What exactly is model-based systems engineering (MBSE)?
Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is a hardware engineering methodology that employs graphical models to represent and build systems.
The objective of MBSE is to make the design process of product development more efficient and effective through the use of computer-based tools and procedures.
One of the primary advantages of MBSE for hardware engineering is that it permits a more comprehensive picture of a system. Instead of focusing on individual components or subsystems, MBSE takes a top-down approach to design, considering the system as a whole and how all of its parts work together. This allows designers to detect and handle potential problems early in the design process, lowering the chance of costly and time-consuming modifications later on in the engineering lifecycle. Additionally, MBSE encourages collaboration and communication among design teams, especially in the context of hardware engineering, where several stakeholders may be involved.
Team members can comprehend and contribute to the design more simply by utilizing a uniform system language and representation.
A variety of model types are utilized in MBSE for hardware engineering, each performing a distinct function in the design process. Functional models, for instance, explain the procedures a system must execute, whereas physical models depict the essential components and their relationships. Other sorts of models include behavioral models, which describe the system’s behavior under different settings, and performance models, which forecast the system’s performance.
In the context of hardware engineering, ensuring that the models are correct and up-to-date is one of the primary problems of MBSE. As a system’s design evolves, the models must be updated to reflect these modifications. This necessitates a robust management procedure and maintenance tools for the models. MBSE provides a potent approach to hardware engineering that can enhance the design process and result in more successful systems. By employing graphical models to depict and develop systems, teams may more readily comprehend and handle possible difficulties, cooperate and communicate efficiently, and assure the models’ accuracy and currency.
What’s the difference between MBSE and a traditional approach to engineering?
Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is a systems engineering approach that uses graphical models to represent and design systems, unlike traditional systems engineering, which uses document-based specifications and drawings.
The level of abstraction at which the design is represented is one significant difference between MBSE and traditional systems engineering. The design is often described at a low level of detail in traditional systems engineering, focusing on individual components and their specific characteristics. MBSE, on the other hand, takes a top-down approach, representing the design at a higher level of abstraction and considering the entire system. This allows designers to see the big picture and understand how all components fit together more efficiently.
Another distinction is the level of collaboration and communication encouraged by MBSE. MBSE makes it easier for team members to understand and contribute to the design by using a common language and representation of the system. This can be especially useful in large, complex systems with multiple stakeholders.
MBSE also employs computer-aided tools and techniques to aid the design process, whereas traditional systems engineering may rely on manual calculations and drawings. Certain aspects of the design process can be automated and streamlined using these tools, making it more efficient and accurate.
Compared to traditional methods, MBSE provides a more holistic, collaborative, and efficient approach to systems engineering. It should be noted, however, that MBSE is not a replacement for traditional systems engineering but rather a complementary approach that engineers can use in conjunction with more traditional methods.
5 Benefits of MBSE for complex systems
Engineering firms can gain several advantages by incorporating model-based systems engineering (MBSE) into their design process:
- Improved efficiency: By automating specific tasks and providing a common representation for the system, MBSE can help to streamline the design process. This can reduce the time and effort needed to complete the design.
- Improved collaboration and communication: MBSE encourages collaboration and communication within design teams, allowing team members to understand and contribute to the design quickly.
- Better designs: MBSE can lead to higher quality designs by considering the system as a whole and identifying potential issues early in the design process.
- Error reduction: Using computer-based tools and techniques in MBSE can help to reduce the risk of errors during the design process through increased traceability.
- Increased customer satisfaction: Engineering firms using MBSE may increase customer satisfaction by producing higher-quality designs delivered more efficiently.
It is important to note that the specific benefits realized by an engineering firm will be determined by the complexity and requirements of the systems they are designing, as well as their level of experience with MBSE.
What is the significance of collaboration in MBSE?
Collaboration is essential in hardware engineering firms’ model-based systems engineering (MBSE) because it allows team members to understand better and contribute to the system’s design. This can result in a variety of advantages, including:
- Improved communication: MBSE promotes more transparent communication among team members by using a common language and representation for the system. This can help reduce misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.
- Enhanced teamwork: Because everyone is working from the same set of models and can easily see the contributions of others, MBSE encourages collaboration and cooperation among team members.This can result in a more unified design process.
Collaboration in MBSE can accelerate the design process by allowing team members to work more efficiently and effectively. For example, if one team member notices a flaw in the design, others can quickly grasp the issue and collaborate to find a solution. Collaboration can foster an innovative culture within the design team by allowing members to share ideas and collaborate on finding new solutions.
