Lockheed Martin’s Digital Thread Vision for the Aerospace Manufacturing Industry

Our recent visit to Frost & Sullivan’s 14th annual Manufacturing Leadership Summit was memorable on a number of counts, but two, in particular, stand out: one, Cirrus Aircraft won a 2017 Manufacturing Leadership Award for enterprise technology leadership, and iBase-t was recognized as their partner/solution provider. Two, we were privileged to attend a presentation by Marc O’Brien, virtual prototyping manager at Lockheed Martin’s Palmdale, California-based Skunk Works. He talked about their vision of the digital thread in manufacturing. We were pleased to find it aligned nicely with our own. Let’s explore Lockheed Martin’s digital thread vision.

Factors Necessitating the Digital Thread in the Defense Industry

Marc O’Brien calls Lockheed Martin’s next-generation digital vision the “Product Digiverse,” a viewpoint that the rapidly changing aerospace and defense industry is driving forward. He cited eight points of change that impact the broad-scale defense industry:

  1. The demand for the development of more complex, more sophisticated, and integrated products
  2. No longer having huge budgets to work with
  3. More compressed schedules
  4. Less tolerance of risk, uncertainty, and mistakes
  5. Reductions in workforce
  6. Lack of qualified and experienced personnel (issues with knowledge transfer)
  7. Increased regulation and oversight
  8. The need to understand and evaluate large quantities of data

Urgent Need for the Digital Thread in the Aircraft Sector

O’Brien listed specific challenges for the aircraft sector, in particular, the need for product on demand for lower cost attritable aircraft. Urgent need demands urgent response. What in the past took years to design, build, and get into the field now must happen in months. There is increased product variability in the same manufacturing environment, and material requirements are changing. Performance-driven materials are now the rule, and increasingly simple, single-purpose designer products are produced on demand.

To achieve the objectives of attritable forces requires the adoption of new paradigms by defense manufacturers:

  • Flexible, agile, and reconfigurable factories
  • Removing “fixed monuments”
  • Advanced automation capabilities
  • Removing downstream labor and adding manufacturing and engineering personnel in the upfront design processes
  • New processes (e.g., design for automation, robotics)
  • Adopting advanced simulation techniques
  • A next-generation digital environment

The Need for New Digital Thinking at Lockheed Martin

O’Brien contrasted the current digital thought process with where he contends it needs to go: the Product Digiverse. First, O’Brien defines the current digital thread as “the communication that connects elements of the engineering and manufacturing process that have traditionally been separated.” The current process at Lockheed Martin has this digital thread, but it is limited as a single strand, bi-directional, but a linear thread. It allows data sharing between engineering and manufacturing, but still, relies on 2-D drawings and “a limited thought process.”

Lockheed Martin has evolved this into a “digital tapestry” that has moved beyond the original digital thread but is still limited. The digital tapestry has multiple strands and many interdependencies but is still reliant on 2-D information. It has software that shares information between multiple applications and machines but does not address the notion of a digital twin or multiple digital twins. It only addresses the digital aspect, but not the convergence of digital and physical. “More digital evolution is needed,” notes O’Brien.

This evolution—the Product Digiverse—is a framework integrating people, processes, tools, materials, environments, and data. It links both the physical and digital domains across the entire product lifecycle and all disciplines. “The Digiverse mirrors the physical world and provides the complete digital twin of everything,” explains O’Brien. It features a digital backbone, ecosystem hubs, and enabling networks, all carrying digital DNA of every product.

Lockheed Martin’s Vision for Digital Ecosystem Hubs

O’Brien elaborated the envisioned ecosystem hubs:

  • Engineering Hub
  • Manufacturing Hub
  • Test and Check-Out Hub
  • Sustainment Hub

Each hub contains strategy, product design, operations analysis, supply chain data, quality data, software, financials, cyber information, logistics, and sustainment. Each ecosystem is a digital twin that connects the digital and physical worlds, and connects to other ecosystem hubs with the right information through a common data language. Their open system architecture approach allows plug-and-play with the physical world and enables a symbiotic relationship with the “Digiverse.” It is all about the convergence of the digital and physical worlds.

