What is the
The digital thread is a communication framework that allows a connected data flow and integrated view of an asset’s data throughout its lifecycle across traditionally siloed functional perspectives. Complex discrete manufacturing operations have experienced significant gains in efficiency, quality and profitability by using the Digital Thread to deliver the right information to the right place at the right time.
From product design, through production, inspection, testing and maintenance, the digital thread connects the whole engineering/manufacturing process and provides the basis for a digital, paperless shop floor.
The Digital Thread Provides a Framework for Communication
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 provides a formal framework for controlled interplay of authoritative technical and as-built data with the ability to access, integrate, transform and analyze data from disparate systems throughout the product lifecycle into actionable information. The Digital Thread and Digital Twin concepts are the basis for connecting design, manufacturing and ERP in a closed loop.
Managing Complexity with the Digital Thread
Complex manufacturers working in industries like nuclear power, medical devices, and private space exploration are faced with complex supply chain challenges and often stringent regulations. A single design change can affect the manufacturing of multiple components, and keeping track of as-designed, as-built and as-maintained records at all stages of the process can quickly become impossible to manage with paper logs and repetitive processes. By providing a “single version of the truth,” the digital thread helps to manage this complexity.
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.
THE DIGITAL THREAD CONNECTS FOUR MAIN PIECES OF COMPLEX MANUFACTURING
state of the digital thread
Adopting the Digital Thread is becoming an imperative step for complex manufacturers navigating increasingly fast-paced and heavily regulated industries. Today, the state of the digital thread is one of pronounced need, and slow adoption.
A 2017 iBASEt survey revealed that only 26% of companies surveyed leverage 3D models in downstream applications like work instructions, 40% are still using manual drawings and spreadsheets for inspection definition, and only 7% of respondents use systems in which Engineering Change Notices flow to downstream systems with impacted and added objects defined. Overall, despite a well-defined imperative for the digital thread, many companies have room for growth toward digitization.
who uses the digital thread?
The digital thread can be implemented across many different manufacturing sectors, and is crucial for maintaining efficiency in the face of increasingly strict supply chain and quality records regulations.
Industries thriving in the digital landscape include:
Benefits of adopting the
Adopting the digital thread means better handling of data across traditionally siloed divisions of the manufacturing enterprise. When design, manufacturing and ERP can operate in a closed-loop digital thread, the whole shop floor can work toward the same goal with more efficiency. When thinking about whether to push for digitizing the shop floor, consider the benefits of adopting the digital thread.
Key Benefits of the Digital Thread
- Improve product quality by avoiding mistakes in manual translations of engineering specifications along the product value chain
- Improve the velocity of new product introductions (NPI) and the communication of engineering changes along the product value chain
- Increase the efficiency of digitally capturing and analyze data related to product manufacturing
- Allow manufacturers to deliver new services to customers along with physical product leveraging the digital data now available on the product
How to Enable the Digital Thread
Enabling the digital thread does not have to be a years-long struggle requiring custom development and hours upon hours of manpower and human sacrifice. No engineers must be thrown into a pit of fire!
The foundation of building a digital thread involves several common steps:
- Analyze your Manufacturing Enterprise’s specific situation:
- Where are you having problems?
- What risks are you experiencing from the market?
- What risks are you experiencing from the technology?
- Identify the first project with the best potential for return on investment (ROI)
- Establish evolution milestones
- Nurture new culture around new technology vision