More and more disciplines are using 3D models downstream to create product documentation, sales and marketing collateral, assembly instructions, service and support documentation, and perform machining and inspection tasks. The goal of the Model-Based Enterprise (MBE) is to cut down on errors and rework, reduce the amount of required data and documents, and facilitate a more seamless and affordable deployment of products.
With MBE, the 3D model becomes the central source of all design information throughout the lifecycle of a product. One enabling driver of this initiative is the development of new standards for 3D model annotation that specify that 3D models now include all information needed by downstream users. By embedding product and manufacturing information (PMI) into 3D model, downstream applications such as quality, manufacturing, service, marketing and sales can leverage the 3D model for their purposes.
The embedded PMI adds all the non-geometric information in a 3D CAD model that is necessary for manufacturing it. This may include geometric dimensions and tolerances, 3D annotation and dimensions, surface finish, and materials specifications. Whereas, 3D models without PMI enable the creation of deliverables and the validation of things that are reliant on the form and fit of the design.
For the MBE to work for the entire supply chain, the data must be CAD-agnostic, meaning it must be in a format compatible with multiple CAD systems. That 3D data must also be true to its initial design intent when received by a third party. After all, if that model is the single source of information for the part, it must be able to be consumed by many different partners and suppliers along the supply chain.
Reusing that data is also a critical component of the MBE. Missing or unclear information can lead to misinterpretation by the supplier, which can ultimately lead to errors and quality rejections after the part has been delivered. All of which can snowball into unnecessary rework and delays in product delivery to the customer.
Hurdles block widespread MBE adoption
Despite all the compelling reasons behind the adoption of MBE initiatives, many companies are still struggling with it, mainly for cultural, not technological reasons. In order to adopt MBE, companies must mandate a change in work processes and yet people, in general, are resistant to changing the way they do things. As a result, executive mandates are necessary to overcome the cultural resistance to change.
A lack of standards is about hurdle. One group propelling the need for more standards is the Strategic Automotive Product Data Standards Group (SASIG). The group has recommended some process re-engineering that needs to be done to further the adoption of MBE. For one, engineers need to know what specific types of PMI information downstream users will require so they can embed that information into the model upfront in the development process. The group also suggests that non-engineering, downstream consumers of the 3D model need the capability to add additional PMI to the model.
MBE initiatives will require some upfront work and process re-engineering on the part of the enterprise. Not just the engineers, but also all the downstream disciplines must take the time to document their development processes in order to leverage the full benefits the MBE has to offer.