PLM/MBE/PMI Absurdity!!
The Destruction of
Standard Engineering Documentation!

In this article I am going to put the history, status and solution of PLM/MBE/PMI at the end. I want to make sure everyone sees the absolute destruction of standard engineering documentation.

I got this email from a previous customer.

Good afternoon Joe,

I read through several of your articles/blogs and found it to be very interesting.  For our company, I’m asking if you could offer a suggestion or better solution to our requirements.  We currently have a seat of Catia V5 to look at .catpart files for quote and I also use it to make paper drawings from the models of parts that we currently make.  787 parts mainly.  This is expensive software as you know, and it’s what were led to believe was the best solution for moving forward in the MBD environment.

Our shop prefers parts lists and paper drawings.  Maybe it’s antiquated thinking, but it still works best for us.  Is ZW3D software a good alternative for getting the required information from a Catia V5 model to make a paper drawing and parts list?  Sometimes we do get an EPL or BEPL with the notes, flag notes, etc extracted out already, but not always.

I’m sure you all well aware of what I’m talking about and asking.  We are a Boeing subcontractor but since being bought by the XXX group, we now do other aerospace work as well, Airbus, Bombardier, etc.  Our parent company is based in France so I’m hoping a move away from Dassault won’t be frowned upon 😊   Any advice or help in a better direction would be much appreciated.  It’s been some time but we used to buy Cadkey from you years ago.

Thank you,

ZW3D as you will see not only can replace Catia 5 but offer superior  performance, much better productivity and ease of use. Just having all of your information, Parts, Assemblies and Drawings in a single is huge.

TECH-NET, Inc. was instrumental in implementing 3D CAD compatibility with all of the Boeing Suppliers and Catia 2, 3, 4 and 5 from the late 1980's until today with IronCAD and ZW3D. We worked closely with the suppliers as Boeing moved to the failed PLM/MBE/PMI. One thing I learned from working closely the suppliers was:

Suppliers will never complain about engineering
documentation, they just want to make the parts and get paid.
Hell, they will work from a sketch on a napkin.

The Worst PMI document I have ever seen.

This Catia PMI was sent to a second-tier machine shop.

But think about who sent this out for quote. Did they not scrutinize it? Were they completely unaware that it did not include enough information for a quote?

I am using ZW3D for the CAD system. It reads PMI from NX, Creo, Catia and Solidworks.

This is not a .catpart it is a .catproduct that is the assembly format of Catia 5.

Nothing can be more confusing than sending out extraneous information to the supplier in a native Catia 5 file. Dassault loves this, they want all Boeing suppliers  to have a seat of Catia 5 and an expert on staff just to figure out what they sent. Trust me as you can see in the above request most don't!

Here are the files involved with this part. We used to send out a single drawing with all of the information and a title block with all of the authorization. In all of my PMI's I have not seen any authorization.

We load the first .catproduct file! ZW3D brings up the Catia 5 import dialog box. We select all components.

Here is our loaded part auto-scaled. Notice the 3 tiny dots in the corner. There are three of the assemblies in airplane position.

Here they are zoomed in.

This view includes the mating part. I don't know who set up this file or how it got out of engineering.

They also included this pin.

With more than a bit of investigation I found that this was the part we were looking for.

I had to jump through a few more hoops and I finally got to a point where I could put it on a 2D sheet and detail it. I was a bit of a learning curve with ZW3D and layers. I haven't played with layers since the CADKEY days. Here is the part isolated. I hope the other parts are the same. I used this one because it was tied to the horrible dimensioning and GD&T. There are no materials, finish, treatment, finish, etc included.

Here is the 2D sheet. For you suppliers that have to talk to other systems, ZW3D puts all of this information is in a single file. Think that through, Catia 5 delivers nine files and ZW3D puts them all, including the 2D sheet, in a single file.

Those of you suffering with Solidworks take note. ZW3D is a much better program to work with single parts and especially assemblies.

For more information on ZW3D or to download a fully function 30 day evaluation copy

I know you PLM/MBE gurus will never ask the question. Where is the authorization for this PMI. Only the file name identifies the part with a number, not even a name.

As I talked to the fellow that sent the email above he said the company was sending screen shots of the annotation of the PMI. I chuckled and told an associate, Paul Van der Ree and surprisingly he had the same experience.

Here is a screen shot of a Bombardier PMI. You cannot blame engineering. There are no standards and each group just does what they want. This PMI is compared to an AID (Associated Information Document) in this article.


Here are the notes: The information here is quite bizarre for any engineering documentation specialist. Where most of this would be on a single drawing you can see what they have to define in notes? Notice the reference to the nutplate rivets. I wonder where they get installed. In the past this would have been inseparable part on a single drawing.

Here is another spec sheet. Notice no where on the PMI is the company mentioned.

No authorization. No reference to another document.

Now let's take a look at an old drawing title block. How can documentation go from a single document that completely defines the part and includes all of authorizations and revisions to the PMIs that are referenced here?

Mr. CEO where is your engineering management?
Oh yeah, underneath the CIO!

