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Systems Engineering Goes Model Based: Stay Sharp Episode 32

By May 17, 2024No Comments

In Episode 32 of Razorleaf’s Stay Sharp podcast, What is Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)?, Jen Ferello interviews her co-host Jonathan Scott, the Chief Architect at Razorleaf, about MBSE. They discuss what it is and isn’t, why it’s such a hot topic today, and what advantages MBSE can bring.

Defining MBSE

The simple definition of MBSE is “doing systems engineering in a model based way,” according to Jonathan. Delving deeper into the fundamentals of the systems engineering discipline itself, he introduces the “systems engineering V.”

The V model starts at the top of the left side of the V with requirements, then progresses down that side from a general design of the system through increasingly specific designs of system subassemblies and components. The right side of the V climbs back up that progression. Jonathan explains, “You work your way back up from the component to the subassembly level, all the way to the top product or system—or system of systems—verifying and validating those designs each step along the way, back to the original requirements.” Traditionally, the right side of the V is done using physical products and systems that have been implemented or installed. In MBSE, however, the verification and validation steps are done virtually, as Jen puts it, “using [system and component] models as the way to communicate and structure the system data.”

Jen goes on to suggest that systems engineering is primarily an integration of multiple disciplines. Jonathan agrees, saying, if you start by wanting to systems engineer an electric car, “there’s all kinds of disciplines … systems engineering is about looking at all those different domains and disciplines and putting together in some sort of unified description of the system. But most of the time, we’re not reverse-engineering something that already exists—although it’s useful for that. We’re often trying to design or develop something, and we’re going to figure out as we go how many disciplines or domains are needed.” MBSE allows an organization to start planning before knowing exactly which disciplines will be required.

The Benefits of MBSE

A major advantage MBSE offers is a connection to other elements in a model-based enterprise (MBE), Jonathan explains, such as seamless interaction between engineering and manufacturing, instead of siloed, non-integrated tools. “It’s improving communication,” Jen says. “And improving communication also allows you to detect issues earlier.” And as manufacturers know, better communication, better traceability, better error detection, and the ability to fix issues faster all mean more revenue.

Even better, a complete systems model can not only help you optimize your system before you’ve ever built a part, but it can also automate the optimization loop. “Put all the parameters into your systems model,” Jonathan says. “Connect them out to your detailed design models of all the different domains. Feed all of that back into your multi-domain simulation models … then put it on a loop. This is what simulation process automation is about.”

Jonathan also describes how MBSE includes not only a structural component, but a behavioral component, which is really game-changing for a product or system digital twin. “You have this digital model and it simulates my whole car?” Jonathan explains, “The structure is one thing. It’s nice if it looks like the car. But it’s more important if behaves like the car … that’s why I think [MBSE] is fundamental to digital twins, even though you can have digital twins without MBSE.”

Why is MBSE So Popular Now?

MBSE takes the benefits of using models for iterative simulations, testing, and revisions a step further with its ability to link multiple models from multiple engineering disciplines, as well as manufacturing. The growing popularity of MBSE is based on those efficiencies, Jonathan says, as well as ever-shortening product-development cycles and the new availability of tools that make MBSE more accessible to more people in the enterprise.

Jen summarizes why MBSE is the new explosive approach: “Systems engineering has been around for a while. Digital data has been around for a while … over the past five or 10 years, the tools have been developed. There’s a language that’s been developed to describe this, to allow communication. Then, of course, the constant pressure to accelerate innovation, shorten times to market, improve efficiencies—that’s bringing the pressure. It’s all coming together in a crucible at this point.”

Learn More About MBSE

The full podcast episode offers many more details on real-world use cases for MBSE, how MBSE can enable better decision-making at the corporate level based on data and models, and how capturing institutional knowledge in the continuous digital thread—which is itself fundamental to a digital twin—can reduce the challenges of a graying workforce.

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