Should Your Organization Implement MBD? [Interview]

Written by: Madhavi Ramesh

Some say that model-based definition (MBD), the practice of adding engineering information to a 3D model, can help improve productivity and quality, while also reducing costs. On the surface, that’s something every organization, engineering manager, and design engineer wants, of course.

But, is MBD still “faster, better and cheaper” if your team’s productivity suffers as you implement new processes and systems? Many companies worry about the hit that comes with a major process change—especially one that might impact teams, partners, and vendors downstream.

Chris McKee thinks it’s worth it. In fact, he says downstream organizations can benefit the most from the practice of MBD. McKee is a skilled engineer with expertise in additive manufacturing, model-based enterprise, and design workflow improvements.

In this interview, Madhavi Ramesh of Punditas asks McKee to talk about how implementing MBD improves productivity downstream and who should consider implementing it:

Chris McKee, engineer

Madhavi:            How do you define model-based definition (MBD)?

McKee:                My definition of MBD is what the Engineering Organization does with the “design” whether it’s an assembly or a component.  In other words, it is using information encapsulated within the “design” to better understand the design. For example, to verify cables running from port to port and trying to follow cables as go into each other is very difficult to verify in 2D but they can easily manipulate a 3D model to verify it.

MBE is taking the released information into the enterprise side so downstream users such as CNC programmer, machinist, manufacturing departments, assembly labs, buyers, planners and others can easily analyze, interrogate the information. Simply put MBD is about how the design is developed, reviewed and analyzed while MBE is how the design information is consumed by the enterprise

Madhavi:            How do organizations know if they should implement MBD?

McKee:                The key business drivers include –

  • Cost of Quality
  • Improved Productivity
  • Improved Communication


Although, It’s been widely said that that there’s cost savings to be realized within the Engineering organization due to fewer engineering changes by going down the MBD path.  I believe that it’s more of a wash but the gain is in terms of a quality product produced from efficiencies in the upfront design stage. There’s less cutting of corners during the design phase and that results in downstream organizations getting a much higher quality design to work with.  

Madhavi:         Who benefits most from MBD?

McKee:                Downstream organizations stand to gain the most from MBD data. The ability for all downstream users that touch the drawing to open a 3d model of that drawing allows them to interrogate the design more efficiently.

For example, checking the depth of a cut that may not be defined in the drawing either because it was un-important to be added to the drawing or was an oversight can be easily gathered from the 3D Model. Similarly, being able to spin the model to analyze for Jigs, fixtures, tooling perspective is immensely powerful.

Madhavi:            Can you provide some specific examples of how MBD impacts downstream users?

McKee:                I’d like to talk to three separate scenarios within manufacturing. CNC Programming, Inspection

From the CNC programming side of it, a robust, high quality 3D MBD data with as much information about the design is a huge win.  MBD data in the form of 3D model and related artifacts is converted into the industry standard formats such as STEP AP242 that encapsulate design information. This STEP file is then directly sent to the CNC software.

The fact that the machinist is not solely dependent on sourcing the information from a 2D Drawing is huge since information does not have to be re-created and the loss resulting from interpretation or human errors. 


Similarly, on the manual manufacturing process side, the easier it is to get the information they want quickly and easily is important. Many times critical PMI is left out of the drawing because the PMI did not need to be inspected but may be important for selecting the right manufacturing process.

Hence, having the information provided upfront perhaps with “pick-click” mechanism where clicking on a feature automatically opens all the information used to model that feature would help.


On the inspection side, the current process is for the designer to front load the drawing with the information to explain his/her rationale and when it gets over to inspection, the inspection engineers are having to duplicate information and errors could be introduced.

With MBD data, information contained in the 3D model can be automatically pulled into a First Article Inspection (FAI) or to program CMM machine. This would reduce inconsistent and inaccurate information as well the risk of introducing errors during the manual process of re-creating the drawing. 

CNC machinery

PMI design information can be encapsulated in the 3D model. Then, the file can be directly sent to manufacturing software. This means manufacturing equipment has all PMI without any manual input.

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MBD is quickly becoming the preferred approach to design. Engineers are discovering the benefits of MBD outweigh any challenges. Plus, hurdles to creating a single source authority model for every stage of product development are falling away as more teams implement an MBD approach.

To learn more about model-based definition, check out the free eBook from PTC. You’ll find out more about the limits of 2D drawings, how MBD simplifies complexity, and where to get started. Download your copy today.

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About the Author

Madhavi Ramesh

Madhavi Ramesh is the founder of Punditas, a product intelligence company. Read more of her blogs on