November 13, 2018 Written by Nathan Hartman

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.

2014 Model-Based Enterprise Study

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

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. 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.

1. 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.”

2. 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.”

3. 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.

Jim Zwica

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

4. 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. 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.

5. 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 of my research reports showed that the industry may only be accepting of MBE as long as 2D drawings are still available. 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.

Nathan Hartman

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.

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.