It’s a Process: Why Enterprises Do Better with MBD

Written By: Dave Martin
  • 6/22/2021
  • Read Time : 3 min.
Abstract showing gears and people.

Someone on PTC Community asked me about functionality for automating certain tables on drawings. He wanted to increase their production speed and reduce errors. The best solution to those issues is not minor improvements to drawing creation; it is changing your process to leverage model-based definition (MBD) throughout your supply chain.

MBD is the practice of documenting your product manufacturing information (PMI) –the dimensions, geometric tolerances, symbols, notes, and other information – necessary to build and inspect your parts and assemblies in your models. Rather than relying on a drawing, your models become the source of truth.

When you extend MBD beyond the engineering department across your supply chain and organization, you become a model-based enterprise (MBE). Let’s look at an idealized workflow for incorporating MBD into your product development organization.

Design Engineering

MBD starts with the engineering team. Rather than generating a drawing at the end of the detailed design process, your team builds the PMI in the models as they evolve. The managed released object is the CAD model, not a drawing. This becomes part of a technical data package (TDP) that contains all the documents and information necessary to build our products.

Simulation and Analysis

Ideally, simulation like structural, thermal, modal, and computational fluid dynamics analysis takes place in parallel with design efforts with the native CAD models. The MBD in the CAD can be used in tolerance analysis to predict and plan manufacturing acceptance rates.

Prototype and Manufacturing

Now we enter the supply chain. Drawing-based companies often share a print or PDF with the manufacturers. This is inherently inefficient. At previous companies, I have seen external manufacturers recreate CAD models to devise their CNC toolpaths, mold designs, additive manufacturing trays, and sheet metal operations.
In the model-based enterprise, the native CAD model with its PMI is used to perform manufacturing process planning. This is faster than relying on drawings and reduces the chances for errors.

To achieve true efficiency in the supply chain, the manufacturers would have access to the native MBD CAD model in a company’s product lifecycle management (PLM) system, either directly in a primary vault or through a shared project.


After manufacturing, components move to the inspection process to make sure they meet the specifications for dimensions, tolerances, surface finishes, notes, and more. In an ideal world, the MBD CAD model would be used to devise the first article inspection (FAI) documents that list what needs to be measured and verified. The MBD CAD model would then be used to program the coordinate measuring machines (CMM) that would perform the inspections.

Receiving and Inventory

Once components are fabricated, they are moved or shipped through Receiving and/or Inventory for the next steps in assembly or packaging. The use of MBD models at this stage facilitates receiving inspection and acceptance procedures.

Beyond the Supply Chain

So far, the MBD model has traveled through engineering, manufacturing, inspection, inventory, and final assembly – the entire supply chain. These models can also be used elsewhere across the enterprise:

  • Sales and Marketing, including renderings for advertising and augmented reality for pre-sales.
  • Planning activities like cost prediction, long-lead time procurement, and production scheduling.
  • Ancillary activities like service, maintenance, and disposal.

Next Steps

All too often in design engineering, we focus too much on incremental continuous improvement (kaizen). We need to balance that with wider-reaching radical process improvement (kaikaku). This is the difference between finding a better way to make tables on a drawing versus transforming to a model-based enterprise.

When looking to improve your production efficiency, ask yourself how you can:

  • Streamline your workflows with MBD.
  • Enable your manufacturers to leverage your MBD CAD models in their work.
  • Provide access to CAD model visualization inside and beyond the supply chain.


eBook: The Benefits of MBD Initiatives

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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.