You can’t improve unless you are open to change. And that change won’t come without bumps in the road. But many innovations are worth pursuing, especially technology-driven programs that can keep manufacturers competitive. The adoption of a model-based definition (MBD) initiative is a perfect example.
An MBD is an annotated 3D model built in computer-aided design (CAD) software to define the details of a particular product design. MBD initiatives have many advantages, which is why more and more companies are adopting them. But you can’t just install some software and hope to succeed. You have to commit.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to integrating an MBD into the product design process. However, there are best practices for successfully navigating an MBD initiative.
This post offers tips on creating MBDs, ensuring their effective consumption, and managing the cultural changes that tend to come with this sort of process transformation.
The first big step in adopting an MBD initiative is transitioning from creating the traditional 2D drawings to creating the MBD itself. As your engineering team makes this change, there are a few ways to ensure success:
It’s not enough just to create an MBD. In fact, merely substituting your old 2D design drawings with an MBD will give you the lowest return on your MBD initiative investment. If you do this, you are missing an opportunity to realize significant value.
An MBD contains a higher level of detail and fidelity that you can leverage in a number of innovative ways in engineering and other functional departments. To make the most of your MBD, it pays to adopt model-based processes throughout the entire development process.
Take procurement. When you share an MBD and a technical data package (TDP) with suppliers as a part of request-for-quote (RFQ) processes, you help them calculate the most accurate quote. An MBD’s clarity allows suppliers to understand exactly what is required of the component or assembly, resulting in greater confidence in the projected price and time to manufacture.
When discussing manufacturing and quality, semantic PMI in an MBD is available to the next generation of computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) and coordinate measuring machine (CMM) applications. When these applications can read this information, they automatically produce more accurate and standardized tool paths. This saves considerable time and money.
Finally, any functional department that needs to create illustrations or animations for instructions will benefit from an MBD. Instruction authors no longer have to reference two deliverables: the 3D model and the 2D drawing. Instead, they can view, manipulate, and interrogate a single model to get the information they need. As a result, they can provide greater detail and accuracy in instructional deliverables.
The new tools and processes involved in an MBD initiative require a major technological shift. But there is also cultural change to consider.
Your engineers are likely comfortable with traditional 2D drawings. An MBD will disrupt their daily tasks and activities as they learn an entirely new way to create design documentation. It will have similar downstream effects as well. But there are a few ways you can encourage success during MBD adoption.
To start, there are many different stakeholders with distinctly different interests in any manufacturing organization. Functional owners, including engineering managers and directors, must still meet their project deadlines, even if the organization is in the process of MBD adoption.
This is not a small undertaking. So it is important to recognize their constraints and support their efforts as they make the changes necessary to achieve MBD-related goals. Do not discount the short-term costs of this kind of change.
Second, any initiative is at the mercy of its systems of support. An MBD effort is no different. Without the right scaffolding in place, you cannot hope to succeed. Make sure to supply the right training, technology, technical support, and resources of expertise to help your engineering team successfully employ these new processes with as little pain as possible.
Educate Your Suppliers
Finally, it pays to consult and then work with your suppliers to help them become familiar with this new design documentation deliverable. This is a step that some organizations skip, and it can cause problems that would be easily avoided with upfront education.
Today, many manufacturers’ supply chains rely heavily on 2D drawings. Suppliers may not be accustomed to working with an MBD. You will need to guide them through the transition. It is in both your interests to provide them ample support as they learn to work with MBDs.
As you move forward with MBD initiatives, there will be challenges ahead. But, with some foresight, you can manage those challenges and reap valuable benefits to both design documentation and the greater product development process.
As you create these new models, be sure to support MBD authoring and model-based processes while also managing team expectations and cultural change. This is how to make the most of any MBD initiative, keeping your organization agile, competitive, and ready to face whatever the future may bring.
For more in-depth guidance on successfully managing the technological and cultural changes that come with the pursuit of an MBD initiative, download the eBook, Realizing the Value of MBD Initiatives.
Chad Jackson is an analyst, researcher and blogger providing insights on technologies used to enable engineers. As a prolific writer, he has published educational thought leadership topics hundreds of times. As a sought-after speaker, he has presented dozens of times both domestically and internationally. As an astute researcher, he has surveyed thousands of engineering organizations as part of his research studies. As a commonsense co-host of numerous web shows, he has debated and pushed limits on critical issues. Overall, Chad is an influential, independent and insightful voice on technologies used to design products.