December 11, 2018 Written by Nathan Hartman

The Future State of Model-Based Enterprise

This is part 3 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.

In July 2017, Boeing began the transition to a 3D-only, model-based enterprise (MBE) paradigm. Boeing’s CIO and Senior Vice President Ted Colbert called it a “key milestone in our digital transformation” (Clarke 2017). Not only is Boeing expanding its commercial aviation and space and defense programs, it is improving operations.

Also consider the Department of Defense transitioning to an entire digital engineering strategy. In their announcement, the DoD predicted greater insights into product design, enhanced communication, increased understanding across the enterprise, stronger confidence in product capabilities, and greater efficiencies throughout the engineering process. All this leads to cost-, time-, and resource-saving benefits. In a previous blog, I discussed the organizational challenges the DoD will experience during the transition. But with their focus on the goal, I fully expect the DoD to realize more benefits than they originally predicted.

I see a common theme motivating companies to transition into a model-based enterprise: the ability to more accurately communicate their product’s intent and function.

Nathan Hartman

I believe these two examples may spark a stronger MBE movement. Other manufacturers eager to make change and leverage innovation will see Boeing and the DoD’s success and find ways to implement MBE.

What Drives an Organization to Transition to a Model-Based Enterprise?

Each company has their own unique reasons to implement a model-based approach. For some, powerful competitive advantage stems from the ability to more quickly assemble products in factories or have higher-quality inspections. For others, faster and more accurate communication with suppliers or greater support with the dealer network is a primary goal. If nothing else, a model-based representation of a product is a more accessible way to process and understand information.

Regardless of the reason, I see a common theme motivating companies to transition into a model-based enterprise: the ability to more accurately communicate their product’s intent and function. Humans naturally gravitate to and prefer a 3D view to understand the world around them. MBE provides spatial and temporal information that a drawing simply can’t communicate in a far more accurate manner.

My Predictions for Model-Based Enterprise

It is hard to predict how a fully comprehensive and streamlined MBE will operate throughout the enterprise and with external collaborators. New and upgraded technologies that enable MBE are introduced all the time, yet few organizations make the complete leap to digital engineering like Boeing or the DoD.

I believe that 3D, digital models will be used as the communicative artifact between the various roles in an enterprise… Ultimately – this means that any user that accesses the product at any point in the lifecycle will have all the critical information they need to create optimum products and improve overall decision-making.

Nathan Hartman

However, my personal research and experience with MBE over the last several years allows me to see the potential future of MBE. As a rather bold prediction, I believe that 3D, digital models will be used as the communicative artifact between the various roles in an enterprise. Organizations will create, deliver, use, and archive a fully digital, unambiguous product, process, and organizational definition. Stakeholders can access the model during design, manufacturing, and out in the field. Ultimately – this means that any user that accesses the product at any point in the lifecycle will have all the critical information they need to create optimum products and improve overall decision-making.

I’m not the only one who thinks this. One presenter at the Model-Based Enterprise Summit 2017 predicted that the future state of MBE will be a finely tuned, highly automated, bidirectional process. Data will be accessible at any point in the product’s lifecycle, and will provide cyclical feedback from operations back into product design. This is the true potential of MBE: removing siloes, streamlining processes, and enabling organizations to work more cohesively.

The Perfect Time to Implement a Model-Based Approach

Unfortunately, there’s never a “perfect” time for an organization to embrace MBE. Companies need to evaluate if the business case for this shift makes sense. As my friend and PLM expert Jim Zwica states, “Before any of this occurs, companies should complete a discovery phase. Where is the information today? How is it being stored? What repackaging of information is needed? Then, where will information be stored? What does it take for us to adjust the information to be assigned to a model? How will they display transparency during this adoption phase?”

These are all critical questions to ask. But more important than any of these is the cultural impact on an organization’s employees. I’ve seen instances of companies not considering company culture, and employees inevitably revert to using drawings. Successful MBE implementation isn’t just about technology – it’s about training people, providing optimal processes, and seeking out the best talent that will support the transition.

Unfortunately, there’s never a “perfect” time for an organization to embrace MBE. Companies need to evaluate if the business case for this shift makes sense.

Jim Zwica

We are certainly in an MBE refinement phase. It could be years before the product design and manufacturing industry sees full and successful implementation of MBE across a product lifecycle. Once we do, organizations will accelerate the design cycle, optimize operations and support, and provide revolutionary and innovative products to market.

About Nathan Hartman

Nathan Hartman is the Dauch Family Professor of Advanced Manufacturing and Department Head of the Department of Computer Graphics Technology at Purdue University, and Director of the Purdue University Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Center. Dr. Hartman is also Co-Executive Director of the Indiana Next-Generation Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC). Professor Hartman’s research areas include the process and methodology for creating model-based definitions; examining the use of the model-based definition in the product lifecycle; and developing the model-based enterprise. Professor Hartman’s industry research partners include Rolls Royce, Cummins, Boeing, GM, Rockwell Collins, Textron, Gulfstream, Procter and Gamble, GM, Honda, and others. For more information, visit https://polytechnic.purdue.edu/profile/nhartman.