Driving Business Value Across the Enterprise with Digital Thread

Over the past few years, the rapid evolution and advancement of technology have propelled the entire world into a digital transformation. The transition across the enterprise level has given the rise to possibilities of the digital thread. As a single source of data truth, the digital thread creates a communication framework that delivers consistency, collaboration, and alignment across functions through real-time data synchronization of related upstream and downstream derivative information.

Leveraging a digital thread strategy helps delivers a number of benefits to companies that garner improved communication across their teams and the entire supply chain. It supports improved communication with access to all germane product data for everyone, every time. Whatever the location is, teams within an organization can easily collaborate throughout the entire product development process that ensures they are all referencing the same data when making decisions.

Working as a framework of communication, the digital thread allows for a connected data flow enabling businesses to view their data throughout its entire lifecycle across functional areas that have traditionally existed in silos. Despite having a multitude of data within the silos, these gaps exist in every business across almost every industry.

Enacting Business Efficiency

By using digital thread data, companies can design products with manufacturability in mind which shrinks the manufacturing cycle, lessens or extracts production scrap and defective units, and wards off unintended downtime. This can further support overarching business goals like enhanced productivity, augmented margins, and increased customer satisfaction. These elements enable surged customer satisfaction; centralized data to support continuous operational and product improvements; more cost-effective service, renovations, and maintenance; reduced design and product manufacturing costs; production of higher quality products; accelerated time-to-market; and improved collaboration.

However, there is a major fence to create a digital thread and that is the existence of silos within an operation. Since information exists in all companies, but in those with a traditional siloed structure between departments and key functional areas, it is consumed in an inaccessible way within the organization. For instance, regulatory compliance data which only used to produce compliance reports. Conversely, the existence of quality data that is used to track manufacturing flaws. This data is often housed in a standalone system using diverse units of measure or methods to map development that is then used by the manufacturing departments who require them. In both cases, these reports represent a gold mine of information and can be utilized in the continuous improvement process. The need to access all the data will deliver accurate dashboards and KPIs, both to operations and the business.

In the Industry 4.0 setting, the digital thread is critical, as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) describes, it requires that product design ideas are explicitly represented and communicated using 3D models. These models make it easier for developers to recognize optimal manufacturing methods. And once identified, these optimized processes must be transferred back to designers to ensure that the proper specifications regarding form, fit, function, and inspection are accurately reflected in the 3D models.