I can tell you the documentation control is out of control. The PMI is not doing the job. The engineers and suppliers work around it while the PLM and InfoTechs hide the chaos. Slowly PLM/MBE/PMI it is starting to fail with stories from Jaguar and Ericson.

Here is a comment from a MSME PE on the MBE system at a large Software company in the NW.

"The big problem is, any failure will be blamed on the responsible engineers and not an unworkable system. MBE is already being backstopped by drawings in many organizations that are forced to use MBE, but the drawings are frequently not in the release control process because they are not the "primary" data driving fabrication. A fine mess.."

Defining the Cause and providing a solution!

We start with PLM.

All manufacturing companies that use PLM are using one of the top five packages. Most are using a Dassault, Siemens or PTC integrated PLM package. They moved far beyond supplying mechanical CAD system years ago and as far a I have seen, all are marginal CAD packages. They have touted themselves as the complete company management systems.

PLM has completely failed.

We must remove engineering documentation from PLM. We need to put it into a Documentation Control group managed by trained engineering documentation administrators.

Digitalization or computerization of engineering documentation has failed.

The first step is to Remove engineering from PLM

The Data Management Mess

PLM & PDM Defined

The Death of PLM

AMSE 14.41 Digital Product Definition Data Practices

If you google this there is a 2003 PDF version you can download. This is not a functional standard, it is incredibly vague. I will not go into this here, but I will have a review of 2012 in a future article.

Please add my name to the e-mail list!

Why do we have PMI?

 PMI was the vehicle to deliver a single file for engineering documentation, like the drawing was pre-CAD. Except the drawing was easy to utilize for reviewing, checking, definition and inspection as compared to the non-functional PMI shown above.

The CAD systems used, delivers separate parts, assemblies and drawing files. This paradigm is impossible to use PLM as a document control system with all of these files associated.

The Death of the Drawing

What does PMI offer? The 3D model for use in CNC. It offers little for fabrication of non-CNC parts. It is truly worthless for assemblies.

Engineering Ignorance Defined III
How to Define a 3D PMI Assembly
You have got to be Kidding

I just noted one thing wrong in these articles: PLM/MBE/PMI has already failed. The PLM, MBE and InfoTech won't let you know it, heads are going to roll when this failed system is finally exposed! They are trying to cover it up with the really stupid "Digital Transformation". Either the CEOs are in on it or totally ignorantly treated like a mushrooms.

Digital Transformation - 70% Failure! $900 Billion Wasted!



A Short Primer and History of Dimensioning

MBE is based on the model being the authority. But PMI does not deliver. What we need is the AID/Model engineering documentation deliverable outside the CAD system.

Can the 3D Model Be Used as the Design Authority?

AID (Associated Information Document) is a fully detailed document generated from associate views of the 3D model, similar to, but much easier to create than a drawing. The AID travels with the 3D model. There are PLM/MBE experts that are so ignorant that think we only send out the AID. We have been sending the AID/Model since the wide introduction of 3 Axis CNC in the late 1980’s.

In the following article I introduce Oboe Wu, the SOLIDWORKS Model Based Definition (MBD) Product Manager, explaining MBE and PMI thinking we are sending only the AID to the suppliers and they remodel the parts. Engineering has never done that since the introduction of 3 Axis CNC in the late 1980s.

Solidworks Totally Misunderstands MBD

PTC Creo Totally Misunderstands MBD

So how should we do our engineering document control?

We move the engineering documentation out of the CAD system. Companies cannot afford to be under the total control of a CAD company. This will allow the company to change CAD systems or have multiple CAD systems, opening the door to much more productive CAD solutions.

We develop a standard cloud based document control system on the basis of the concept of Onshape. Onshape has the 3D model available for viewing and is what you can only call an "information bucket". You can upload any type of file. You can have the native CAD or neutral CAD file, PDFs of the AID virtually any file from images, to word and excel files, any file included in the webpage.

I would even like to see the translator that allows downloading of neutral formats.

While Onshape is a marginal program and no engineering professional in their right mind would have there engineering information or intellectual property under the control of a subscription service it serves as an example of why I call its operational format the ultimate engineering document control system requiring only a web browser.

I am hoping someone steps up to the line and provides this format. But there are too many vested interests in keeping the PMI the worst engineering document in place.


As this system starts to crumble under the complexity and high costs, I will still be beating the drum for the CEOs, upper engineering management and academia to wake up and look to a new, much easier way to manage their engineering documentation which will create a stable archive for manufacturing to access. Eliminating much of the "Digital Static" as in IoT, Industry 4.0, Digital Twins, Digital Threads and the rest of the smoke and mirrors that the InfoTechs are trying to use to keep control.

Engineering Documentation - A Primer for the PLM Guru!

TECH-NET Engineering Services!

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provide engineering services throughout the USA and Canada!

 Why TECH-NET Sells IronCAD and ZW3D

If you would like more information or to download ZW3D or IronCAD

If you are interested in adding professional hybrid modeling capabilities or looking for a new solution to increase your productivity, take some time to download a fully functional 30 day evaluation and play with these packages. Feel free to give me a call if you have any questions or would like an on-line presentation.

Joe Brouwer