Digital DNA at Lockheed Martin

The Digital DNA contains the product “digital twin,” leverages 3-D models, and is a complex and evolving entity that grows through the product lifecycle. A blueprint of the DNA contains all key components that comprise the digital twin: design, manufacturing, software, sustainment and service information, and more.

“This has to happen because the attritable challenge goals dictate a manufacturing environment that is flexible, scalable, and responsive,” says O’Brien. Meeting that challenge requires:

  • Advanced automation
  • Simulation of everything
  • Data management and enterprise control
  • The next-generation digital environment: the Product Digiverse

“The Digiverse enables the digital twin of everything,” he concludes. “It enables process automation for process control, and converges the digital and physical domains so that the physical and virtual are mirrored.”

Download our free eBook to learn how to start enabling the Digital Thread.
New Call-to-action

Paris Air Show 2017 Recap



Despite the emergence of other salons around the world, the Paris Air Show remains by far the world’s leading aerospace event. Probably because it’s the oldest air show. The initiative of the “Exhibition of Aerial Locomotion” opened in September 1909 at the Grand Palais in Paris.

In the Aerospace & Defense industry, this show is the place to be for both civil and military applications. It is the most complete air show in the world, boasting demonstrations from top aerospace manufacturers, and over 2,000 exhibitors. This show is the crossroads of all the major actors of the A&D world and the closed field of the industrial, commercial and media competition between Airbus and Boeing. Not being part of it is almost sending a signal to the world saying, “We’re not part of the elite A&D club.”

[rev_slider alias=”paris 2017″][/rev_slider]


Aerial Demonstrations at Paris Air Show 2017

Paris Air Show 2017 was punctuated by magnificent aerial demonstrations such as the beautiful Rafale from Dassault, the powerful F-35A Lightning II from Lockheed Martin, the Tigre HAD from Airbus Helicopters, the majestic Airbus A350 and Boeing 787.

2017 Paris Air Show in Numbers

150 aircrafts
4,000 journalist
2,400 exhibitors
180,000 public visitors
140,000 professional visitors

Paris Air Show Attendance Down Slightly in 2017

Mr. Emeric D’Arcimoles, General Commissioner of the Paris Air Show, explains a nearly 10% dip in attendance and exhibitions by saying that the budgetary restrictions in many companies, and the state of emergency in France are to blame. Due to recent terrorist events, the safety of the trade show was under very high security. Several thousands of security personnel ensured its safety.

Business Up, Despite Lower Attendance at Paris Air Show

Despite a slight dip in attendance between the 2015 and 2017 Paris Air Show, business was booming, with 13% more orders this year. Turnover achieved $150 billion during the show by professionals in A&D, and the space industry. Boeing and Airbus alone recorded $ 114 billion worth of orders at this year’s Paris Air Show, at $74.8 billion, and $39.7 billion, respectively.

To learn more about how iBase-t works with the Aerospace and Defense industry, visit our A&D industry page.

New Call-to-action

iBase-t and Cogiscan Partner to Create Automated Electronics Assembly Solution for Complex Manufacturing

FOOTHILL RANCH, CA, and BROMONT, CANADA – July 19, 2017 – iBase-t and Cogiscan today announced a partnership to automate data collection and verification processes for manufacturers of complex electronic assemblies.

iBase-t provides software solutions to complex, highly regulated industries which have an increasing number of electronics components, such as aerospace and defense, medical devices, nuclear, industrial equipment, electronics, and shipbuilding. Manufacturers are increasingly interested in integrating production equipment with the Manufacturing Execution System (MES) for automated control and data collection to save time and minimize errors.

