Creating a Successful Roadmap for the Model Based Enterprise

Written By: Beth Stackpole
  • 8/9/2015

Most engineers are living in a 3D world. The CAD models they build as part of the design process are 3D as are the simulations that prove out those concepts and the realistic prototypes output with, you guessed it, 3D printers working off the same 3D data.

Yet outside of engineering—in manufacturing departments, throughout the supply chain, even within service—the 3D model has yet to become the holy grail. In fact, it’s more likely that 2D drawings are the go-to resource for information about a particular product design. As a result, organizations are not poised to capitalize on the myriad benefits of the Model-Based Enterprise, a vision for a collaborative environment with a 3D product definition as the definitive information resource for activities spanning a product’s complete lifecycle.

As standards evolve for 3D models to embed other types of non-geometric data—product and manufacturing information (PMI) such as geometric dimensions and tolerances, materials information, and surface finishes, among other items—pioneering companies like Toyota and Boeing have gone on record with claims that a MBE approach can translate into a 50% reduction in costs. The savings are due to the efficiencies and increased accuracy of leveraging the 3D product definition for everything from setting up manufacturing workflows to inspecting parts and creating process planning instructions.

A 2014 study on the Model-Based Enterprise published by Lifecycle Insights found plenty of evidence that model-based definitions help companies save time, eliminate scrap, and promote reuse. Specifically, the report found that organizations heavily entrenched in using 3D annotated models spend 6.6 fewer hours per week on engineering documentation, address 2.5 fewer emergency issues per month (like initiating change orders or reprioritizing resources), and have to deal with 4.9 fewer incidents of figuring out why certain parts don’t end up fitting together. Because engineers are devoting fewer hours to creating, clarifying or fixing documentation, they have more time to spend on actual design and engineering work, which leads to better products.

Another study, by analyst firm EMF, found a model-based approach to have particular value for developing and managing families of products and their variants. The research showed companies delivering 23% more projects on time at 62% lower cost compared to organizations using MBE alternative approaches.

Despite the obvious high utility of an MBE model, most organizations have still not made the leap due to a number of hurdles, from cultural challenges to the need for better understanding of MBE tools and processes. The same Lifecycle Insights study found that while 58% of respondents were experimenting with 3D annotated models, only a slight 9% were relying on them more so than 2D drawings for engineering documentation, and only 2% have established the 3D model as their only form of engineering documentation.

How can organizations address those barriers and cross over to the world of MBE? It’s not always easy and it definitely takes time and planning, but here are a few suggestions to get the transition underway:

Actively communicate the vision and the game plan. It may not be clear to everyone that continued reliance on 2D drawings poses problems, especially if the issues occur outside their purview. Make sure upstream and downstream users fully understand the shortcomings of 2D drawings, from hard-to-interpret design intent to keeping the drawings updated after revisions to the security risks surrounding design IP. If everyone is clear on how an MBE approach can address these common design challenges, they’ll be much more willing to do their part to facilitate the transformation.

Invest in the right tools. CAD is at the crux of an MBE, but the CAD tool has to be agnostic so it can work with a variety of CAD data and it has to have options for annotating the 3D CAD model with data required by downstream users in manufacturing. PTC Creo View MCAD, for example, provides a way to publish design intent from a 3D CAD model into a format that can be easily viewed and interrogated by downstream users, including selective geometry, dimensions, and tolerances. Further, the PTC Creo View Design Check option replaces the redlining/pen and paper-based process with a digital tool that maintains an electronic marking history of all design check cycles.

PTC Creo View Design Check replaces traditional  redlining and paper-based processes.

Foster an MBE culture. Don’t underestimate the task of weaning users off the devil they know–2D drawings–despite constant complains about their shortcomings. Create cross-functional teams representing engineering, manufacturing, and service to collaboratively address the challenges while creating new workflows and standards that will work to everyone’s advantage.

Finally, make sure to establish buy-in from the top and cultivate C-level champions. For an organization to orchestrate a successful transition to MBE, it needs to be clear this is an initiative that benefits the entire organization, not just a boondoggle for engineering.

  • CAD
  • Retail and Consumer Products
  • Connected Devices

About the Author

Beth Stackpole

Beth Stackpole is a contributing editor at Desktop Engineering ( who has been covering the engineering and design tool space for nearly a decade.

This blog post is funded by PTC. The concepts, ideas, and positions of this post have been developed independently by Beth Stackpole.