Basing Products on Models Instead of Drawings Takes Culture Change

Agriculture machine manufacturer Honey Bee plows ahead to become a model-based enterprise.

AirFLEX header for combine. (Image courtesy of HoneyBee Manufacturing.)

AirFLEX header for combine. (Image courtesy of HoneyBee Manufacturing.)

Honey Bee Manufacturing, located in Frontier, Saskatchewan, Canada, with a global marketing presence, recognized a critical problem: process failures on the shop floor.

A root cause analysis triggered an ambitious project to correct the operating deficiencies. Two objectives were defined: 1) implementing an integrated data management system and 2) increasing the use of CAD and the efficiency of CAD users.

As the company undertook this effort to move away from the traditional 2D drawing-centric system, a major insight arose: the realization that Honey Bee might be using model-based design (MBD) and model-based enterprise (MBE) without knowing it. The project participants had identified the need to “take a holistic approach” to gain the benefits of the project and to pay strict attention to cultural change aspects.

A widely accepted axiom for any systems implementation is the critical need to proactively—not reactively—address cultural change. Companies that fully grasp this requisite parameter will mount a communication strategy in many directions. Each will have a flavor to fit the dynamics of the company.

I recently explored the company’s progress with two active participants: Crista Honey-Vidal, project manager, and Joel Seerey, R&D engineer.

For Honey Bee’s circumstances, the team identified two interrelated cultural change strategies:

  1. Commitment to critical “leverage points” as a high-level vision
  2. Creation of their version of “The 10 CADmandments” to supplement the leverage points

What follows are the highlights of a spirited and informative discussion.

Assessing the Leverage Points

Leverage points for establishing an MBE.

Leverage points for establishing an MBE.

Engaging all stakeholders early in the project was vital to ensure full commitment. Four leverage points were pinpointed for leading Honey Bee towards an MBE. 2D product definition was to be done away with.

Crista Honey-Vidal, project manager.

Crista Honey-Vidal, project manager.

As Honey-Vidal emphasized, “We recognized early in the project that the critical requirement for pursuing an MBE would be to change the mindset and practices of the people and the culture of the organization.

Communication and collaboration could not be superficial but had to engage and open communication channels with full participation from all stakeholders. For experimentation and practice, we recognized the value of using a brand-new product under development, AirFLEX, as a test bed for experimentation and to improve our evolving MBE principles, rather than get involved with legacy practices. Also, our operations analysis group had identified the need for a proper data management system as a pre-requisite foundation.”

Joel Seerey, R&D engineer. (Image courtesy of Honey Bee Manufacturing.)

Joel Seerey, R&D engineer. (Image courtesy of Honey Bee Manufacturing.)

With this recognition, Seerey accepted the key task of automating and integrating disconnected software tools into a complete product data management system from development to operations.

As Seerey explained, “SOLIDWORKS Enterprise product data management was identified as the tool; the key point was that we implemented its capability early in the project. Modeling practices were improved, but we recognized that the model was more than a reference to a drawing. It can be the single source of information that sustains the data management system and encourages and strengthens the company’s collaborative pursuit of MBE. Still, identifying the leverage points was only a beginning in the cultural change strategy.”

As Honey-Vidal further explained, “Our people needed something more to grasp the significance of the efforts.”

To “pull the lever,” the future stakeholders needed to be engaged to such an extent that they would willingly break down the existing “siloed” methods. For example, the product release mechanism was the traditional “over the wall” from R&D to manufacturing. New part numbers and descriptions were one of the many unfortunate results further hampering communication.

So, Honey Bee initiated a six-month training program, during which additional communication needs surfaced. One result was that the training sessions shifted focus to developing the system based on actively seeking participation and feedback. In other words, not telling, but asking.

Still, to align the users to the leverage points sparked an additional communication tactic to shift minds, attitudes and behaviors toward MBD/MBE and away from 2D product definition—thus, the role of Honey Bee’s 10 CADmandments.

Communicating the 10 CADmandments

The 10 CADmandments give further in-depth understanding and an anchor for generating effective change. Importantly, they addressed the major concerns that were surfacing.

Let’s hear again from Honey-Vidal, who asserted, “We developed our 10 CADmandments for people struggling to shift their minds, attitudes and behaviors. The 10 CADmandments are a quick reference for people in their daily work. They have been created to address Honey Bee issues, but we found these issues are common in the industry.”

Honey Bee’s 10 CADmandments

Honey Bee’s 10 CADmandments

The 10 points encompass the higher-level needs of Honey Bee: requirements, collaboration and integration. Each identifies a task or process that needs to be inherent in daily activities of all stakeholders. All have a cultural change theme—creating trust.

Speaking to several points at one time, Seerey stressed, “Workflow provides transparency and visibility. Our pursuit is for the model to be “king,” fully defined correctly. In a time of change, previous experience with the drawing creates questioning and mistrust of the model. Following tangible practices and standards allows confidence and trust to be built when working in a model-based environment.”

And, regarding point 8, he emphasized that Honey Bee could not expect participation from all stakeholders if we don’t commit to a design upon release.

Results to Date



We reviewed accomplishments to date, plus an assessment of what could have been done differently, also known as “lessons learned.” Here are a few accomplishments:

  • The two engineering groups collaborated in training, which has carried into their daily work.
  • The operations analysis upheld the vision and the architecture without compromising the system. People who were hesitant about it are seeing the advantages of the system and are actively engaging to make it work for them.  They are asking, “How can I get the information in a better way?”
  • The workflow gives transparency to the system. At a glance, managers can see the progress of a project.

Regarding “internal” stakeholders, the discussion participants had some keen observations about the cultural dynamics. The team described the pacing of cultural change as “deliberate.”

Nowhere is this pacing more evident than in Honey Bee’s supply chain, a major external stakeholder group requiring a thoughtful introduction to the MBD/MBE concepts. Some suppliers have expressed interest and have received briefings; however, the company prefers the posture of assuring that the internals shown in the accomplishments visual are well developed before moving forward with most suppliers.

A promising development has been the willingness of suppliers with CNC capabilities to accept the level-3 product definition as described in ASME standard Y14.100.2014: STEP file with a 3D PDF.

When the discussion turned to “lessons learned,” Honey-Vidal stated, “We found the original vision perfectly aligned, but we could have done some steps better—for example, gaining buy-in. Interestingly, our older workers are more receptive. We could have been more aggressive when resistance was encountered; users were allowed to not move ahead. But, we did learn to say ‘no’ to proposed system changes until the system was understood. We still find that drawing lines in the sand is a challenge.”

Final Thoughts

The company’s approach has been “a crawl, walk, run strategy,” encouraged by consulting companies such as ITI in a whitepaper titled “Recommendations for Planning, Designing and Implementing the Model Based Enterprise for MBD/MBD.” A companion visual, based on a survey of Fortune 500 companies, emphasizes the lessons learned by Honey Bee. Training, culture and implementation account for more than 50 percent of the challenges.

Challenges to MBD/Model-Based Manufacturing adoption. (Image courtesy of ITI.)

Challenges to MBD/Model-Based Manufacturing adoption. (Image courtesy of ITI.)

Honey Bee’s unique environment highlights one of the many key decisions companies must make: What is the most effective pacing to cope with the likely cultural issues, not just the technical issues? Too fast may spark resistance from those left in the turbulence of change. Too slow may be discouraging for those expecting results.

No easy answer exists and looking for one is not productive. Be prepared to give the pacing dimension thorough thought.

And finally, I offer an 11th CADmandment, a variation of the popular quote from the philosopher George Santayana:

Thou shalt not fail to learn from the past—or others—or you will be condemned to repeat it.