Cogiscan provides deep domain expertise with the integration of electronics assembly and inspection equipment and a wide library of machine interfaces to collect real-time production data. Working together, iBase-t and Cogiscan will help manufacturers of complex electronic assemblies achieve quicker integrated solutions to streamline the manufacturing process.

“The vision for Industry 4.0 requires open software solutions that can be easily combined to help manufacturers achieve the goals of a connected real-time manufacturing enterprise,” said Conrad Leiva, VP Product Strategy and Alliances at iBase-t. “One company alone is not going to achieve this vision and integrate the myriad of different types of manufacturing equipment for different industries. By partnering with Cogiscan, iBase-t offers its customers more equipment integration options with a proven electronics industry leader.”

“We are very excited to announce this new partnership. We look forward to working jointly with iBase-t in providing to their customers a comprehensive integrated solution for automating the assembly line data acquisition process into iBase-t’s SOLUMINA MES from data rich equipment like SMT component placement and inspection machines,” said Dave Trail, Global Manager – Software Partners at Cogiscan.

About Cogiscan Inc.

Cogiscan is the leading track, trace and control (TTC) solutions provider for the electronics manufacturing industry.  The scalable Cogiscan platform perfectly integrates with all major equipment types, and is highly configurable to enable a personalized solution to each customer’s specific production needs.  Since 1999 Cogiscan has attained several international patents for TTC hardware and software, and has won multiple awards throughout the years. For more information, visit www.cogiscan.com.

About iBase-t

iBase-t is a leading provider of software solutions to complex, highly regulated industries, like Aerospace and Defense, Medical Devices, Nuclear, Industrial Equipment, Electronics, and Shipbuilding. iBase-t’s Solumina software streamlines and integrates Manufacturing Execution Systems and Operations Management (MES/MOM), Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO)and Enterprise Quality Management Systems (EQMS) for operations and Supplier Quality Management. Solumina is implemented by many industry leaders in the Aerospace and Defense sector, including agencies of the U.S. Government. For more information, visit www.iBase-t.com.

For iBase-t
Tom Hennessey
[email protected]

For Cogiscan
Anouk Hurbutt
[email protected]

Paving the Path to the Model-Based Enterprise with Manufacturing Process Management

The path to a digitally connected Model-based Enterprise (MBE) is a bit of a bumpy dirt road today, but we are starting to see more sections paved as solutions filling the gaps are demonstrated by companies like iBase-t and PTC.

Manufacturing Process Management (MPM) Enables Digital Manufacturing

Manufacturing Process Management (MPM) and Model-based Manufacturing (MbM) are emerging to enable digital manufacturing, IIoT, and Industrie 4.0 initiatives for manufacturing supply chain leaders. Gartner Research has just published the 2017 “Market Guide for MPM and MbM for Discrete Manufacturing” report listing iBase-t among the leading software companies with solutions for MPM.

The Gartner report discusses the rising importance of these types of initiatives among surveyed manufacturers including capabilities for a product digital thread and digital twin. Manufacturers realize that the integration of PLM, ERP, and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) is critical to solving the disconnects that create bottlenecks in production and New Product Introduction (NPI) business processes.

Achieving a Digitally Supported Design Through Effective MPM

Manufacturers need to achieve a digitally supported design through production environment, and for manufacturers of complex, expensive equipment, the digital thread continues into product maintenance, or Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) operations. An MPM platform links the virtual world of product engineering and manufacturing process design to the physical world of manufacturing execution and transactions, including product and process design, manufacturing and maintenance operations, and parts and supplier management.

Working with CAD/PLM leaders in the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry, including PTC, Siemens and Dassault Systèmes, iBase-t has developed several of the bridges needed to integrate PLM and ERP systems and continues to evolve these bridges to incorporate newer standards for integration as they become natively supported by CAD/PLM vendors.