Overall, MBSE collaboration is critical for hardware engineering firms because it can result in a more efficient, effective, and innovative design process.
Which engineering fields make use of MBSE?
Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is a popular method in many engineering fields, including:
- Medical devices
- Industrial automation
- Consumer electronics
These industries frequently require the design of large, complex systems that can benefit from MBSE’s holistic, collaborative, and efficient approach.
Other industries where systems engineering is essential, such as civil engineering and construction, use MBSE.
MBSE and SysML
The System Modeling Language (SysML) is a graphical modeling language explicitly designed for systems engineering. It is frequently used in conjunction with model-based systems engineering (MBSE) to represent and design systems.
SysML defines a set of symbols and notations representing systems and their behavior. It is based on the Unified Modeling Language (UML), a widely used standard for modeling software systems, but it has been extended to meet the systems engineering needs.
In MBSE, SysML creates graphical representations of the system’s functions, behavior, and physical components. These models can be used to both communicate the system’s design to stakeholders and to analyze and validate the design.
Overall, SysML is an important tool for MBSE because it provides a common language and representation for system design. It promotes collaboration and communication within design teams and allows computer-based tools to aid the design process.
While SysML is a powerful tool for representing and designing systems, it does have some limitations that hardware engineering firms should be aware of:
- Complexity: SysML can be difficult to learn and use, especially for those unfamiliar with modeling languages. A significant investment in training and resources may be required to use SysML in the design process effectively.
- Limited hardware design support: SysML is primarily concerned with representing a system’s functional and behavioral aspects rather than the physical properties of hardware components. While SysML can be used to describe hardware, it may provide only some of the tools and notation required for detailed hardware design.
- Compatibility with other tools: SysML models may not be directly compatible with other hardware engineering tools and platforms, such as computer-aided design (CAD) software. Integration of SysML models with other design tools may necessitate additional effort.
How to adopt MBSE (best practices)
There are several steps engineering firms can take to incorporate model-based systems engineering (MBSE) into their design process:
The first step is to assess the current design process to identify areas where MBSE can be most beneficial. This may entail evaluating the complexity and size of the systems under consideration and the design team’s level of collaboration and communication.
- Choose an MBSE tool: There are numerous MBSE tools on the market, so it is critical to carefully evaluate the options and select a device that meets the needs of the engineering firm. Consider the complexity of the systems under development, the size of the design team, and the level of integration with other tools and platforms.
- Train the design team: After selecting an MBSE tool, it is critical to provide training to the design team on how to use the tool effectively. This may include both general MBSE principles training and specific MBSE tool training.
The following step defines the modeling process that system engineers use to create and maintain the MBSE models. Establishing guidelines for naming conventions, model structure, and model maintenance may be part of this.
- Make the first models: The design team can begin creating the initial MBS using the MBSE tool and modeling process.
There are numerous model-based systems engineering (MBSE) tools on the market that can be beneficial to hardware engineering companies. Some popular choices are:
- Valispace: Valispace turns Model-based systems engineering into Data-driven systems engineering (DDSE) through linking requirements and components with engineering data (power consumption, mass, etc).
Valispace’s ease of use and accessibility for all those in an engineering organization make it the perfect tool for all those involved in complex hardware.
Find out how Valispace easily fits in to your bespoke project here.
- MagicDraw is a paid MBSE tool that supports SysML and other modeling languages. It includes modeling, analysis, simulation features, and integration with other tools, such as CAD software.
- Sparx Systems Enterprise Architect (SysML and other modeling languages supported): A commercial MBSE tool. It includes modeling, analysis, simulation features, and integration with other tools, such as version control systems.
- Siemens NX: A commercial MBSE tool that supports SysML and other modeling languages and CAD integration. It has a variety of modeling, analysis, and simulation features.
- Altium Designer is a paid MBSE product that can communicate with CAD programmes and works with modelling languages like SysML. It has both electrical and mechanical components, making it suitable for hardware engineering.
- PTC Creo: A commercial MBSE tool that supports SysML and other modeling languages and CAD software integration. It includes tools for mechanical design and analysis, as well as simulation and manufacturing.
- Dassault Systemes Inc. SolidWorks: A commercial MBSE software that can import and work with CAD files and other modelling languages like SysML. It has several tools for both design and analysis, and it was developed with mechanical engineers in mind.
When selecting an MBSE tool, it is critical to carefully evaluate the hardware engineering company’s needs. The complexity of the systems being designed, the size of the design team, and the level of integration with other tools and platforms are all factors to consider.
Is Excel appropriate for a model-based approach?
