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Implementing Model-Based Enterprise in Aerospace Manufacturing

May 17, 2022

The big data trends that have taken over the service sector are trickling down into manufacturing. However, decades of traditional industrial practice have made it difficult to achieve a smooth digital transformation in aerospace and other industries. Veteran engineers may not fully appreciate just how valuable going digital can be. Digital transformation companies, though, have found ways to unite modern data trends with useful engineering tools. Model-based enterprise, or MBE, is the perfect approach for a digital transformation in aerospace.

At SAAB RDS, we’re always looking for tools to help industrial companies modernize their practices and improve their workflows. Many large manufacturing companies have praised MBE as it has made their operations more agile and flexible while still retaining many of the familiar aspects of design and engineering that teams are accustomed to. So, what is MBE, and how can your company use it to propel its digital transformation forward?

Implementing Model-Based Enterprise in Aerospace Manufacturing

Implementing Model-Based Enterprise in Aerospace Manufacturing

What Changes in a Model-Based Approach?

Model-based enterprise, or MBE, replaces the traditional document-based approach that many industrial operations still employ. A document-based enterprise relies on 2D drawings, blueprints, spec sheets, and other documents to keep track of parts and assembly. Each unique part in a production line will have its own documents, and assemblies likewise will have their own documents to show how everything goes together. While this approach has worked well for many decades, it limits your organization’s ability to leverage data.

MBE, in contrast, begins and ends with a final 3D model. The master model serves as the foundation of the entire production line. Components have their own detailed 3D models, which are linked to the master model. This centralizes every component and makes it easy for engineers on different teams to understand how changes in their work will affect others. What’s more, MBE calls for extensive use of metadata. The 3D model will contain every possible data point for manufacturing.

MBE: The Key to Digital Transformation in Aerospace

MBE offers many benefits to companies, especially in a complex field like aerospace. All of the benefits stem from using a unified 3D model as the source of all of your activity. Above all, 3D models with data points allow you to understand immediately the impact your changes will have on your entire operation. This itself has a massive impact on your other business areas. Consider the example of an aerospace company designing a relatively simple drone:

Design Validation

By designing a 3D model to spec and making it the center of your production, your company can immediately proceed to computer simulations. A first draft of a drone design can be put immediately into a realistic simulation to evaluate aerodynamics and estimate important factors such as range and flight time. Instead of rushing to build a working prototype only to go back to the drawing board for massive redesigns, MBE gets you closer to the final design before prototyping.

Each component in the model must have as much detailed information as possible, though. Material specifications, precise dimensions, surface finish, coatings, and even estimated costs and delivery times should be included. A drone build would likely include parts made in-house and parts sources from other companies. Including details like delivery times and costs will allow you to plan your purchasing and ordering times to avoid downtime on the production line in the future.

From Models to Machines

Speaking of the production line, your model will dictate how your line will look. It’s even possible to develop a manufacturing sequence in 3D based on the master model. A drone built with a high volume of off-the-shelf components will rely more on basic assembly machines, while in-house housings or aesthetic parts may require their own production processes that can dramatically change how your line looks.

With MBE, if you make a change to the master model, you’ll know how to adjust your production. This results in much faster revisions. When you can immediately understand how to retool your manufacturing process after a revision, changes are embraced rather than feared. MBE makes your business leaner, able to adapt to changing market conditions with ease and overcome unexpected problems.

Smarter Finances

As much as engineers would love to have infinite funding, budgets are vital constraints. However, they often become a bottleneck during design. Every revision requires an update to the cost of the final product and an evaluation of how that impacts the overall budget. With MBE, it’s possible to do this automatically whenever changes are made to the master model. Suppose your drone’s model is modified to add a few extra sensors. How will your budget change?

The metadata on those sensors will feed into a dynamically linked budget. The cost of the additional sensors will appear as a line item and update the total cost of each unit produced. This works both ways, as engineers working in 3D space could see this update in real-time and understand that perhaps their revision won’t be financially viable. Project managers can set strict financial limits and allow the engineering team to work without as much back and forth.

Better Data Analytics

All of these data points converge in data analytics. With data analytics tools, you can better understand your business and how it operates. You can also identify processes that gobble up valuable time or even find ways to simplify your latest project and save more money. A change to your master model could raise a red flag if, for instance, the component you need can only be sourced from a company located overseas.

Likewise, analytics can track employee activity on your designs. Perhaps data analytics notices excessive involvement from a supervisor, indicating too much micromanagement. Conversely, it could also help you identify which of your engineers works most efficiently and merits a bonus or recognition. As time goes on, you’ll gain deeper insights as AI-driven analytics learns more about your operations. For example, as you log reports of faulty parts, analytics will eventually reveal which supplier deserves to be replaced.

Prepare for a Quantum Future

Another reason to adopt MBE now is that it will only get better as new technologies reach maturity. In particular, quantum computing has the potential to completely upend manufacturing in aerospace. A quantum computer can take a set of parameters and rapidly find the ideal solution, essentially testing thousands of ideas at once. With MBE, a quantum computer could conjure up a master model, which then delivers data to the rest of your organization.

Currently, technology like this is still in its infancy. However, having everything else in place now will help your company gain a competitive edge when innovations reach maturity and become more financially accessible.

Digital Transformation Companies Ease the Transition

For many companies, processes are deeply entrenched from years of repetition. Changing your workflow can seem impossible. However, digital transformation companies like ours are here to help you complete your digital transformation in aerospace. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. It starts with a thorough evaluation of your company’s existing practices to understand what needs to change. Your senior management team needs to define clear goals for your transformation as well.

Once we know what objectives you hope to achieve with your transformation, we’ll help you design a solution that satisfies your needs and prepares you for the future.

Custom Solutions for Aerospace

For a successful digital transformation, you need a custom solution. All too often, we see companies struggle to implement new software and processes because the tools they acquire aren’t the right ones for the job. When going digital feels like a burden, employees quickly lose interest, and resentment builds. A poor attempt at a digital transformation can leave a company worse off.

We work with a variety of vendors and service providers to create tailor-made solutions. A transformation shouldn’t be a radical redesign of your entire business; rather, it’s meant to be a natural evolution of your existing workflow.

Software as a Service

The Software as a Service (SaaS) model makes digital transformation much easier. MBE software running in the cloud eliminates expensive up-front costs and gives you instant access to a full suite of features. With expert help, you can integrate SaaS into your workflow and transition smoothly to a digital future.

Contact SAAB RDS to learn more about how we can help your company complete its digital transformation and reach new heights in aerospace.