Industry 4.0 • March 8, 2019

Where Are You on Your Digital Manufacturing Journey?

iBase-t Experts

Keeping up with new digital initiatives in the complex discrete manufacturing space today can be overwhelming. Yet Digital Manufacturing and establishing the Digital Thread in the enterprise are vital programs for long-term success.

Digital Manufacturing is the application of digital technologies to the manufacturing value chain. Note that we are not talking about the utilization of electronic systems. Manufacturers have possessed those for decades. Electronic systems produce static data stored in isolated siloes. Their data exists in disconnected databases or information stores in formats such as PDF, Excel, and proprietary databases.

Digital Manufacturing is something quite different. The data is manipulatable. You can apply logic to it, trend it, interact with it, transform it, and exchange it seamlessly with other systems. The key term to grasp is “connected.” The digitized systems that comprise Digital Manufacturing are connected by a Digital Thread that unifies all systems and processes: from design to sourcing, production to sustainment, and from conception to end-of-life, the Digital Thread enables higher levels of visibility, efficiency, quality, and customer service.

To state it bluntly, Digital Manufacturing cannot be achieved without a Digital Thread. Data only needs to be entered once. After that, it is distributed to other functions in the enterprise through publish/subscribe data exchanges. Every digital handover is structured and parsable. Once data is entered, all downstream processes no longer need to manually translate, re-key, or transform data. They maintain digital associativity for efficient revision control of derived objects. A product’s digital data follows along with the physical product in real time throughout its entire lifecycle.

Those that have implemented the Digital Thread benefit from:

  • 20% faster new product introduction
  • 30% reduction in engineering time
  • 74% drop in design, manufacturing time, and inspection-cycle time
  • 77% reduction in supplier response time
  • 20% less manufacturing and supplier rework.

Digital Philosophy

Digital Manufacturing is more than a technology. It is a management philosophy supported by technology. To give an everyday example. Any small business using QuickBooks enters and prints checks via the system. The data from the check is recorded in the system, is automatically updated in account balances, and shows up in financial reports or tax returns.

There is no need to reenter it into any of these associated activities. But a manual action such as writing a check by hand breaks the Digital Thread of the business. Each time the thread is broken, the organization opens itself to risk – whether from faulty record keeping, delays, unpaid bills, backlogs, and confusion.

Similarly, in the modern manufacturing enterprise, all data from PLM, ERP, and MES must be shared along a Digital Thread. Any activity – design, fabrication, assembly, quality, sales, delivery, after-sales service, end of life, reuse, and recycling – is part of the thread. When a part number is generated within a PLM system, for instance, that information then flows effortless to other systems.

The iBase-t Digital Manufacturing Suite has been designed to establish a Digital Thread in manufacturing operations.  

This means:


The more validated data that is available, the more help is provided for decision making, and the greater the insight that can be mined from enterprise systems. The Digital Thread offers real-time visibility across production lines, asset types, plants, and the integrated value chain. It supports Six Sigma and lean manufacturing initiatives. It becomes possible to drill down to root, to improve design, streamline processes, and enhance equipment operation and longevity.


The Digital Thread adds a control factor throughout the enterprise. Standardized practices can be implemented and costly errors, due to missed changes or misinterpreted data exchanges, can be eliminated. Workforce flexibility is enhanced by illustrated work instructions and detailed resource requirements that achieve right first-time performance. Response to issues is accelerated along with turnaround for action at all levels of the value chain. Compliance and risk management are safeguarded.


The Digital Thread is all about velocity: Quicker product innovation; changes incorporated across the product lifecycle in response to market feedback and new opportunities; faster and more consistent data capture, data distribution and analysis; efficient delivery of digital twin data across the value chain; a connected view of as-designed, as-built, and as-maintained documentation. This enables the manufacturing floor to move at the speed of modern business.

As a result, the iBase-t Digital Manufacturing Suite drives consistency, traceability, and reusability of the digital information through the product lifecycle. 

Digital Thread Guide