Ever been involved in a Model-Based Definition (MBD) project? If so, you likely know how difficult it is to convince people they no longer need their drawings. After all, drawings are ambiguous, and models are rich in data and navigable in 3-Dimensional (3D) space. So, do a quick internet search for MBD. You will undoubtedly find online debates on the proper use of GD&T (Geometric Dimensioning and Tolerancing), like Do we need Basic Dimensions or not? or Why aren’t there any find-number balloons on my assembly models anymore? Leadership often pays too much attention to the Return on Investment (ROI) of avoiding creating drawings and not enough attention to the direct automation opportunities within 3D CAD models authored with MBD. The good news is that any company seriously pursuing MBD knows that the real ROI is in the consumption of MBD. Therefore, companies successful with MBD focus on the re-use of models rather than eliminating 2-Dimensional (2D) drawings.
Along with the focus on CAD model re-use comes the focus on use cases and metrics. All industries that fabricate hardware, whether toothbrushes or tanks, experience lengthy and costly First Article Inspection (FAI) processes. Streamlining this process is crucial to bringing products to market faster, which is key to remaining competitive.
Any company that fabricates hardware can benefit from MBD capabilities. For this article, I use an example company that is a global manufacturer of consumer products; let’s call it ACME Incorporated. ACME is a fictitious company based on several large commercial and military hardware manufacturers that I’ve worked with on MBD initiatives.
ACME has 80,000 employees located across the globe, has $12 Billion in annual revenue, and performs most fabrication in China and India. Their products include many injection molded plastic components. Five years ago, ACME started an initiative to modernize its First Article Inspection (FAI) process by leveraging industrial CT (Computerized Tomography) scanning technology to reduce the time and effort required to perform FAIs. While on their journey to speed up FAI, they discovered they needed CREO MBD capabilities in conjunction with CT scanning. Combining MBD and CT Scanning allowed them to reduce the time required to complete an FAI and increased FAI throughput. These efforts reduced their time to market.
At ACME, the FAI process was a bottleneck for New Product Development (NPD) projects. Because they were designing and building many very complex plastic injection molded parts, the 2D drawings often were 5 to 6 sheets and included several hundred dimension and tolerance requirements. These complex drawings then required various measurement devices to complete an FAI. These devices could be traditional hand-held tools (calipers and micrometers), optical scopes, CMM machines, and more. Adding to the FAI complexity, the parts also included small, intricate features potted in epoxy that needed to be measured. As a result, it took at least a week to complete an FAI, and that was if everything went smoothly. As a result, ACME needed a way to design, develop and qualify new products and their manufacturing processes faster to remain competitive.
To increase the speed of metrology activities needed during FAI, ACME invested in industrial CT Scanners. However, while piloting the CT scanning operations, ACME quality engineers found themselves recreating information from the drawing and manually adding it into the CT scanning dimensional analysis and reporting software. Unfortunately, manually recreating the dimensions, tolerances, and other characteristic information into the CT scanning software from the drawing was very time-consuming. As a result, ACME did not realize the expected benefits of implementing CT scanning, leaving ACME in a pickle.
The scenario highlighted that using the existing method of engineering authoring (2D drawings) was unsuitable for the process targeted for improvement (reduced time for FAI).
ACME had heard that CREO had MBD capabilities, and thought it would reduce data re-entry, so they began authoring CREO CAD models with digitally associated (semantic) annotations. The annotations were capable of capturing dimensions, tolerances, and notes digitally attached to the intricate features. ACME thought their data re-entry problem was solved. However, they discovered another challenge. Changing people from using a drawing to perform their job to using a 3D CREO model wasn’t as straightforward as they had envisioned.
Eventually, they discovered they would need to tackle the problem with a multi-faceted enterprise-wide effort. Once ACME put a strategic approach supported by top-tier and mid-level leadership in place, they could evolve the enterprise to authoring 3D CREO models. The MBD CREO CAD allowed them to directly consume the engineering requirements (no manual data entry) into digital metrology planning software and then use their CT scanners to perform the measurements. What happened? FAI throughput increased, which increased ACME’s speed to market of their products.
What ACME learned was the world had used drawings for hundreds of years to capture engineering requirements. As a result, there is no way to flip a switch to using 3D Creo models overnight. Instead, an enterprise-wide strategy with a clear communication plan backed by all levels of leadership is required to make the transition.
