What is MBSE? Understanding the Concept and the Basics

What is MBSE?

MBSE stands for Model-Based Systems Engineering. In a nutshell, MBSE allows users to harness the capabilities of 3D modelling to simulate and test the behaviour of goods and embedded systems, enabling users to expedite all stages of designing complex systems.

What is systems engineering?

As defined by INCOSE, Systems Engineering is a transdisciplinary and integrative approach to enable the successful realization, use, and retirement of engineered systems, using systems principles and concepts, and scientific, technological, and management methods.

Systems engineering requires focusing on the whole system and looking at any potential problems in their entirety. This is done by integrating all the above-mentioned disciplines and specialty groups into a team effort, forming a structural development team from proceeds from concept to an operational system.

What is the difference between systems engineering and model-based systems engineering?

MBSE is simply systems engineering using models rather than documents to specify a real-world system. MBSE is an innovative approach to performing the processes and activities of systems development defined by INCOSE and produces systems engineering artefacts using a combination of language, method and modeling software.

Transitioning from traditional systems engineering to MBSE requires significant investment as it requires modeling software, method, creator reference model, preparation of model management guidelines and more.

Despite the extra costs involved, utilising MBSE is very rewarding.

How does MBSE differ from Model Based Design (MBD)?

MBSE precedes Model Based Design (MBD); MBSE is interdisciplinary whereas MBD is discipline specific.

MBSE has a higher level of abstraction and focuses on the entirety of a problem and how to solve it whereas MBD has a lower level of abstraction. MBD concentrates on some specific problems.

While MBSE is for the whole system architechture, MBD is for designing the system components only.

What are the boundaries of MBSE?

MBSE operates from the initial capture of stakeholder needs and understanding the expected functionality, as well as any potential constraints that may arise.

The entire problem domain, including the black box and white box analysis is taken into account.

Black and White Box Analysis

  • The encapsulated system is viewed as a whole in black box analysis, and the black box view describes how the system behaves when interacting with its environment
  • The system under white box analysis is viewed as a collection of interconnected components that work together to produce the black box behaviour
  • The problem domain analysis as a whole produces the conceptual architecture of the system that becomes an input to the system requirements specification

MBSE application continues through the solution domain allowing you to clearly identify the engineering discipline of each component. This is where the architecture relates to design and MBD starts.  

MBSE is about the conceptual and logical system architecture rather than the design of individual components, or their implementation.  

The three concepts of MBSE explained


A model is a streamlined version of something; it might be a visual, numerical, or tangible illustration that abstracts reality to remove part of its complexity. This definition suggests formality or regulations when representation, simplification, or abstraction. In order to make a system’s structure and behaviour clear and its complexity manageable, a systems architect must portray the system with less information. In other words, the system should support the models and the models should adequately represent the system.

Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a means of looking at a system under discussion as a component of a larger system rather than as a standalone system. The systems engineer keeps a distance from the system while investigating its bounds, context, and lifespan, noting its behaviour, and seeing trends. By balancing the system, managing the complexity of the system, and making concerns more visible and easier to recognise, systems thinking can help.

Systems Engineering

Systems engineering is a transdisciplinary and integrative methodology that makes use of systems principles, concepts, scientific, technological, and managerial methodologies to enable the successful realisation, use, and retirement of engineered systems. It combines a number of strategies to ensure that the designed system satisfies all requirements. It focuses on the system’s lifespan, including its architecture, implementation, integration, analysis, and management. It also takes into account the system’s software, hardware, staff, processes, and procedural elements.

What are the main benefits of MBSE?

  • A better comprehension of the goals, situations, and demands of stakeholders
  • Through behavioural and structural analysis, MBSE aids in defining a consistent and comprehensive system specification for the product designers
  • Specify with accuracy not only the static description of the interfaces, usually described in requirements, but also the dynamic exchange of the interfaces that is inherent to complex systems
  • Understand system behaviour in advance, before prototypes are available, to avoid expensive late rework
  • Encourage interdisciplinary cooperation around a system model built on specific viewpoints for each engineering issue

Get in touch

Get in touch today to find out how MBSE can transform your processes and enhance your complex systems to allow you to gain a competitive advantage.