“PLM vendor PTC and MES vendor iBase-t has been demonstrating closed-loop capability. This loop goes from the notification by the asset (IoT) of a maintenance issue to the execution of an MRO, and then to feedback to engineering on how the issue can be prevented in the future (PLM). Examples such as this can turn the term product life cycle management into a reality, rather than just a market identifier,” says the Gartner report.

iBase-t and PTC: A Manufacturing Process Management Example

At the iBase-t Excelerate User Conference, PTC and iBase-t present an example for a digital thread in MRO, and manufacturers like Solar Turbines share their progress implementing MPM initiatives. You can view the PTC-iBase-t integration video or access additional information on the Solar Turbines project, “Solar Turbines Integrates Process Planning and Production Execution.”


The Digital Thread Explained

The Digital Thread represents the sum of all data digitally linked to form a single, contiguous definition of all value-added decisions made during a product’s manufacturing journey. This includes the definition of a product, its configuration, manufacturing and repair processes, logistics, and operational support. For a manufacturer, the Digital Thread provides a single reference point for design, engineering, and manufacturing, ensuring they act in concert.

The Digital Thread encompasses:

  • Model data
  • Product structure data
  • Metadata
  • Effectual data
  • Process definition data – Including supporting equipment and tools

The Digital Thread Manages Complexity

The Digital Thread is incredibly valuable for complex manufacturers that are faced with the challenge of managing a complex and often far-flung supply network. An end product may have hundreds of individual components or assemblies, some of which the manufacturer may produce and others that are sourced from a range of suppliers (or suppliers’ suppliers). This chain can become incredibly complex to manage, as a single design change can affect the manufacturing of multiple components. By providing a “single version of the truth,” the Digital Thread helps manage this complexity. In the presentation, it details how the Digital Thread-connected enterprise is transforming manufacturing, and why it is critical that the thread extends to product lifecycle execution.

PLM, ERP, PLE and the Digital Thread

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM): To develop, describe, manage, and communicate information about their products from conception to end-of-life, manufacturers use PLM software. PLM architecture is object-oriented and structured around products, product relationships, and configuration management functions.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): To manage resources for production, manufacturers use ERP systems. ERP architecture is transaction-based and organized around production resources. While the ERP system uses product data and process plans contained in the PLM system, the architectures of ERP and PLM are fundamentally different. Both systems must control their own data and not duplicate or impede with the functions of the other.

Product Lifecycle Execution (PLE): Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) have long been considered the fundamental enterprise systems in a model-based enterprise, but a genuine Digital Thread cannot exist without a Product Lifecycle Execution (PLE) platform. PLM provides “the what” (modeling, BOM management, process planning, process simulation, and engineering change management). ERP provides “the when, where, and how much” (scheduling, financials, and inventory). To have a fully developed model-based enterprise—and a fully functioning Digital Thread—manufacturers also need “the how.” That’s what PLE provides through process execution, process control, quality assurance, traceability, and deviation handling.

Digital Thread in the Model-Based Enterprise: Today’s connected digital enterprise is all about leveraging 3-D models across all operations. In the model-based enterprise, there is much greater use of 3-D models and more structured handover of model-based definitions from one department to another in the Digital Thread. As this evolution continues, manufacturing is moving from illustrations to animations to augmented reality as a means of delivering information. As new technologies develop, these tools are increasingly practical to deploy and connect, using the Digital Thread.

Benefits of the Digital Thread

  • Provides the right information, at the right place, and the right time
  • Data is entered only once
  • No manual re-entry is necessary: drag and use
  • Digital handover is structured, revision controlled, and parsable
  • Downstream processes avoid manual translation or transformation
  • Downstream systems maintain digital associativity for change management of derived objects

iBase-t’s Solumina supports the digital thread now, and the application of PLE to manufacturing, MRO, and the supply chain, enabling an integrated value chain and genuine Smart Manufacturing.

Watch the detailed presentation on the Digital Thread by Conrad Leiva, Vice President of Product Strategy and Alliances, iBase-t.

New Call-to-action