Thought Leadership

Modularize the future with MBSE

By Nick Finberg

Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is a highly modular method for organization, to identify the inter-dependencies and define the assignment of work to the appropriate teams for a complex product. But the model in the term is not a passive, virtual object that is engineered on and refined. Model is also an action of the process, part of which includes conducting analysis of decisions before they are implemented into the overall system of the product. Modeling a system architecture entails bridging the needs of the customer to the engineering work for the product.

The complete system model serves to verify that the needs of every stakeholder are being met throughout development and across the entire enterprise, by connecting those requirements to the product decisions and implementations. That can include design decisions in the early stages of development, engineering decisions to enable required functionality, and even supplier selections to meet business targets (cost, quality, time, and sustainability). In addition to known challenges and obstacles to development, a system (or a system-of-systems) decomposition can lead to identifying several subsystem interdependencies that would otherwise be uncovered during integration later in the product cycle. The evolving complexity of modern products has reached a point where such subsystems are inherent and inherit the cyber-physical nature of their ‘parent’ systems, this propels the need for decomposition of the corresponding models that describe those subsystems.  

Today’s products create such wide-ranging technological choices, trade-offs, and options that lead to a plethora of configurations. The variation is beyond the human capacity to manage, even in a digital engineering world. An advanced and more comprehensive solution is needed, one that enables modularization of systems and displays understanding in the context of each stakeholder – whether engineer, customer, regulator, and any other personal with a role in developing tomorrow’s products. This necessitates a seamless connectivity between these product models that are interconnected, not just digital files that are distributed like physical drawings or diagrams. A more robust approach is needed to define these ‘systems-of-systems’ and the corresponding hierarchy of ‘models-of-models’ to facilitate modular development of complex products. Managing the granularity of system architecture data is a key element. With increasing product requirements, tracking the product KPIs throughout the development process is critical to keep up with constantly changing product requirements, program budgets and the design tradeoffs necessary to accommodate these changes.  

Creating a comprehensive structure for development before even putting proverbial pen to paper might seem tedious, but the value of a robust architecture is often underestimated. A time investment in the beginning can help a business avoid more costly delays partway through a project. And the benefit of foresight and planning is compounded for large projects as one would see with aerospace and automotive development due to massive supplier networks which then must adjust to the new project direction. But there is also an associated opportunity cost while innovating. For complex products, the early decisions determine the explorable space later in development. While the actual costs of decisions made early in development are low, the cost commitments grow rapidly as the exploration space is narrowed. Analyzing the decisions early on has direct impacts on the cost and quality of a project, which is why getting it right with MBSE in these early stages is so important. 

Siemens Software is continuously working to provide the best tools for the complex products our customers are creating every day, as well as the products we make ourselves. But that also requires working with even the largest value chains, where it is expected to deliver accurate information efficiently across different tools, languages, and regions. It also means MBSE relies heavily on the Siemens Xcelerator portfolio to make solutions easy, flexible, and open.

To learn more about how MBSE solutions have evolved over the past few decades, check out part two of the series.

Siemens Xcelerator, the comprehensive and integrated portfolio of software and services from Siemens Digital Industries Software, helps companies of all sizes create and leverage a comprehensive digital twin that provides organizations with new insights, opportunities and levels of automation to drive innovation.

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