What exactly is model-based system engineering? Really, MBSE is very much a technology-led initiative. If you look at how system engineers have documented their definition of a product from RFLPs; so this includes requirements, a logical kind of architecture, functional architecture, and then physical architecture, they’re all kind of interconnected.

Out of the Dark Ages

The tools that have traditionally been used have been spreadsheets and documents, and those tools have worked pretty well. There also might have been some homegrown solutions that were developed inside manufacturers. Those solutions did the job, especially in a first pass, to let a system engineer define all those things in an interconnected way.

The issue that became very prominent, and people became very aware of very quickly, is that when things start to change, keeping everything up-to-date is very difficult. We’re talking about very complex systems with many different requirements and many different architectures. So, how do you ensure that everything is kept up to date? That was the big challenge.


Manually propagating change was a tremendous problem. You had all sorts of missed changes, and you had the introduction of human error because people were entering those values manually. That was the problem that MBSE kind of wanted to address. The idea with this technology is to have a single unambiguous model of RFLP; requirements, logical architectures, functional architectures, physical architectures, and be able to manage all of that in one place technologically.

You have one definition that everybody in the company kind of references, and changes, and there’s no manual propagation of change. That’s the idea. It’s kind of like a single source of the truth. The equivalent might be data management or product life cycle management, except that this is the definition and it’s the way that everybody accesses it. That’s the high-level overview of model-based system engineering.