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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 »

What Does Enterprise Accountability Mean for 3D Collaboration and Interoperability for the Product Lifecycle?

October 2nd, 2018 by Jennifer Herron

Products are built by designing, manufacturing, and maintaining quality at each step of content generation. Adequacy of information across the enterprise can be checked by software and humans. Software tools automate and resolve execution deficiencies while revealing errors that require human attention. New procedures written to take advantage of a digital transformation inside Industry 4.0 require persistent consistence to influence organizational culture that naturally resists change. Speakers at the 3D Collaboration and Interoperability Congress will move this conversation forward on October 15-18, 2018 in Golden, Colorado.

The mix of presenters is as varied as any supply-chain team with whom you will ever work. Likewise, each brings a laser focus on real-life implementation challenges and enterprise accountability needed to get MBD across the finish line. Following is a sampling of what’s in store, with more to be found on the 3D CIC 2018 Agenda – also available on the 3D CIC mobile app for those registered for the conference.
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MBD Training Is Critical

February 7th, 2018 by Jennifer Herron

In 2017 International TechneGroup/ITI asked over 200 customers from various industries about their Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) practices. The big story here is that 18% are struggling to understand MBE, and 16% identified culture change as their MBE challenge. To me this implies that over 30% of the challenge to MBD (Model-Based Definition) and MBE (Model-Based Enterprise) can be solved with effective training and education.

Model Based Enterprise Statistics 2017

Created by ITI 2017

Action Engineering and the PLM Center of Excellence at Purdue University have entered into an agreement to advance Model-Based Definition (MBD) and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) education for industry. In particular, Action Engineering will serve as an industry professional partner with Purdue University’s MBD and PLM Certificate Programs. Through this partnership, both organizations can more effectively foster the MBD and PLM education needs of industry professionals.
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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.

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Measuring Digital Thread Value – NIST MBE Summit 2016

June 6th, 2016 by Jennifer Herron

dig·it·al thread
[dij-i-dl] [thred]

// the creation and use of cross-domain, common digital surrogates of a materiel system to allow dynamic, contemporaneous assessment of the system’s current and future capabilities to inform decisions in the Capability Planning and Analysis, Preliminary Design, Detailed Design, Manufacturing, Testing, and Sustainment acquisition phases

Source: Kraft, E. (2013). Expanding the Digital Thread to Impact Total Ownership Cost [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from:

Digital Thread isn’t just a marketing term. It’s real, it’s here, it’s tangible. What we’re missing are measurable results of the technology. You know, that stuff that will make your case to upper management. That nasty term… ROI.

The Digital Thread: Stitching Together the Next Industrial Revolution

Government and commercial entities gathered at the MBE Summit in April 2016 to discuss the digital thread and Model-Based Engineering. This annual event is hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Maryland. The purpose of the MBE Summit is to identify challenges, research, implementation issues, and lessons learned in manufacturing and quality assurance where a digital 3D model of the product serves as the authoritative information source for all activities in the product’s lifecycle.

My overall impressions from MBE Summit week
I’ve been attending the MBE Summit for approximately 6 years, since before MBE and MBD (Model-Based Definition) were “the thing.”

  • The landscape of MBD/MBE adopters and users has shifted. Based on this year’s presentations, audience questions, and networking interactions, my impression is that the combined percentage of MBE/MBD adopters and those in the fact finding stage have increased significantly from approximately 20% to 80% over my 6 years of attendance. When I began attending, nobody really wanted to hear about MBD… and now that’s all we discuss.
MBD MBE Interest and Adoption

