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I find that when I talk with most people about Model Based Enterprise (MBE), their mind immediately shifts to Model Based Design/Definition. This is natural, because most people equate the concept of ‘model based’ with the transition from 2D drawings to 3D models. Although it is a useful way to introduce the idea of MBE, unfortunately I think the conversation must continue from that starting point to really describe the concept. The Model Based Enterprise goes a lot deeper than using 3D geometry to define products. In fact, I would argue that we need to disconnect the term ‘model’ from the mental construct of 3D geometry to really get the full picture.

Models are mathematical representations of objects in the real world, and of our current understanding of those objects. Naturally, 3D geometry is one such mathematical representation, presented graphically on a computer screen. But a logical circuit diagram is also a model – a model of the matching real world electric circuit. We use hundreds of models in our everyday lives from weather models that provide us with the weather forecast to traffic models that help us get to work more quickly. What we don’t often consider is that there are multiple types of models used throughout product development, or at least we don’t think of them when the conversation turns to MBE.

So Many Models…

For a moment, consider this abridged list of models used in various disciplines of product development:

  • 3D geometric model
  • Electrical logic circuit model
  • Printed circuit board model
  • 2D kinematic model
  • 0D/1D simulation model
  • SysML model
  • Software emulation model
  • Finite element model
  • Computer-Aided Machining (CAM) model
  • Spreadsheet model (connected functions and parameters)

I am guessing that there are a few models in that list that you would not have thought to mention if someone asked you for your product ‘models’. Having read the list though, I hope you would agree that if any of these models exist during your product development activities, they need to be part of your Model Based Enterprise picture.

How do you relate all these models?

Without making your head hurt too much, consider for a moment how challenging it is to manage all those models, and to connect/relate them appropriately to each other. A simple parameter like ‘drive linkage’ might exist in the 3D model, the 2D kinematic model, the SysML model, the FEA model, and the spreadsheet model. If you change the value for the drive linkage parameter in one model, how can you be sure that you updated it in all the other models?

If you’re like most companies today, you have a system like PDM to keep track of revisions of your 3D models – but what is keeping track of the revisions of all the other models? And what system is maintaining the relationships among all the other types of models?


Don’t worry, there are answers to these questions, and there is hope for avoiding model chaos, but you need a good data management strategy and foundation to begin solving these challenges for MBE. If you’re trying to get to MBE or are faced with some of these model management challenges, please reach out to us, we’d like to help.

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