An Introduction to the Digital Thread

The rapid evolution of technology over the past few years has thrust the entire world into a digital transformation. From advanced robotics in manufacturing to smart connected products, these new technologies have generated a whole new vocabulary. One of the latest terms to emerge is “digital thread.” What is a digital thread?

Defining the Digital Thread

According to Tech Target, the digital thread is “a communication framework that connects traditionally siloed elements in manufacturing processes and provides an integrated view of an asset throughout the manufacturing lifecycle.” We define it more generally as an integrated view of everything about an asset or product throughout its lifecycle.

The digital thread is an integrated view of everything about an asset or product throughout its lifecycle that enables improved communication and collaboration.
The ultimate goal of a digital thread strategy in manufacturing is to increase productivity and product quality while decreasing costs. With insight into every aspect of the product lifecycle, organizations can make more informed decisions throughout product development

Benefits of a Digital Thread

Utilizing a digital thread strategy creates numerous benefits for companies who gain improved communication across their teams and the entire supply chain.
Improved communication and collaboration helps to create better products faster.

Improved Operations

The digital thread supports increased communication with access to all relevant product data for everyone, all the time. Regardless of location, teams can easily collaborate throughout the entire product development process, ensuring they are all referencing the same data when making decisions.

Improved Manufacturability

It’s not just the development process that can see substantial improvements. Utilizing digital thread data, organizations can design products with manufacturability in mind. Improved manufacturability:

  • Shortens the manufacturing cycle.
  • Reduces or eliminates production scrap and defective units.
  • Prevents unplanned downtime.

These improvements further support overarching company goals like increased productivity, enhanced margins, and improved customer satisfaction. All of these elements work together to enable:

    • Increased customer satisfaction.
    • Centralized data to support continuous operational and product improvements.
    • Increased margins.
    • Easier and more cost-effective service, repairs, and maintenance.
    • Decreased design and product manufacturing costs.
    • The creation of higher quality products.
    • Faster time-to-market.
    • Improved collaboration.

Understanding Digital Thread in Industry 4.0

As more companies begin their Industry 4.0 journey, the digital thread plays a critical role in connecting teams, products, and data.
Using 3D CAD tools such as Creo, these solutions create digital twins of products, which can be used to understand and analyze real-world situations. The digital thread is the communication and conversation that is generated during the creation and operation of the digital twin. This model parallels real-world situations for simulation and optimization.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the digital thread is critical in the emergence of Industry 4.0. It requires that product design ideas are accurately represented and communicated using 3D models. These models make it easier for engineers to identify optimal manufacturing methods. Once identified, these optimized processes must be communicated back to designers to ensure that the proper specifications regarding form, fit, function, and inspection are accurately reflected in the 3D models.

Implementing a Digital Thread Strategy within Your Organization

Solutions

There are a variety of solutions on the market that can support your digital thread strategy. We find that the 3D CAD software PTC Creo is an ideal repository for capturing these ongoing communications. It includes the tools users need to 3D model products and manage processes throughout the entire lifecycle.
What’s more, PTC Creo integrates with the IoT platform ThingWorx. Using these complementary solutions helps organizations essentially close the loop between the digital thread and digital model, which is key to achieving the benefits of Industry 4.0. Both of these solutions can be further integrated with PTC PLM platform Windchill, which supports the entire product lifecycle from inception through disposal. Using these tools in conjunction provides the insights organizations need to truly optimize across operations.

Utilizing integrated solutions such as PTC Creo, ThingWorx, and Windchill helps close the loop on the digital thread in your organization.

Technology Partner

Implementing a digital thread strategy is challenging for all organizations. There are a lot of moving parts and important considerations that need to be made. Staying up to date on all of the available solutions and determining which is right for your organization requires a ton of research and attention to detail. That’s why it pays to work with a knowledgeable technology partner, such as 3 HTi, to help you throughout your Industry 4.0 journey.

If you are interested in learning more about how 3 HTi can help your organization implement a digital thread strategy or if you have any questions about our technology solutions, please contact us.

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Brochures & Data Sheets

The Foundation of the Digital Thread and digital twin

The State of Digital Thread

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