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Jennifer Herron
Jennifer Herron
Jennifer Herron is the owner of Action Engineering, a company that specializes in the promotion, process development, and standardization of a 3D CAD Model-Based Environment. Her career has been spent creating and building complex hardware systems for the aerospace and defense industry, her … More »

SOLIDWORKS MBD: Maturing Capabilities Benefit the Manufacturing Workflow

February 23rd, 2017 by Jennifer Herron

Technology is ready for MBD, and so is SOLIDWORKS. Model-Based Definition (MBD) is the ASME Y14 series method for defining a product using its 3D model geometry as the basic dimensions in conjunction with the digitally associated 3D annotations as the geometric tolerance definition. Additional related Model-Based “X” exist (representing functional areas such as: Systems Engineering, Manufacturing, and Quality), but MBD births the product as it moves into downstream lifecycle processes.

Duane Hess, Application Engineer at Action Engineering, attended SOLIDWORKS World in February 2017. This post includes his impressions of SOLIDWORKS World and the Model-Based Definition “learning path” presented throughout the conference.

Among the attendees Duane spoke with at SOLIDWORKS World 2017, there seems to be a consensus that CAD MBD capability has finally advanced to being recognized as a mature product development method. However, there seems to be much less certainty about how to go about implementing MBD initiatives.

The additive manufacturing technology that provides sexiness to manufacturing by streamlining the transfer of manufacturing data directly from CAD to CAM is helping to shape MBD standards, processes, and tools. Backing up that assertion, in Matt Lorono’s (Product Definition Manager at Dassault Systèmes SolidWorks Corp.) training session on SOLIDWORKS MBD, it is apparent that the CAD industry is listening to users with an understanding of just what MBD can mean. In one example, Matt illustrated how the hobbyist might take a part directly from SOLIDWORKS to 3D printing without creating any human-readable product and manufacturing information (PMI). For the hobbyist, or those companies that do not rely on Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing (GD&T) to ensure conformance to specification, this is the Holy Grail of MBD – taking a part file directly to manufacturing and creating a usable part as a result!

Matt asserted that while short-line processes may work for a hobbyist or small custom manufacturer, it becomes much messier when the parts must be inspected, validated, revision controlled, and regulated. Today, each of those steps has its own requirements for digitally associated and human-readable feature documentation. This is still the much-sought panacea for those organizations requiring proof of “conformance to specification,” but want it to perform in a measurable, automated, and repeatable way.

To access complex and highly inter-related 3D data sets, appropriate levels of data access and suitable tools and technology are required for people to perform their jobs. Each data touch point adds potential complexity to enterprise-wide MBD processes and non-value add costs in the form of software licensing, training, and creep in time to market. From that perspective of ecosystem complexity, it is no wonder that MBD is sometimes met with resistance by senior management.

Matt Lorono at SOLIDWORKS World 2017

To help facilitate the transfer of information are industry standards, such as MIL-STD-31000A and ASME Y14.41, Y14.41.1, and Y14.46. SOLIDWORKS MBD continues to incorporate these standards into DimXpert.

The introduction of MBD requires that the industry re-think how to deliver digital 3D data. Sometimes a single file format does not have the capacity to include all pertinent information to support downstream activities. As an example, if you want to explore quality inspection automation, the only file format that accommodates that today is the Quality Information Framework (QIF). In order to collect multiple inter-related digital files, the industry has moved towards packaging the data together as a Data Package (DP), and the general consensus throughout SOLIDWORKS World 2017 sessions is the adoption of the 3D PDF as the most versatile package for packaging the data. The 3D PDF allows itself to be used as a “container” for additional 3D data, such as STEP AP 242, whose merits were discussed thoroughly during the MBD roundtable discussion facilitated by Oboe Wu, Product Manager for SOLIDWORKS MBD. Additionally, Action Engineering actively promotes defining Data Package flavors.

L-R: Oboe Wu, Michel Cloutier, Casey Gorman, Denise Fitzgerald, Murray Desnoyer at SOLIDWOKS World 2017 MBD Roundtable Discussion. Not pictured: Matt Lorono

So, if the industry has mature tools, is maturing and progressively improving standards and processes, the only thing standing in the way of full MBD implementation is people and culture. Denise Fitzgerald of MIT Lincoln Laboratory attempted to put organizational change resistance into perspective by illustrating the thousands of years of written communication history. During her SOLIDWORKS World 2017 session, she suggested a continuous improvement process that incorporates MBD fundamentals to overcome resistance as MBD changes are pushed downstream.

In a session led by Casey Gorman, he suggested that the design of the MBD process begins with the downstream data consumers. He explained that top-down executive support and championship are necessary to ensure corporate resources dedicated to MBD implementation. First, determine what manufacturing data is needed and that approach will support return on investment (ROI), create buy-in, and provides a pull demand for the MBD data.

Action Engineering recommends performing a regression analysis starting with shop floor consumers to determine what data is needed and in what format, quickly streamlining efficient processes from Design through First Article Inspection. In that vein, Purdue University is conducting research for the broad industry on “what is” the minimal amount of information necessary to develop complete MBD product definition.

Gorman’s thought process is very much like consumer product development. A manufacturer may conceive of a new product, but the product is not brought to market until market demand and viability is understood. After all, what manufacturer would spend the capital to develop a product that has no marketability?

It may be that executives are not necessarily against MBD implementation, but that the proper business justification data hasn’t been provided to support the initiative. Action Engineering recommends performing a supplier readiness evaluation as an initial step in the MBD journey. Assessing the capability and maturity of suppliers is the first step in developing ROI and scoping that management can understand with solid metrics. As with lean manufacturing, it is imperative to understand that your downstream consumer is not just a blind consumer of your data, they are also your customer. In any business, providing your customers with the best service and support to meet their needs will keep them as a customer, and keep you in business.

Duane’s experience at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 illustrates that additive manufacturing vendors and SOLIDWORKS are responding to customer’s wants and needs by providing mature MBD capabilities that streamline the flow of manufacturing data. It is time for industry to make the culture shift and take advantage of those capabilities and realize the business potential that they provide.

If you are interested in adopting MBD, the marketing to your team starts now. Resistance to change may be the toughest battle on your MBD journey because it is a change of corporate culture.

The essence of culture change is to understand the complex dichotomy of workers who are ready and willing to embrace new and rapidly evolving technology, and those who are less comfortable with the speed of innovation and instead tend to rely on technology that is familiar and they are comfortable with. Often, the divide is a matter of relevance for the end user. Illustrating how MBD can specifically improve workflow and increase efficiency for the reluctant convert can help bridge the gap. The challenge is in educating resistant employees (management included) of the benefits that digital natives might already understand.

At Action Engineering, we are unapologetically passionate about MBD. We work to align your organization’s Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) vision by defining model-based methods and educating individuals so they all execute in the same way for the success of all involved!

As an Application Engineer at Action Engineering, Duane Hess focuses on CAD to PDM to PLM to ERP integration. He is an intellectually curious problem solver with over 15 years of hands-on experience in space planning and knowledge of manufacturing, material handling, logistics, project management, and software development.

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One Response to “SOLIDWORKS MBD: Maturing Capabilities Benefit the Manufacturing Workflow”

  1. […] Read More about his impressions of SOLIDWORKS World and the Model-Based Definition “learning path” presented throughout the conference. […]

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