Capturing the data as a 3D MBD CAD model captures the engineering requirements in a format that can be consumed by the CT scanning planning and reporting software. Reusing the engineering 3D CAD eliminated the need to re-create the information on the drawing. CREO was already ACME’s standard CAD platform which includes the ability to author MBD. Leveraging CREO’s MBD capabilities and working with quality engineers, they could compare the 3D engineering requirement to the 3D scan data. They post-processed the point cloud data generated by scanning a part against the MBD annotations and performed statistical analysis on the measurement results; an engineering pipe-dream come true. Because the 3D annotations were associated with the 3D CAD geometry, the delta between the scanned point cloud data and the 3D CAD geometry could be quantified and evaluated against the requirements captured in the 3D annotations. A report could be automatically generated that includes the measurement results quantified by this analysis.
When they changed their processes, implemented updated software tools, and collaborated across engineering and operations, they achieved a 60% reduction in FAI inspection time and a 20-40% reduction in FAI report creation time.
The transition did not happen overnight. ACME was strategic, slow, and methodical. They adopted an Agile Mindset. They focused on how they could use their newly authored 3D CREO models in new and interesting ways. They discovered CREOView worked well for real-time viewing and commenting within the context of Windchill. Using CREOView replaced engineers spending time creating hundreds of slide presentations to explain Design For Manufacturability (DFM). Instead, they focused their table-top reviews on viewing and navigating through the 3D model.
Once ACME uncovered the Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) issues embedded in their drawings, they exposed the opportunity to use MBD in other areas of the business. However, the thought of eliminating drawings everywhere was overwhelming. So the ACME leadership refocused their efforts and made a plan for both MBD authors and consumers of MBD data that included:
- Revisiting their ASME GD&T and ISO GPS training not just for engineering but also for manufacturing, quality engineers, and consumers. This education upskilled their workers to address their bad GD&T practices.
- Realizing they weren’t taking an enterprise-wide approach to speed up their FAI with MBD. Instead, they made a strategic plan to incorporate a digital engineering strategy that broke down the information silos between engineering and operations.
- Adopting CREO MBD, CREOView, and Windchill as a holistic solution to authoring, managing, and consuming 3D digital information. Implementing tools engineered to work together reduced their software tool maintenance and 3D data interoperability data exchange methods.
In addition to increasing their quality sophistication and reducing time spent on FAI, they could change the context for defining their products from a 2D drawing to a 3D CAD model. The change allowed ACME to realize other benefits and extend MBD to support other continuous improvement activities. Because the data is captured digitally rather than on a non-machine readable drawing, they could use the engineering data to optimize other business areas and even investigated future initiatives such as IoT, Digital Twin, and Digital Factory solutions.
ACME has high volume production and was able to realize FAI savings using MBD. MBD and digital metrology practices can also be extended to low volume production to leverage time savings during quality assurance activities, such as FAI and Production Part Approval Process (PPAP).
Because ACME is an Agile Mindset company and uses SCRUM ceremonies, during one of their retrospectives, they reflected on why they thought setting up CT scanning alone would reduce their FAIs. Instead, they learned they focused only on implementing new software and hardware technologies and forgot to change their processes.
Digital transitions are extremely difficult for large corporations, and as such, all levels of management must be aligned to drive change. ACME learned that just implementing CT scanners did not yield expected results, but it did uncover COPQ challenges in their existing processes. A focus on improving the language engineers use to communicate away from 2D and into 3D (MBD) improved challenges in parts of the business they didn’t expect.
ACME’s focus on building cross-functional teams to tackle how to improve time to market in use cases like FAI activities brings focus to implementation.
When ACME implemented CT scanning, they realized their engineering requirements were ambiguous. It is common. Focusing on creating non-machine readable information in the context of a 2D drawing as the authoritative source means authors prioritize what the information looks like to humans while relying on the human brain to interpret the information. Ultimately manual data entry is required as the product moves from design to fabrication to inspection.
While changing from a 2D drawing-centric product definition paradigm to a 3D MBD product definition paradigm solved the problem for FAI, they also learned other processes rely on 2D drawings and need updating. ACME learned they weren’t just implementing new digital design, engineering, manufacturing, and operations tools, but they were reimaging a new way to do business.
Author: Jennifer Herron, CEO/Founder of Action Engineering