Written by Rachel Holmes

[Webinar Recap] Transforming to a Model-Based Enterprise

In the last 30 years, the manufacturing industry has moved from collaborating on paper drawings with a few colleagues to digital collaboration with people around the globe. As the industry continues to move into 3D approaches, companies have an opportunity fully embrace the potential of fully digitalized workflows and technology. This transformation results in a model-based enterprise (MBE). 

On April 25, I had the opportunity to invite Professor Nathan Hartman and Jim Zwica for another Vertex-exclusive panel discussion focused on MBE. Based on Nathan’s comprehensive research into MBE and Jim’s extensive experience in the manufacturing industry, these two experts provided their perspectives on today’s barriers to MBE and gave tips to organizations in their own MBE transformation.



Because the industry is still rapidly changing, there isn’t an authoritative definition or understanding of many model-based concepts yet. Jim and Nathan began the panel discussion by fully exploring their understanding of a model-based enterprise and model-based definition. At the root of an MBE, companies use a digital 3D model as their primary communication channel across an extended enterprise.

This digital 3D model is known as the model-based definition (MBD). An MBD today serves as a 2D drawing proxy, but in the future Nathan and Jim predict that it will become synonymous to the digital twin. At this point though, there are too many differences between the two concepts. You can check out the panel discussion to hear Nathan and Jim discuss these terminologies in depth.


In our last panel discussion in March, Jim and Nathan discussed the struggles between 2D and 3D within a company and how it serves as a common barrier to implementing MBE. We dove into several additional barriers to transforming into a model-based enterprise:

  1. Inability to define a business case. As companies begin to consider what the ROI ( return on investment) for an MBE would look like, Nathan and Jim recommend that companies think big and not limit themselves.
  2. Inability to define a clear process. Many companies of course consider their process for transforming into an MBE, but most don’t make it clear enough. Without clear process, companies increase their risk significantly during implementation.
  3. Lack of training. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to implementation is managing how employees will react. Most companies experience a struggle with the old way versus the new way. Jim and Nathan explore several tips for how to manage this change.
  4. Not fully leveraging tools. Going along hand-in-hand with training employees, companies must ensure that all employees can access both tools and the information they need throughout the company transformation.

Jim and Nathan go into detail on each of these barriers in the interview.


Understanding and planning to mitigate the risks in implementing a model-based enterprise is only half the puzzle. Companies also need to understand best practices in the industry. Jim and Nathan provide five recommendations for companies to consider in their implementation:

  1. Define clear goals and manage expectations. When moving towards an MBE approach, companies must understand they are transforming three areas: a company’s mindset, process, and the technology tools. When first moving towards MBE, executive teams must begin with “why” and clearly lay out their purpose before implementing change.
  2. Establish modeling standards and enforce them. Commonly defined, understood, and followed standards ensure that anyone in the organization can consume information. Companies need to standardize their approach to using new authoring tools.
  3. Start with one business area. Before diving into company-wide changes, organizations should start with one case to understand their own best practices and processes before scaling up.
  4. Ensure accessibility. In many cases, an MBE will provide information to people who have never had access before. These individuals must have access to the tools, information, and education to make the transition easier.
  5. Smooth cultural changes. Executive teams must help everyone in their company understand the changes and the long-term strategic goals. Without company-wide buy-in, new initiatives can quickly derail.

Nathan and Jim detail each recommendation thoroughly in the interview.


Throughout a company’s digitalization strategy, executive teams must consider that they are transforming people, processes, and tools. It’s challenging enough to manage just one of these aspects, and all three can feel overwhelming. Although people and processes are the hardest to transform, they are the most important. As a final word of advice—focus on maintaining transparency in your organization to ensure everyone in the organization feels empowered and knowledgeable.

I encourage you to check out Nathan and Jim’s interview for more.

About Rachel Holmes

Rachel has been a content marketer in the technology space for her entire professional career. Whether she writes about game-changing hardware or software technology, her top priority is creating value for her readers. At Vertex Software, she is consistently putting herself in someone else’s shoes—asking tough questions and finding ways to teach the most challenging of concepts in a simple way.