New terms and acronyms associated with the shift of manufacturing operations from paper to digital files have proliferated every bit as much as have the software options for supporting the change. PLM, digital thread, digital twin, MBD, and MBE—they all concern some potentially critical aspect of your product operations that you may or may not be focusing on. But what’s important to understand is that they’re all outgrowths of the fact that we can now make digital every aspect of our product lifecycle.
For example, your company’s digital design files and virtual collaboration capabilities plus digital BOMs, real-time manufacturing data, and marketing information collected in one integrated platform equals a digital thread. And the concept of passing digital design and information files around your company, as well as to suppliers and vendors—doing away with paper entirely and promoting faster collaboration and communication—means a model-based enterprise (MBE).
The Case for Becoming an MBE
Tech-Clarity’s valuable report Adopting a Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) Strategy? What You Should Know describes an MBE as a company that uses model-based design (MBD) to support the full product lifecycle. MBD, in turn, is full product and manufacturing information embedded into the 3D CAD model for use in all downstream lifecycle processes. After surveying 250 manufacturers, Tech-Clarity summarizes the state of MBE adoption, answering a lot of the “why adopt” questions and providing a framework for what seems to be the most challenging aspect of an MBE strategy: figuring out where to begin.
The report reveals that the top drivers for MBE adoption are corporate strategies for digital transformation, efficiency improvements, and cost reduction.
In addition, Tech-Clarity says, many manufacturers see MBE as having “the potential to help them become more competitive and responsive to market opportunities today and more resilient in the face of disruptions in the future.” And in fact, the survey responses bear out that view, as a significantly higher percentage of respondents with an MBE strategy than without one report revenue growth (77% with to 48% without), profit margin (66% with to 28% without), and product cost reduction (56% with to 19% without) over the last 24 months.
Overall, companies making the transition report significant positive impact and return on investment. What’s even more useful in Tech-Clarity’s report is a blueprint for an MBE strategy.
How to Get There
The gold-standard framework for MBE maturity is the index published by the U.S. National Security Enterprise (NSE), which identifies seven stages or phases (levels 0-6) of transition from 2D drawing centric (L0) to extended MBE (L6). The index makes it easy for companies contemplating or making the MBE transition to identify their current stages and define what additional capabilities are required to attain the next level.
What Tech-Clarity uncovered about survey respondents’ use of the NSE maturity index speaks to the ultimate value of adopting MBE. The farther along companies are in their journey up the maturity index levels, the farther they intend to go, which means that companies are already realizing value partway through the process and are motivated to keep progressing further.
In addition, regardless of current maturity level, respondents self-report positive impact so. More than 82% of companies report benefits at the corporate level, such as better traceability, greater agility, and faster time to market. And 85% report benefits to engineering and operations including improved manufacturability assessment; fewer errors, defects, and rework; enabled-anywhere operations and factory flexibility; and more automation and less tedious work.
Conclusions and Recommendations
A particularly useful component of the Tech-Clarity report is a review of the challenges companies in the MBE transition encounter at different stages in dealing with technology, people, and process adoption. In short, technology challenges are minimal at the outset, but become greater in later stages—and fortunately, by then, companies are already seeing benefits from the process.
The best place to start the MBE journey is with process: rethinking and modernizing your organization’s workflows and procedures without being limited by current operations. Companies also need to recognize that the greatest challenges will always come from the changes required of people and corporate culture, but those can be combated by executive support, training resources, and transparency about the value of the new approach throughout the organization.
Overall, Tech-Clarity presents data to support the argument that the benefits of an MBE strategy outweigh the work required. Companies with an MBE strategy are 48% more likely to “experience revenue growth that is above or significantly above their competitors compared to those without a strategy.” It will take effort and time to unlock the value of engineering models to create greater efficiency, reduce costs, and improve quality throughout the product lifecycle, but the results indicate it will be worth it.