the topic of connected data and services in global manufacturing networks.

I agree with that statement as the digital thread is like MBD, another steppingstone to organize information in a connected manner, even beyond the scope of engineering-manufacturing interaction. However, Digital Thread is an intermediate step toward a full data-driven and model-based enterprise.

To master all these new ways is working, it is crucial for the management of manufacturing companies, both OEM and their suppliers, to initiate learning programs. Not as a Proof of Concept but as a real-life, growing activity.

Why MBD is not yet a common practice?

If you look at the success of MBD in Aerospace & Defense and Automotive, one of the main reasons was the push from the OEMs to align their suppliers. They even dictated CAD systems and versions to enable smooth and efficient collaboration.

In other industries, there we not so many giant OEMs that could dictate their supply chain. Often also, the OEM was not even ready for MBD. Therefore, the excuse was often we cannot push our suppliers to work different, let’s remain working as best as possible (the old way and some automation)

Besides the technical changes, MBD also had a business impact. Where the traditional 2D-Drawing was the contractual and leading information carrier, now the annotated 3D Model has to become the contractual agreement. This is much more complex than browsing through (paper) documents; now, you need an application to open up the content and select the right view(s) or datasets.

In the interaction between engineering and manufacturing, you could hear statements like:

you can use the 3D Model for your NC programming, but be aware the 2D drawing is leading. We cannot guarantee consistency between them.

In particular, this is a business change affecting the relationship between an OEM and its suppliers. And we know business changes do not happen overnight.

Smaller suppliers might even refuse to work on a Model-Based definition, as it is considered an extra overhead they do not benefit from.

In particular, when working with various OEMs that might have their own preferred MBD package content based on their preferred usage. There are standards; however, OEMs often push for their preferred proprietary format.

It is about an orchestrated change.

Implementing MBD in your company, like PLM, is challenging because people need to be aligned and trained on new ways of working. In particular, this creates resistance at the end-user level.

Similar to the introduction of mainstream CAD (AutoCAD in the eighties) and mainstream 3D CAD (Solidworks in the late nineties), it requires new processes, trained people, and matching tools.

This is not always on the agenda of C-level people who try to avoid technical details (because they don’t understand them – read this great article: Technical Leadership: A Chronic Weakness in Engineering Enterprises.

I am aware of learning materials coming from the US, not so much about European or Asian thought leaders. Feel free to add other relevant resources for the readers in this post’s comments. Have a look and talk with:

Action Engineering with their OSCAR initiative: Bringing MBD Within Reach. I spoke with Jennifer Herron, founder of Action Engineering, a year ago about MBD and OSCAR in my blog post: PLM and Model-Based Definition.

Another interesting company to follow is Capvidia. Read their blog post to start with is MBD model-based definition in the 21st century.

The future

What you will discover from these two companies is that they focus on the connected flow of information between companies while anticipating that each stakeholder might have their preferred (traditional) PLM environment. It is about data federation.

The future of a connected enterprise is even more complex. So I was excited to see and download Yousef Hooshmand’s paper:  ”From a Monolithic PLM Landscape to a Federated Domain and Data Mesh”.

Yousef and some of his colleagues report about their PLM modernization project @Mercedes-Benz AG, aiming at transforming a monolithic PLM landscape into a federated Domain and Data Mesh.

This paper provides a lot of structured thinking related to the concepts I try to explain to my audience in everyday language. See my The road to model-based and connected PLM thoughts.

This paper has much more depth and is a must-read and must-discuss writing for those interested – perhaps an opportunity for new startups and a threat to traditional PLM vendors.

Conclusion

Vellum drawings are almost gone now – we have electronic 2D Drawings. The model-based definition has confirmed the benefits of improving the interaction between engineering, manufacturing & suppliers. Still, many industries are struggling with this approach due to process & people changes needed. If you are not able or willing to implement a model-based definition approach, be worried about the future. The eco-systems will only run efficiently (and survive) when their information exchange is based on data and models. Start learning now.

p.s. just out of curiosity:
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As promised in my early November post – The road to model-based and connected PLM (part 9 – CM), I come back with more thoughts and ideas related to the future of configuration management. Moving from document-driven ways of working to a data-driven and model-based approach fundamentally changes how you can communicate and work efficiently.

Let’s be clear: configuration management’s target is first of all about risk management. Ensuring your company’s business remains sustainable, efficient, and profitable.

By providing the appropriate change processes and guidance,  configuration management either avoids costly mistakes and iterations during all phases of a product lifecycle or guarantees the quality of the product and information to ensure safety.

Companies that have not implemented CM practices probably have not observed these issues. Or they have not realized that the root cause of these issues is a lack of CM.

Similar to what is said in smaller companies related to PLM, CM is often seen as an overhead, as employees believe they thoroughly understand their products. In addition, CM is seen as a hurdle to innovation because of the standardization of practices. So yes, they think it is normal that there are sometimes problems. That’s life.

I already wrote about this topic in 2010 PLM, CM and ALM – not sexy 😦 – where ALM means Asset Lifecycle Management – my focus at that time.

Hear it from the experts

To shape the discussion related to the future of Configuration Management, I had a vivid discussion with three thought leaders in this field: Lisa Fenwick, Martijn Dullaart and Maxime Gravel. A short introduction of the three of them:

Lisa Fenwick, VP Product Development at CMstat, a leading company in Configuration Management and Data Management software solutions and consulting services for aviation, aerospace & defense, marine, and other high-tech industries. She has over 25 years of experience with CM and Deliverables Management, including both government and commercial environments.

Ms. Fenwick has achieved CMPIC SME, CMPIC CM Assessor, and CMII-C certifications. Her experience includes implementing CM software products, CM-related consulting and training, and participation in the SAE and IEEE standards development groups

Martijn Dullaart is the Lead Architect for Enterprise Configuration Management at ASML (Our Dutch national pride) and chairperson of the Industry 4.0 committee of the Institute  Process Excellence (IPX) Congress. Martijn has his own blog mdux.net, and you might have seen him recently during the PLM Roadmap & PDT Fall conference in November – his thoughts about the CM future can be found on his blog here

Maxime Gravel, Manager Model-Based Engineering at Moog Inc., a worldwide designer, manufacturer, and integrator of advanced motion control products. Max has been the director of the model-based enterprise at the Institute for Process Excellence (IPX) and Head of Configuration and Change Management at Gulfstream Aerospace which certified the first aircraft in a 3D Model-Based Environment.

What we discussed:

We had an almost one-hour discussion related to the following points:

  • The need for Enterprise Configuration Management – why and how
  • The needed change from document-driven to model-based – the impact on methodology and tools
  • The “neural network” of data – connecting CM to all other business domains, a similar view as from the PLM domain,

I kept from our discussion the importance of planning – as seen in the CMstat image on the left.

To plan which data you need to manage and how you will manage the data. How often are you doing this in your company’s projects?

Next, all participants stressed the importance of education and training on this topic – get educated. Configuration Management is not a topic that is taught at schools. Early next year, I will come back on education as the benefits of education are often underestimated. Not everything can be learned by “googling.”

 Conclusion

The journey towards a model-based and data-driven future is not a quick one to be realized by new technologies. However, it is interesting to learn that the future of connected data (the “neural network”) allows organizations to implement both CM and PLM in a similar manner, using graph databases and automation. When executed at the enterprise level, the result will be that CM and PLM become natural practices instead of other siloed system-related disciplines.

Most of the methodology is there; the implementation to make it smooth and embedded in organizations will be the topics to learn. Join us in discussing and learning!

 

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