Company NewsJanuary 18, 2022

5 Myths and Misconceptions about Model Based Systems Engineering

As number and complexity of systems continues to grow, effective definition, modeling…
Avatar Kiran Jacob

As number and complexity of systems continues to grow, effective definition, modeling and simulation of these individual systems, and their interaction with other systems, becomes increasingly important. Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)/ Systems Engineering (SE) is essential to avoid unexpected system failures during critical phases of product development cycle like validation or utilization. At the same time, MBSE is also one of the most misunderstood or misinterpreted process or methodology involved in product development process. Many in the industry have their own interpretation of what, why and how a MBSE process can be implemented and some do not even consider it a process, rather understand it as a means of solving problems that arise during concept or development stages of product development.

Let’s debunk some of the misconceptions associated with Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and help understand MBSE in the right context for product development.

  1. MBSE is all about 1D mathematical modeling and simulation

One of the most common misconception about MBSE is that it is just about modeling and simulation activity associated with product development. Though modeling and simulation are integral part of any MBSE process, limiting the scope of MBSE to only activities like 1D mathematical is not the right interoperation of MBSE workflow. Models especially 1D mathematical modeling gives you an illusion of a perfect MBSE workflow by helping to create hierarchical architecture models, behavior models mimicking actual physical systems and also establishing traceability with requirements. With 1D mathematical models, one will be able to perform key MBSE activities like requirement verification, architecture trade off analysis, system analysis, etc.

MBSE is not just about capturing information about the system design alone, but a process wherein one captures all relevant key decisions involved in making a product. Some of these key decisions could be – how low level requirements were derived from high level requirements, why specific stakeholders were identified, what were their needs, what was the use case considered for which functional activities were derived, based on functionality derived which components were identified to do the job, why was a particular decision made and how it impacted each any every component used in the design.  This unique information flow between decisions and design is what 1D mathematical modeling tools fail to capture. To conclude 1D mathematical modeling and simulation is an important activity under an MBSE process but not the only key activity.

  1. MBSE is for software engineers

Another common misconception about MBSE is that it is only meant for software development or is related to SDLC (Software Development Life Cycle) process. While MBSE can be easily applied or used in an SDLC process for software development, it can also be easily applied to any product development process involving mechanical, fluid, electrical or other disciplines. One of the main reason for this misunderstanding is because MBSE involves practices like requirement elicitation, functional decomposition, system analysis and interface definition.  Added to that is the use of SysML in MBSE process that introduces different types of diagrams for capturing different scenarios and  gives an impression of MBSE being a process for software development.

  1. MBSE is all about SysML

For some, SysML and MBSE are analogous, which means MBSE is all about SysML and SysML is good enough to implement a complete MBSE process. There is no doubt that SysML brings in a unique proposition of developing a product based on MBSE process, like introducing a concept like systems thinking, establishes collaboration between stakeholders, helps perform early trade studies, mitigate risks, early validation, impact analysis, traceability, safety analysis, managing configurations and most importantly captures all the information in form of a single repository model. However what SysML lags is it’s usage during key Systems Engineering (SE) phases like detail design or implementation phases wherein specific solution like CAD, Software coding or network design for embedded system are used.

SysML will not be able to replace traditional mechanical tools involving CAD nor will be able to replace tools associated with E/E architecture or for software development. Since these solutions have their own specific usage and life cycles. For a successful MBSE/SE implementation, it is important that flow of information be captured right from the concept phase involving SysML to your traditional CAD, software code and to your PLM ALM as a complete integrated solution. This is where a collaborative framework like 3DEXPERIENCE platform helps to integrate various data or models and help establish a digital thread throughout the development cycle.

  1. MBSE is all about Traceability

Traceability is one of the key aspects of Model based systems engineering process. Let’s put it this way, there is no MBSE without traceability. However, the misconception is that, it is only traceability that is important in an MBSE process. It is true that traceability solves so many issues associated with MBSE like impact analysis, collaboration, justification, coverage and compliance, however the very notion that MBSE just about traceability limits the scope of MBSE to a very narrow opening of what MBSE can actually provide.

  1. It is difficult to implement MBSE

Yes, adopting MBSE for the first time involves investing in tools, enforcing new methodologies, learning new language and sometimes hire new resources with proper skillsets. Hence adopting MBSE is referred to as a transformational change in the workflow. However at the same time, implementing or adopting MBSE may not be a tall task as one could have imagined. It can be fairly simple process to adopt, given a proper implementation plan.

One of the common mistakes that organizations make while implementing MBSE is a big bang approach, wherein a new workflow is forced over an existing one. MBSE implementation can happen with simple goals or objectives to start with and later build over the same. An MBSE process can also be initiated by making minor tweaks to your existing process by introducing only key MBSE concepts like traceability or simplified agile MBSE process implementation. For example, if your current product development process has issues associated with traceability and you need to understand how low level requirements were derived from which high level requirements, how these requirements are mapped to design or architectural modules and to your software code or mechanical design components. This issue can be easily be solved by using a tool called REQTIFY. REQTIFY helps to establish end-to-end traceability with all the artifacts used in any product development process. Apart from traceability, it can also help you with coverage and impact analysis. Once you have achieved success with this, you can move towards more mature MBSE implementation involving SysML or even attempt a full fledge MBSE implementation with 3DEXPERIENCE platform.

Here are some critical components and best practices for successful implementation of Model based systems engineering:

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