Excel is a spreadsheet program widely used for data management and analysis; however, it is not commonly regarded as a model-based systems engineering (MBSE) tool. MBSE is concerned with the representation and design of systems using graphical models, whereas Excel is primarily a tool for working with tabular data.
While Excel can help with some aspects of MBSE, such as data management and analysis, it is not best suited for creating and maintaining graphical system models. More specialized MBSE tools are typically used for this.
Having said that, Excel can be used with MBSE tools to assist with specific aspects of the design process. It could be used, for example, to store and manipulate data to populate MBSE models or generate reports based on MBSE models. However, Excel should not be used in place of a dedicated MBSE tool.
MBSE’s limitations in hardware engineering
In addition to SysML’s limitations, some of the MBSE criticisms include the following:
- Potential for model over-reliance: Some critics argue that MBSE can lead to model over-reliance and a lack of attention to real-world considerations. This can lead to unrealistic or impractical designs.
- Verification and validation complexity: Verifying and validating MBSE models can be difficult, especially for large, complex systems. This may necessitate additional effort and resources to ensure the models’ accuracy and completeness.
The Fallacy of a Single Source of Truth
Many MBSE software solutions will claim to be a single source of truth… Be wary of such exaggerated claims!
A “single source of truth” is a definitive and authoritative source of information that is the foundation for all organizational decision-making. A single source of truth in the context of software used by hardware engineering companies could be a central repository of data used to inform the design and development of engineering systems.
The concept of a single source of truth is appealing because it implies that all relevant information can be found in one place and that decisions based on this information can be made confidently. In practice, however, achieving a trustworthy single source of truth can be difficult because data is frequently distributed across multiple sources and stakeholders. Data, for example, may be stored in multiple databases, spreadsheets, and models in software used by hardware engineering companies, making it difficult to determine which source is the most accurate or up-to-date. Furthermore, different team members may interpret the data differently, resulting in opposing viewpoints.
Overall, while the concept of a single source of truth seems vital to strive for in hardware engineering companies, it is difficult to fully realize in practice. Integrating and harmonizing data from multiple sources and ensuring that all team members are working from the same data set may necessitate significant effort.
The key promise of MBSE to make engineering teams highly efficient can be achieved by a more data-driven approach to MBSE; sometimes called Data Driven Systems Engineering (DDSE).
Engineering Information Management Systems (aka software tools) that implement DDSE methodology focus on the following 3 key aspects:
- The heart of models are its data; not diagrams: Engineering values (such as power consumptions, data rates, masses, etc.) with units and physical interdependencies are maintained and their relationship to other entities (requirements, components, etc.) are data-driven wherever possible. Data can be exchanged via APIs with external tools, is versioned and powerful calculation engines make up the core of EIM tools.
- All models are built for collaboration first: Concurrent multi-user access, multi-level permissions inside and across company borders, commenting and review functionalities are as important as the models themselves.
- A tool for every engineer: Instead of being an expert tool requiring weeks of training, EIM systems do the modelling implicitly within an interface that is intuitive to engineers without the need to learn a modelling language first. Initial onboarding takes minutes, while activity specific views (requirements engineering, simulation, verification, etc.) allow domain experts to model details of their domain.
A more data-driven approach to MBSE, commonly called Data Driven Systems Engineering, can realize the central promise of MBSE (which is to make engineering teams very efficient)
Engineering Information Management Systems that implement the DDSE methodology concentrate on the following three fundamental aspects:
- The essence of models is their data, not their diagrams: Whenever possible, engineering values (such as power consumptions, data rates, masses, etc.) are preserved with units and physical interdependencies, and their relationships with other entities (requirements, components, etc.) are data-driven. The foundation of EIM products is the ability to interchange data via APIs with external applications, versioning and complex calculation engines.
- All models are created with collaboration in mind first: As crucial as the models themselves are concurrent multi-user access, multi-level rights within and outside business boundaries, and commenting and review capabilities.
- A tool for all engineers: Instead of being an expert tool requiring weeks of training, EIM systems model implicitly within an interface that is intuitive to engineers, eliminating the need to first master a modelling language. Initial onboarding is accomplished in minutes, and activity-specific perspectives (requirements engineering, simulation, verification, etc.) enable domain specialists to model domain-specific aspects.
So, if you’re involved in a complex engineering project and are looking for a modern engineering tool that can assist with MBSE, the best advice you can take is to look for a solution that is focused around engineering data.
Your engineering data is the lifeblood of all engineering projects, make it dynamic and make it visible, by choosing Valispace.