Model-Based Systems Engineering Adoption Trends 2009-2018

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The MBSE Initiative was kicked off at the INCOSE International Workshop (IW) in 2007 at the Albuquerque, NM, USA Embassy Suites. There was approximately 45 INCOSE members for this first meeting, held the two days preceding IW.

Surveys were conducted in 2009, 2012, 2014, and 2018, and 2019 to better understand the adoption trends of model-based systems engineering.


Model-based systems engineering (MBSE) is not a new concept. Wymore (1993) published the seminal work on the topic. This book presents the mathematical theory behind MBSE. Since that time, engineering has made significant movement from text-based approaches using office-based tools (e.g. Harvard Graphics, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Visio, etc.) to an interconnected set of graphical diagrams. These diagrams are generally created in a tool with a specialized graphical user interface.

Today aerospace engineers no longer use drafting boards to create their drawings – they use computer aided design (CAD) tools. Likewise, software engineers seldom use EMACS or Vi (text editors), instead, they use software GUIs that allow them to code, check syntax, compile, link, and run their software all in a single environment.

Broadly speaking, a {{Term|Model_(glossary)]] can be thought of as a facsimile or abstraction of reality. To this end, even a requirements document can be considered a model – it represents what a real system should do in performing its mission or role. While systems engineering has used models for a very long time, MBSE is the systems engineering migration to computer-based graphical user interfaces to perform our analysis and design tasks just as our other engineering brethren have moved to computer-based graphical user interfaces.

A discussion of available tools is beyond the scope of this article, and not the practice of the SEBoK to review or promote specific tool offerings. However, it is fair to state that current MBSE tools fall into three broad categories: 1) Functional decomposition tools that use IDEF0 (also called IPO) diagrams, N2 diagrams, functional flow block diagrams, etc., 2) Object-oriented tools that implement the Object Management Group’s Systems Modeling Language (SysML), and 3) Mathematical modeling tools.

This migration for systems engineering might have begun in the late 90’s. The INCOSE INSIGHT publication proclaimed that MBSE was a new paradigm (INSIGHT 1998). Cloutier (2004) addressed the migration from a waterfall systems engineering approach to an object-oriented approach on the Navy Open Architecture project. At that time, SysML did not exist, and the teams were using the Unified Modeling Language (UML) that was predominately a software modeling tool. Zdanis & Cloutier (2007a, 2007b) addressed the use of activity diagrams instead of sequence diagrams for systems engineering based on the newly released SysML. In 2009, the INCOSE INSIGHT publication proclaimed MBSE was THE new paradigm (INSIGHT 2009).


In 2009 a survey was commissioned by the Object Management Group (OMG) with the intent of informing the SysML Working Group on necessary changes to SysML since its first release [Cloutier & Bone 2010). That survey focused on process more than adoption. Beginning in 2012, INCOSE has commissioned three more surveys to understand adoption trends and obstacles. The survey instrument remained relatively unchanged for 2012, 2014, and 2018 (Cloutier 2015, Cloutier 2019a). In January of 2019, the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) conducted an MBSE Workshop (Cloutier 2019b). A survey of those participants was conducted, and the intent of the questions was to augment knowledge gained from the 2018 survey. The table below shows the number of respondents in each of the surveys.

Table 1. MBSE Survey Purposes and Responses (SEBoK Original)
Year Survey Purpose Responses
2012 INCOSE MBSE Initiative 134
2014 INCOSE MBSE Initiative 205
2018 INCOSE MBSE Initiative 661
2019 JPL MBSE Workshop 98

Responses and Response Demographics

Each survey was sent to a diverse group of MBSE practitioners. Table 2 shows that of the 661 responses for the 2018 survey, 410 indicated their country of origin. This international representation is similar to all surveys conducted.

Table 1. MBSE Survey Purposes and Responses (Cloutier 2019, used with permission)
Country Responses Country Responses
USA 197 Israel 4
United Kingdom 52 Singapore 3
France 30 China 2
Germany 28 New Zealand 2
Australia 20 Poland 2
Netherlands 19 Russia 1
Japan 8 Romania 1
Canada 6 Turkey 1
Italy 6 Columbia 1
Sweden 6 Norway 1
South Africa 5 South Korea 1
Switzerland 4 UAE 1
Brazil 4 Belarus 1
India 4

As part of the demographics, Figure 1 shows the represented industries. Because the “Other” category was so large, the data was analyzed to better understand Figure 2.

Figure 1. Industries Represented in the 2018 MBSE Survey. (Coultier 2019, used with permission)