Chances are you have heard talk around the water cooler about MBE, and thought – what’s up with that? This is the first in a series of blogs that will answer that question.

What is MBE?

The acronym MBE gets people confused. It sometimes refers to model-based engineering, which deals with design practices. More frequently it is coming to mean model-based enterprise, a term which was arguably coined by the U.S. Department of Defense. Here’s the way their website defines the model-based enterprise:

“Model Based Enterprise (MBE) is a digital tapestry which has been optimized around a core set of annotated product models enabling rapid, seamless, and affordable deployment of products from concept to disposal.”

A key phrase in this definition is “a core set of annotated product models.” These annotated product models are often referred to as model-based definition, or MBD, which simply means that all of the information needed to properly manufacture a product is contained within that 3D model set.

A common misconception about MBE is that it is a “binary condition,” meaning that either the organization has achieved it, or it hasn’t. It is much more accurate to think of MBE as being similar to what the term product lifecycle management, or PLM, has come to mean. It is a business strategy for achieving higher levels of profitability through continuous process improvement.

A company that is implementing a model-based enterprise strategy will be striving to accomplish the following:

  • Through MBD practices, fully detail the 3D model(s) of the product(s) with all of the necessary product manufacturing information (PMI) needed to make the product.
  • Eliminate the 2D drawing as both the design authority and the primary means of communicating design intent.
  • Provide visual representation of the model to support analysis functions such as computer-aided engineering, digital pre-assembly, and view/measure/markup applications.
  • Re-use the MBD data for all product documentation and information transmittal requirements, such as request for quote (RFQ), quality documentation, maintenance and support, long-term archiving, and similar lifecycle functions.
  • Manage the above using product lifecycle management (PLM) and enterprise content management (ECM) tools and processes.

Why MBE?

Now that you know what MBE is, you are more than likely thinking – why? The simple answer is this: there is no process in your organization that can’t be made more efficient in a remarkably low-cost, low-risk manner. According to research done by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in conjunction with the Department of the Army and the Defense Logistics Agency, the savings achievable through MBE practices can result in:

  • Reduction in non-recurring costs of between 50%-70%.
  • Acceleration of time to market by as much as 50%.

Across the product lifecycle, these benefits are beyond significant. If that isn’t reason enough, and you do business with the U.S. Department of Defense, consider this. Earlier this year the DOD released an update to MIL-STD-31000A, which defines how suppliers have to submit technical data packages (TDP). Without a clear MBE strategy and associated practices, satisfying the requirements of MIL-STD-31000A will be very difficult indeed.

In the next installment of this series, we will talk about the difference between visualization and communication, and why the distinction matters when building your organization’s MBE strategy.