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Transforming MBD into MBE: Stay Sharp Episode 34

By May 31, 2024No Comments

In Episode 34 of Razorleaf’s Stay Sharp podcast, Models Beyond Engineering with Jennifer Herron, co-hosts Jen Ferello and Jonathan Scott talk with Action Engineering CEO Jennifer Herron, who literally wrote the book on creating models to support model-based definition (MBD) and model-based enterprise (MBE). Jen, Jennifer, and Jonathan take a deep dive into why people are critical to the success of MBE, what “nirvana” means to this model-based expert, and why Generation Z might turn out to be your best collaborators.

Defining MBE

Jonathan prompts Jennifer to start with basics about model-based engineering. Jennifer begins with the biggest challenge: getting people to agree on what MBE really means. With 100 people in a room, you’ll get 100 definitions. She says, “I think what’s important is a mindset shift. It’s not about software tools, it’s not about processes. It’s always about people, because I don’t care what anybody says, people are actually doing this work.” Jonathan chimes in, “It’s not all about technology. It’s not all about process. It is very people-centric, but I would make the counterargument that it’s about all of them. You have to look at all of them together and remove the constraints from all of them to get where you want to be.”

Going further, Jonathan suggests that a definition of MBE could be a group of people in an organization who are sharing models—meaning models in the broader sense of any kind of data. Jennifer notes that the people are sharing source models, which also includes the responsibility to keep that source model up to date. The trio agrees that “model-based” starts in engineering, but as Jen says, “the whole point of the digital thread is to move beyond engineering. Both before and after engineering and design.”

Searching for MBE Nirvana

When Jonathan asks Jennifer what nirvana looks like for a model-based world, what’s interesting is that Jennifer’s response isn’t actually about models themselves. Instead, she talks about data. “The data elements in my source authoring system, whatever that is, those data elements are different pieces of information,” she explains. “What happens in our more advanced model-based definition best practices is that we focus on the data element. What is changing in the geometry and where does that flow to in all my enterprise processes? Because the geometry often hits up to the dynamic and static analysis operations or a CFD event or something like that.”

Later in the conversation, the group returns to the question of model-based nirvana, and Jen points out they’ve been circling around the idea of nirvana as simply access to the data you need. She describes an individual or even a machine at some point in the product lifecycle needing data, adding “It’s reaching into the file and grabbing the data. Grabbing the original data. There’s no intermediate file, there’s no data lake. It’s just accessing the only data you need. The right data, the right time.”

The Google Docs Influence

Jennifer elaborates on her idea that an overlooked, critical element for MBE success is a mindset shift by pointing out an existing shift that most organizations aren’t taking advantage of: Google Docs. Jonathan starts with the technology: “With Google Docs, you’ve got a generation that has a mindset that says I trust digital. I trust the configuration management tool on the back end.” Then Jennifer brings it back to the people. “But I also trust you,” she says. “You’re a manufacturing engineer and you know better what the tolerance is or the way to build the part.” What that leads to, she concludes, is better conversations on the source data.” Not to mention better collaboration.

Of course, Jennifer also acknowledges how difficult it is to shift an organization from the drawings that they may be addicted to, noting “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on it. It just means it’s hard.” She encourages organizations to focus on the small increments and improvements that can be made, as well as the big picture. Her suggestion is to focus on changes to data. “The only thing constant is change. We are constantly making changes to the data. If we focus on the ways we can make changes to the data faster, what is the model-based definition that enables that?” She adds, “You want to be making changes way faster. That should be the goal.”

Learn More About Moving Models Beyond Engineering

The full podcast episode offers more details including why Jennifer infuses organizational psychology into her company’s practices, the difference between authoritative and derivative data, how to connect model-based activities to business value, and much more. In addition, stay tuned for Jennifer to return in a future episode to talk about standards in the model-based world, how to make the necessary mindset shift happen, and other topics.

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