The model-based definition ski challenge

It’s the “high noon” of ski season, and I find myself comparing my challenges learning to ski with my work in model-based definition (MBD). Odd as it may sem, this confluence brings me to the conclusion that learning MBD is comparable to becoming a pretty good skier. It took me 20 years, two ski patrol sled trips, one knee surgery, and lots of strength training to become a proficient, confident skier. Similarly, adopting MBD has its challenges, but sticking with it for the long haul will prove fruitful. MBD is on its way to your organization whether you like it or not. Please give yourself some space to absorb the concepts, stay focused, and eventually you will become a master.


In my 20s (please stop doing the math!), I moved to Colorado for a job but soon realized the added bonus of stellar skiing. At first, I thought I knew how to ski. Then I met Colorado skiers. I began as a sucky Texas two-time skier and I ended up as a black bump skier, but it did not happen overnight.

A similar road you must follow (yes, grammar is from Yoda) to build a model-based enterprise (MBE). In order to realize the benefits of MBE, you must instantiate MBD.

What is MBD? It is a method of defining a product using a 3D model with annotations (e.g. dimensions, tolerances, notes), attributes (e.g. metadata, custom properties, parameters), and more, without the need for a 2D drawing.

MBD is essential to 3D printing (or additive manufacturing, in case we’ve developed a formal relationship). Why, you say? Because even if the 3D model geometry is pumped directly into a 3D printer file format, you will still need to identify critical features for inspection and document design, manufacturing, and inspection intent.

If your goal is to become best in class at MBE and MBD, then get your game face on and ready your ice packs for your knees. There will likely be a few injuries some may require surgery, but staying strong, working out, and keeping your goal in mind will avoid as many injuries as possible.

Skiing & MBD - write about what you know

In Colorado in the fall, everyone starts taking ski fitness boot camps so they are in maximum shape to tackle the longest, strongest ski season yet. We boast about the number of days skied per season. Anything less than 20 days makes you a loser.

Like skiing, the speed your organization can implement MBD depends on your dedication to the end game. Not unlike conditioning your body for an intense workout, you must condition your business processes, your software tools, and your people to stand at the precipice of the mountain and dive into the powder run of a lifetime.

Check out this side by side comparison of the ski journey as it compares with the MBD/MBE journey.


Skiing MBD/MBE
Skill Tool Time/Risk Skill Tool Time/Risk
Putting on ski boots
Friend to hold boot open 5 – 30 minutes

If you overcome this pain, the rest is cake

Open a 3D model So many options 5 – 30 minutes

Do you have the right software for the file format?

Getting on the lift Balance 1 – 30 minutes

Casualties may occur

Navigate around the 3D model Mouse 15 – 120 minutes

Each software product has a different mouse navigation

Snow-plowing Balance and Strong Quads 1 – 10 days

Do you have enough patience?

Learning MBD Right software and time to learn 1 – 8 months

Do you have enough patience?

Parallel turns Overcoming fear and strong Quads and Core 10 days – 5 years

Injuries likely to be incurred

Authoring and Commenting in MBD Overcoming fear and strong CAD skills 3 months – 2 years

Major culture change requirement may cripple you

Moguls / Bumps Stronger Quads and Core, Overcome fear of falling 4 – 10 years

Surgery will be difficult to avoid

Tackling MBD in the Enterprise Stakeholders are empowered and the entire company is bought-in 1 – 5 years

Failures, tool changes, and overall of business processes will be difficult to avoid

Skiing the whole mountain in all conditions Confidence, Consistent Practice


10-15 years

Finally – Nirvana!

Fulfilling your MBE Roadmap Confidence, Consistent and Repeatable Practice


2 – 10 years

Finally – Nirvana!

If you want to take the MBD ski challenge and begin to adopt the digital thread, then I suggest you keep 3 culture and training challenges in mind. These also apply to skiing in case you are out on the slopes soon.
1. The fear of change is killing us, get over it.
2. Skill is required, learn the ropes.
3. Stamina is needed to have a really great day



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