Action Engineering’s impressions of the MBD/MBE interest shift

  • The conversations have shifted from big picture, pie-in-the-sky to getting down to the brass tacks of researching and implementing the details of MBD.
  • Software technology and standards have reached a critical mass to support the big picture vision of MBE. Both are significantly better than they used to be just 6 years ago. One quick plug about standards from the ASME Y14.46 subcommittee chair (me!): if standards development sounds appealing to you, the various product definition subcommittees welcome your help — especially if you like to write process-based prose. ASME subcommittees meet regularly via conference call and twice yearly in person (next in Dallas in October 2016). These meetings are also an incredible way to gain a deeper understanding of product definition (such as GD&T, dimensions and tolerances, and surface metrology).
  • Digital associativity of annotations to features is still a mystery to most, but some are differentiating between human readability and software consumable.
  • Lesson learned: Adding full annotations is extremely labor intensive compared with embedding 2D views generated from 2D drawing programs into 3D PDFs, or just sticking with a 2D PDF.
  • I liked the emphasis that MBD is a communication method, and we should focus our design of such digital data with the end user in mind. Helping users “learn” the product through 3D visualization is a clear advantage.
  • For standards, we need to agree on the basics and need a map of standards and their inter-relationships.
  • You must come to “trust the process” that generates the data (because you may not know the person who gave you the data).
  • For n=1, when the drawing product definition yielded the wrong part and the model data yielded the right part, extending this process to n=100 may be more convincing. Think ROI. Check out the results from the n=1 NIST and Rockwell Collins project.
comparing MBD to drawings

Figure from “Testing the Digital Thread in Support of Model-Based Manufacturing and Inspection” in the Journal of Computing and Information Science in Engineering, June 2016, Vol. 16 / 021001-5. Image Source:

I captured a few high-level tips of the MBE trade from the collective presenting minds.

What is the biggest bang for your MBD buck?

  • Assemblies throughout the integrated supply chain
  • Closed loop, integrated, automated design through the manufacturing and inspection process using a minimum information model

Convincing upper management about MBE

  • Develop a clear statement of the problem.
  • Don’t try to win the battle all at once.
  • Money matters. Determine how to save money for your organization.
  • Determine your payback.
  • Create and evaluate use-cases.
  • Don’t try to transform the whole enterprise because most are not willing to take that kind of risk.
  • Don’t pitch the effort as developing a standard (leave that to the standards committees).
  • It boils down to ROI (that word again…).

And finally, my impressions from the MBE Capabilities Workshop  

Immediately following the MBE Summit, a one-day “Measurement Science for MBE Capabilities” workshop was held to evaluate the latest release of the MBE Capabilities Index and gather industry input for a guidebook that NIST is developing to help organizations assess their MBE capabilities, determine actions to take based on the assessment results, and outline a minimum set of requirements to be considered a model-based enterprise.

My impressions from the workshop:

  • Good domain (e.g., SME) expertise was represented, as well as a good mixture of government, commercial, and contractor representation.
  • Topics desired for the guidebook: How to do an assessment? What does it mean? How do you know you’re done? What are the minimum requirements?
  • Level 6 is designed to be impossible!
  • Implementations are too unique for the index to cover all situations.
  • It’s not an instrument to rate company A against company B.
  • The understanding and interpretation of the standard is infinite and not common. This will only come through education.
  • The key is to work collaboratively with your suppliers.

AIAG brought their graphical interpretation of the MBE Capabilities Index. This is an improvement in the understanding of the evolution of MBD. See the wall chart here:

One day we’ll look back on these notes and realize just how far we’ve come on our MBD journey. For now, calculate your ROI to pitch your case for MBD to upper management.

MBE Summit 2016 presentations can be found here:

Find out more about the Digital Thread for Smart Manufacturing here:

Digital Thread Information Framework

Source: Feeney, A. B. & Hedberg, T. (2016). Model-Based Research in Smart Manufacturing [PowerPoint slides]. Retrieved from:

STOP Re-inventing and Re-modeling Nuts, Bolts, and Washers

April 13th, 2016 by Jennifer Herron

Attempting MBE without Standard Parts in your Tool Box is just STUPID!
In order to turn your Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) or Digital Enterprise dream into reality, you must eventually come to the realization that a robust and best-in-class strategy for catalog parts is imperative. We’re talking about a certified standard parts library, not just something that Joe Blow modeled one day after lunch and a beer.

What is meant by “certified standard parts library”?
Ah, here we go. Gear specs. Orange tab. That was easy.

Paper AIA bolt catalogue

No, silly. Throw out your old paper catalogs. We’re talking an electronic catalog (or directory, if you will) from which an organization can download and reuse standard industry parts. For simplicity’s sake, think nuts, bolts, and washers. Your favorite rocket scientist has better things to do than dimension off-the-shelf bolts for the propulsion system.

