5 MBSE Lessons From Industry Experts

From cybersecurity to the labor shortage, MBSE is helping engineers in ways you might not expect.

Siemens has sponsored this post.

Jim Anderton with Todd Tuthill, Donald Tolle, Nand Kochhar and Mark Malinoski for the Engineering Roundtable on MBSE.

Jim Anderton with Todd Tuthill, Donald Tolle, Nand Kochhar and Mark Malinoski for the Engineering Roundtable on MBSE.

What do you get when you cross four industry leaders with one precocious engineer? Some fascinating insights into model-based systems engineering (MBSE).

In MBSE: The Solution for Complex, Cost-Effective Engineering Projects?, engineering.com’s Jim Anderton hosted a panel of industry experts to discuss how MBSE enables rapid, cost-effective product development.

The main takeaway of the talk was that MBSE is a keystone of engineering in the modern era, the basis for delivering connected, intelligent and sustainable products in a changing world.

But what makes MBSE so valuable, and how can engineers and manufacturers leverage the methodology to its fullest extent?

For a full exploration, watch the full Engineering Roundtable. For a sneak peak, here are five MBSE lessons from the experts.

Lesson 1: MBSE is a Competitive Advantage in a Digital World

Mark Malinoski, MBSE Solutions Director for Siemens, traced the origins of the methodology to NASA’s Apollo programs and the defense department’s ballistic programs. As much as it has evolved since, Malinoski said the challenge today is to apply systems-level concepts to industries that often have a siloed approach.

But those that can do so will enjoy a huge competitive advantage. Digitization has disrupted the traditional “think, build and iterate” methodology that engineers have used to develop parts and products in the past. MBSE is one of the best ways to leverage this digital shift to lower product development cost and speed up time to market.

It’s not merely about optimizing the product, but also about optimizing the entire development and manufacturing process, said Todd Tuthill, Vice President for Aerospace and Defense Strategy and Marketing for Siemens. He says that successful companies will rely on MBSE, digitization and software in their product development.

“MBSE takes systems engineering and goes from a document-based paradigm to a digital paradigm,” added Donald Tolle, Director of Systems Engineering and Simulation at CIMdata. “We really need MBSE to bring digital representations together across the domains of electronics, software and mechanics. It’s hard to do with a document-based process.”

Lesson 2: MBSE is Necessary to Take the Automotive Revolution Across the Finish Line

The automotive industry is going through a major revolution with electrification and automation, and a document-based approach won’t be able to keep up. MBSE is increasingly involved in not just the development of new vehicles, but also in the everyday operations of electric and autonomous vehicles.

Car buyers used to care about horsepower, body style and acceleration—mechanical aspects of vehicles. Today, many care more about features such as wireless connectivity, digital human machine interfaces and driver assist technology. Automakers need to invest in electronics and application software to stay ahead of what has become a total paradigm shift for the industry.

“The automotive industry is evolving to high-end consumer electronics,” said Nand Kochhar, Vice President of Automotive and Transportation Industry Strategy for Siemens Digital Industries Software. “It’s not just being driven by the automotive industry—it’s driven by consumers. Consumers care about smart connected products. An automobile is nothing but a very high-end consumer product.”

This shift poses a challenge for an industry that is subject to high regulations and low margins. Adding more software and electronics adds complexity to vehicle development, and Kochhar argues that MBSE is the only solution.

“You can’t do the complex integration of the traditional mechanical systems with embedded electronics, software and electrical architectures without a structured approach. MBSE brings it all together,” Kochhar said.

Lesson 3: With the Aerospace Industry Bleeding Talent, MBSE Could Be a Lifeline

When an aerospace company like Boeing or Airbus develops a new aircraft, it’s a massive and complex process. It involves millions of pages of documents just to create the design and millions of pages to get the aircraft certified.

“MBSE can go a long way in helping to integrate and accelerate the entire process,” said Tuthill.

This acceleration is critical for an industry that is facing a major challenge: a lack of engineers. Thanks to a labor shortage decades in the making and the drop-off known as the Great Resignation, Tuthill expects a major exodus of engineering talent from the industry over the next decade that will have to be filled.

“MBSE can institutionalize the knowledge of the underlying systems applications and digital twins to make it easier for a new engineer to enter the field and become and expert,” Tuthill said. “The time it takes for a newcomer to become an expert needs to go down significantly if we’re going to continue the pace of innovation.”

Lesson 4: MBSE Enables a Zero-Defect World

Defective products can be costly mistakes, not to mention dangerous safety hazards. To achieve product development and manufacturing with zero defects, MBSE and related technologies like digital twins are key.

MBSE provides a structured approach to generating digital twins of the entire production process. Collecting data from edge devices and uploading it into the cloud produces a feedback mechanism for the entire design process so that defects can be identified early and be dealt with before products get released to the marketplace.

For example, an aircraft flies with millions of lines of code, many of which control critical safety functions. MBSE provides a framework to validate all of that code, says Tuthill.

Though not thought of as typical product defects, cybersecurity vulnerabilities are an increasingly important factor in the push towards zero defects.

“There’s a lot more attention on cybersecurity now,” said Tolle. “Providers like Siemens are going to have to work with infrastructure companies like Amazon to be part of the requirements that get captured in the MBSE process. That is something that will have to be codified and validated just as we validate other aspects of the process.”

Lesson 5: MBSE Frees Engineers from the Mundane

MBSE may be necessary for a zero-defect, low-cost, fast product development process, but it won’t matter without engineers to make it a reality. In the midst of a labor shortage, Tuthill believes automation is needed to augment human workloads. He says he has been shocked by how much time engineers spend on routine, administrative tasks like looking for and moving information—work that’s better suited to automation.

“There could be a massive increase in efficiency if we can get engineers doing real engineering,” said Tuthill. “Doing high-level thinking, making decisions with data—not processing data. MBSE frees up engineers from the mundane.”

For more MBSE lessons from these industry experts, don’t miss the new Engineering Roundtable: MBSE: The Solution for Complex, Cost-Effective Engineering Projects?