You Want to Adopt Model-Based Definition, But Your Manufacturer Doesn't

Written by: Dave Martin

Read Time: 2 1/2 min

Many companies and product development organizations want to adopt model-based definition (MBD) to reap the enormous benefits. A NIST study shows that MBD can reduce the design to manufacturing to inspection process by an incredible 72%. Switching to model-based from drawing-based makes your workflows faster and easier. (To be clear, model-based does not mean drawing less.)

Manufacturers Resist Model-Based Definition Adoption

During this year’s LiveWorx conference, I attended a session where the speaker asked the audience to raise their hand if they like making drawings. Not a single hand went up.

The biggest obstacle facing product development organizations that want to go model-based is the manufacturing side of the process. The inspection arena has embraced MBD; inspection software for coordinate measuring machines (CMM) can read the semantic 3D annotations in a STEP AP242 file. However, most manufacturers can’t support MBD – and neither can a lot of manufacturing software.

Why is it this way? Why is there so much resistance from manufacturing to adopt MBD? And why do companies allow this?

The Drawing Is the Contract?

Once I visited a supplier overseas. I had previously proposed beginning the journey to MBD, but they said they couldn’t support it. When I got a tour of their engineering center, I found that after receiving our drawings, they recreated the models in CAD for manufacturing process planning (CNC toolpaths and mold design). By adhering to drawings, they were creating more work for themselves and introducing additional sources of error.

When I suggested we help them by providing our models directly to them, I heard the familiar refrain: “The drawing is the contract.” It wasn’t an either-or situation; I was offering to supply both the models and the drawings. They declined; that wasn’t their process. That represented change, and in the words of Garth Algar from Wayne’s World, “We fear change.”

Clarify the Business Relationship

As a CAD administrator, I’ve had numerous younger engineers approach me about making odd changes to our CAD models, drawings, bills of material (BOMs), or processes. When I ask them why they want to implement the non-standard or downright strange request, the answer is often “my manufacturer asked me to do it.”

I have to stop them to clarify the nature of the business relationship. “You understand that our vendor works for us, not the other way around, right?” We pay them; we’re the customer. Engineering shouldn’t change to make the lives of our suppliers easier, especially in ways that work against our business processes.

We have to take the same approach with our manufacturers, vendors, and suppliers when it comes to MBD adoption.

Imagine, as a manager, you want your employee to improve their skill set. Let’s say that you want them to learn advanced surfacing like ISDX to make more aesthetically pleasing products. Or you want them to learn Creo Simulation Live so they can perform real-time analysis as they’re designing. Or you want them to learn how to create 3D Annotations for MBD.

Now imagine that the employee’s response is, “No.” As a manager, what do you do?

Saying No to Manufacturers

First, you would probably explain how these additional skills would benefit them professionally and personally in addition to helping the company. If this doesn’t work, you might offer more support and tools to help them overcome their apprehension.

If that doesn’t work… it’s probably time to re-evaluate your company’s relationship with this employee.

Again, this is the same approach we need to take with our manufacturers.

If manufacturers want to develop a competitive advantage in the marketplace, they should be running toward MBD. A large number of customers want to go model-based, and very few manufacturers are willing to supply them. Pioneering into MBD represents a significant business opportunity for suppliers and vendors willing to make the journey.

Where do you go from here? Assess whether your manufacturers and suppliers are ready for MBD. If they aren’t, remember that you ultimately hold the power in the relationship, so here’s my advice: explain the benefits, offer adoption assistance, and help them help themselves for mutual benefit.

Download the Model-Based Definition eBook.

Tags: CAD Retail and Consumer Products Connected Devices

About the Author

Dave Martin

Dave Martin is a Creo, Windchill, and PTC Mathcad instructor and consultant. He is the author of the books “Top Down Design in Creo Parametric,” “Design Intent in Creo Parametric,” and “Configuring Creo Parametric,” all available at He can be reached at

Dave currently works as the configuration manager for Elroy Air, which develops autonomous aerial vehicles for middle-mile delivery. Previous employers include Blue Origin, Amazon Prime Air, Amazon Lab126, and PTC. He holds a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT and is a former armor officer in the United States Army Reserves.