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Using CAD models in the Digital Thread

October 19th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

We are operating at a stage in design and manufacturing where 3D models are used for direct tooling, or used to generate injection molds, but still need to be supplemented by 2D drawings for PMI (dimensions, tolerances and notes). In addition to creating extra work, 2D drawings are fundamentally flawed because the interpretation is limited to 2D, rather than real hardware which is 3D.

 We see in 3D, We Should Document in 3D

I realize we have grown accustom to 2D drawings in the workplace, but these orthographic projections of 3D data are limiting both in creation of un-ambiguous product definition and will castrate the performance of high-tech manufacturing processes, such as Additive Manufacturing (AM).

3D Collaboration and the Digital Thread requires all stakelholders to partipate in the descision making process.

3D Collaboration and the Digital Thread requires all stakelholders to partipate in the descision making process.

So… what is on the engineering horizon, and how can you step out of the 2D inertia spiral of death (a little Halloween humor for you)?

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3D / MBD / MBE Continuing Education at CIC-2015

September 4th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

Fall sparks memories of school days for me. Remember cracking open a new textbook, turning to a crisp page of your composition notebook, and advancing the lead in your mechanical pencil (OK, maybe it was your iPad)? You gazed in rapt anticipation to the front of the classroom as the professor launched into a course lecture and you were a sponge soaking up every morsel of information. Education is powerful.

Recharge your skill sets again this Fall: register to attend one or more of the many congresses, conferences, and exchanges that will kick your core knowledge of 3D/MBD/MBE up several notches.

While not a complete syllabus, here are some of the continuing education topics slated for discussion that intrigue me:

3D Collaboration and Interoperability Congress
October 28-29, 2015  

Washington DC (Dulles)

MBE supports large integrations and systems of systems engineering.

MBE supports large integrations and systems of systems engineering.

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Understanding the Hard Work of MBE

July 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

Creating a Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) with Model-Based Engineering (also MBE) is no small task. When executed well, there is clearly a tangible benefit for small and large companies as well as government organizations.

By the way, there are at least three independent definitions for the three-letter-acronym (TLA) of MBE; here is my take on each of those definitions.

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SOLIDWORKS World 2015: Focus on MBD

February 15th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

Now at home in sunny Denver, CO after attending SOLIDWORKS World in sunny Phoenix, AZ held February 8-12, 2015, I reflect on the week.

There were cookies, coffee, countless training and educational sessions, cute 2-wheeled jumping robots to drive, a mini 4-rotor helicopter to fly, methods for controlling a 3D model with just your hand in front of a 3D camera, and 1 very funny theoretical physicist. But coursing through every day in SOLIDWORKS World was a pulse focused on Model-Based Definition (MBD), and the newly released MBD Module from SOLIDWORKS.

Released on Thursday (February 12, 2015), SOLIDWORK’s new MBD Module (add-in with a cost of approximately $2,000) is a method to save presentation views, use a format-type template and translate your 3D SOLIDWORKS model into a 3D PDF. Which means, keeping the good stuff on the drawing and adding in the capability to rotate, zoom, pan, section and inspect from your product from all directions along side its geometric dimensions and tolerances (GD&T or PMI).

If you have an assembly, it will capture different configurations, all to be viewed, rotated and manipulated inside a single viewable and lightweight digital file. A 3D PDF is a great container to hold pertinent TDP (Technical Data Package) information that defines all the information needed to manufacture, or just communicate your product design. It can be used for both parts and assemblies.
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MBD and CAD Re-use Workshop at SolidWorks World

January 27th, 2015 by Jennifer Herron

J.B. Herron Presenting at SolidWorks World 2015

Do you use 2D flat drawings to communicate your product designs? Does it make sense to hand over a 3D model to your manufacturer? Do you know how to take advantage of the SolidWorks software suite to enable your organization to leap into a model-centric product definition world?

Do you need more educational support on MBD and MBE and how it might affect your design world? This is a great place to ruminate on the topic, and ask specific questions from someone who has used the tools in her own designs, and also has a big picture strategic view of MBE.

On Wednesday February 11th, 2015 1:30-2:30 at the Phoenix Convention Center, Jennifer Herron will be sharing the vision on Model-Based Definition (MBD) and CAD Re-use within the SolidWorks and Enterprise PDM software suite.

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