Model-Based Enterprise Implementation Insights from SOLIDWORKS World 2018

A few years ago, when I talked with manufacturers about Model-Based Definition (MBD) or Model-Based Enterprise (MBE), the most common first reaction was “What is that?” These days, the reaction is gradually shifting from “what” to “how”. More and more manufacturers have understood the concepts and are convinced by the potential benefits. Managers, engineers and designers want to know how to achieve their model-based objectives. At SOLIDWORKS World in February 2018, there were insightful sessions on this exact topic, so I have summarized several key takeaways.

First of all, the SOLIDWORKS World 2018 proceedings are available to the public now. You can create an account and login as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The SOLIDWORKS World 2018 Agenda page.

Once logged in, you can watch presentation videos and download slides as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Watch the presentation video and download the slides on a session introduction page.

The proceeding site is a gold mine of insights and you can watch all of the presentations online at your own pace. Obviously this article can’t cover everything, so I’ll just drill down to several examples, one of which is “Me and My MBD; Learning to Make MBD Your Friend”, presented by Casey Gorman.

One chart I enjoyed particularly is shown in Figure 3, “Overview of the use of an MBD Model”. Gorman pointed out the importance of checking model integrity. In 2D drawing processes, you check drawings to make sure the design requirements are closely conveyed. In model-based processes, this step should not be overlooked. It is still necessary to ensure high quality model definitions, because the ultimate goal of a definition is to guide the actual production. Either conveyed in 2D or 3D, the guidance must be accurate. You can review the model integrity visually in 3D, in a way similar to 2D drawing inspection. You may also utilize software tools to help check models automatically on various aspects, such as interferences, hole alignments, and annotations.

Figure 3. Overview of the use of an MBD Model. (Image courtesy of Casey Gorman.)

Gorman shared a fun story of his handling of MBD objections 10 years ago. To make the purchasing team less reluctant, he had to provide the machine shops with 2D drawings, but his team also quietly started attaching STEP models in addition to drawings. A couple of months later, the purchasing guy came back and said, “That MBD stuff just doesn’t work. But whatever you are doing, the suppliers really like it. So, keep it up.”

In essence, what Gorman was doing was actually one way of model-based communication. Therefore MBD isn’t as far away as many people might perceive. To handle potential objections, please don’t get hung up on the name “MBD” itself. As long as there are convincing adoptions and benefits based on models, you can call it whatever you want.

Another presentation I highly recommend is “Creating a Digital Thread with SOLIDWORKS MBD” by Denise Fitzgerald, Assistant Group Leader of Mechanical Engineering with MIT Lincoln Laboratory. I was struck by her before-and-after comparison of the engineering workflows. Figure 4 illustrates the previous flow, in which heavy manual information recreation is needed. The team found out that 90 percent of the errors occur in creating and modifying drawings or generating data cards.

Figure 4. Previous engineering workflow. (Image courtesy of Denise Fitzgerald.)

Figure 5 shows the new workflow, which uses the model data to drive downstream documents and processes automatically with SOLIDWORKS PDM.

Figure 5. New engineering workflow. (Image courtesy of Denise Fitzgerald.)

The benefits are remarkable. On one frequent task to update the export control notes, it used to take three people several weeks to complete more than 500 models and drawings. Now, that task only requires one hour of human intervention and one overnight of running an automation. So, the human hours are reduced from 360 (assuming three working-weeks before) down to only one, not to mention better consistency and happier employees. I don’t know who would feel thrilled at manually and repetitively updating notes in hundreds of documents.

As you may expect, the above two presenters received lots of questions in their breakout sessions. To address more questions and facilitate a more interactive conversation, I organized a panel discussion on February 7th (Wednesday).Casey Gorman and Denise Fitzgerald were on the panel. In addition, William Cockrell, with Raytheon Defense, and Dave Woulf, with Disney Imagineering, also joined. We were very fortunate to have the panelists share their first-hand experiences and the audience ask touch questions.

Cockrell noted that the Change Notice (CN) creations were significantly dropped from drawing-based processes to model-based processes. Plus, the suppliers are not calling (or bugging) Raytheon engineers as frequently as before, because suppliers can now spin and query the models directly in 3D PDF themselves. Reflecting on the MBD journey at Raytheon, Cockrell cautioned manufacturers on the automation efforts, as shown in Figure 6. His recommendation was to worry about automation only after proving out capabilities to get MBD off the ground.

Figure 6. Don’t let automation derail the MBD initiative.(Image courtesy of William Cockrell.)

Woulf pointed out that getting the MBD thought process going within a large enterprise, such as Disney, could be very challenging. Therefore, his advice was to make sure the groundwork is solidly prepared. For example, bring all the team members up to speed with SOLIDWORKS DimXpert (a 3D annotation tool) and build up the appropriate part and assembly templates ahead of time. The more variables you can eliminate upfront, the easier it will be.

Besides all the presentations and discussions, there was also a model-based shop floor showcase to drive the talks into actions. Figure 7 shows a shifter arm assembly commonly used in automotive gear boxes. The design requirements are annotated to the model directly using SOLIDWORKS MBD. Then it was sent to SOLIDWORKS CAM for Numerical Control (NC) programming and then SOLIDWORKS Inspection to extract the key characteristics for inspection sheets.

Figure 7. An annotation shifter arm model in SOLIDWORKS MBD.

In Figure 8, you can see the part being machined in an NC machining center. The key throughout the shop floor is that every step is based on the model, rather than 2D drawings.

Figure 8. A shifter arm being machined.

From presentations to a shop floor showcase, from talks to actions, I hope that you can gain more insights in MBD implementations from SOLIDWORKS World 2018 and its proceedings. Again, this article touched only a few points. Many more gems are awaiting your own exploration and applications. The resources are publicly available, but only you can find the most relevant and actionable information for you.

If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments area below. To learn more about how SOLIDWORKS MBD can help implement your Model-Based Enterprises, please visit its product page.

About the Author

Oboe Wu is a SOLIDWORKS product manager with 20 years of experience in engineering and software. He is an advocate of model-based enterprise and smart manufacturing.

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