Guide to Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) [Everything You Want to Know]

Through the decades, systems engineering has turned to the best minds in design and development to accomplish the seemingly impossible. From building the most complex aircraft to the Panama Canal, from the Apollo missions to the International Space Station: The loftiest achievements of the past are a triumph thanks to systems engineering.

Today’s engineers are privileged to have improved development processes through Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE).  This has created a paradigm shift in systems engineering, enabling engineers to fully streamline processes and foster collaboration inside and outside the organization.

On the shoulders of yesterday’s giants, perhaps the greatest recent engineering achievement is the invention of more efficient processes that bring teams together as they design the path to the future.

But what is model-based systems engineering, and how does it improve team communication and collaboration? Below, we’ll examine the challenges and victories of MBSE and the positive impact of product data management (PDM) on the world of engineering.

What Is Model-Based Systems Engineering?

Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is a specialized form of engineering where digital, graphical models are used to design, develop, analyze, and test complex systems. 

The MBSE model may depict requirements, and functionality meeting physical, electrical, software, manufacturing, and sustainability. 

MBSE should be used in any discrete manufacturing or engineering industry including:

  • Aerospace
  • Defense
  • Automotive
  • Healthcare

MBSE systems engineering acts as a guide for team collaboration throughout a project’s development lifecycle. Models help communicate standardized design requirements and their functions, including object hierarchy and environmental testing and impact.

MBSE is used for:

  • Impact Analysis
  • Generating documentation
  • Validation and Verification (V&V)
  • Implementing and fabricating designs
  • Product maintenance
  • Coordinating teams
  • Standardizing processes

What Are the Benefits of MBSE?

MBSE provides a mechanism for teams of engineers and stakeholders to develop products more effectively by using a visual model showing dependencies and integration points. Where traditional systems engineering leaned on technical drawings and calculations passed along to teams that could test these designs under real-world conditions, MBSE aligns these processes so they can happen simultaneously.

MBSE helps teams share information in real-time, across their specialized disciplines and with stakeholders like management, investors, or anyone involved in a project.

What Are Some of the Key Principles of MBSE?

Several foundational ideas are guiding and governing MBSE. The following are just a few of these key principles:

Models Are Created for a Purpose

Models can be used for completely unique product designs, but also to test these designs for real-world circumstances. 

For instance, one model may be developed to study the impact of wind or turbulence in aeronautics, while another may be designed to simulate when a product and its components will require maintenance.

Whether an MBSE is used for analysis, design, and development or to assess an object’s specifications—the aim is always to work towards a specific goal.

MBSE Is Representative of Real-World Products

Models aren’t just built to represent the physical likeness of products. MBSE unites design, testing, analysis, development, and other disciplines to create the best final product.

MBSE is generally not a 3D visual model, but a SYSML block diagram model.  3D models might go better with digital twins.

It Is About Accuracy

Using models to represent complex objects and systems is only beneficial if the results are predictable, repeatable, and accurate. MBSE uses digital processes to output reliable data used to design objects and systems with expected results.

It Improves Efficiency

MBSE provides specialists with a common ground to visualize, create, and test systems, helping them work quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality or safety.

What Are Common Challenges MBSE Helps to Address?

Traditional engineering relied on serial trial-and-error prototyping. MBSE provides a structured path for teams to collaboratively solve multi-domain impact analysis.

Today’s MBSE processes are far better equipped to manage and overcome many of the greater challenges of systems engineering. Below are a few common engineering challenges MBSE helps to address.

Siloed Teams

One of the hardest engineering challenges to overcome is unifying separate teams of specialists. MBSE helps standardize the way teams can communicate. Shared real-time data makes it possible for teams to coordinate their efforts.

Fragmented Data

Engineers work on different processes using separate software tools, but they all need to coordinate and communicate their results across these incompatible platforms. MBSE helps them share all of their findings and updates. This increases their work pace, making it even more critical to ensure findings are accurate.

While some standards, like open services for lifecycle collaboration (OSLC), have been created through the years, engineers need their data to translate in and out of these different standards without flaw. This requires tools like PROSTEP’s OpenCLM, which can act as an intelligent bridge between different programs and protocols, so everyone can instantly share data across platforms.

MBSE Best Practices

MBSE has led the engineering world into an era of improved collaboration, systems, and efficiency. The following are four important examples.

  1. Using a Single Source of Truth

When teams operate according to a single source of truth, data can be trusted across different platforms. This means that the data used on one software platform can be translated across other platforms while retaining accuracy, ensuring teams can trust they are synchronized and can trust their results.

  1. Federated Solution with Complete Traceability

Even when teams need different tools to support their unique abilities, a centralized source of everyone’s work helps teams operate in parallel at the same time. It breaks down the silos that burdened the pace and efficiency of earlier processes while maintaining consistency and traceability across the board. 

  1. Using Data as the Common Modelling Language

Using different tools no longer has to complicate shared results or aligned operations. Using systems modeling language, analysts, designers, and engineers can develop and test models with open, consistent progress when the data they generate is perfectly integrated with absolute, reliable interoperability.

  1. Using Digital Thread and Digital Twins

The digital thread is a communication framework to link data for design, modeling, and simulation. Digital twins are the model representation of this complex flow of connected data, allowing a fully digital representation of objects and systems to be tested, analyzed, and simulated.

The breakthroughs provided by digital threads and digital twins combine so teams can realize the efficiency and accuracy of MBSE best practices.

Make the Connection with PROSTEP

Our OpenPDM line of engineering tools brings you product data management solutions to help connect your teams, integrate their tools, migrate to standardized platforms, and collaborate in real time.

If you’re ready to connect your teams and processes, get in touch with one of our MBSE experts today!


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