Digital Transformation and the Digital Thread


Digital transformation concepts will drive improved performance for all manufacturing companies. A core ingredient of this transformation process is the Digital Thread that can collect and collate a set of information for a variety of users ranging from product designers to manufacturing management to accounting to compliance management, and customer research. 

The problems behind a useful product digital thread lie primarily in the ability to connect with the many disparate information resources.  This blog will address this data connection issue but first I would like to restate a definition of Digital Thread. Digital Thread is the idea of capturing and delivering information in digital form across the range of activities involved in the life of the product. Although the broad definition of Digital Thread includes all facets of the product from design to end of use, our focus will provide an overview of the concept within the general environment of manufacturing and associated manufacturing value chain activities.    The digital thread/production process can be the overarching information toolset supporting production steps, product traceability, product compliance, production measurement metrics.

A foundational concept behind the digital thread is to view this from a specific product and/or batch focus rather than the usually accepted broad plant data collection applications. MES is not the answer but can provide input. The CSI product driven production process focus includes the full universe of information surrounding the product as it passes through production steps.

The digital thread is a company business process that crosses departmental lines and supports a broad range of interests. In manufacturing, the execution and recording of the product driven digital thread process begins with the release of the production order by the ERP system and follows each event through the production steps accepting information from any defined data resource as events occur. This production process resource is the heart of delivering information between any accessible data resource across the value chain, providing the single source of truth to build product traceability, cost variance, quality nonconformance and other anomaly information in a near real time environment.  

The digital thread should be thought of as an evolving process that can be revised to meet conditions as the environment changes.  Each data junction can be treated as a node on the intranet that can send and/or receive designated data that matches the production step

Digital transformation concepts will drive improved performance for all manufacturing companies. The digital thread conveys valuable information that can be leveraged to improve everything from innovation, to quality, internal efficiency, and revenue. Although digital threads may originate in the design stage, they offer value throughout the enterprise.

Smart manufacturing research at NIST has promoted a vision of fully-integrated, collaborative, manufacturing systems that respond in real time to meet changing demands and conditions in the factory, in the supply network, and in customer needs.  This vision is increasingly achievable by small-to-medium sized enterprises due to increasingly capable standards for conveying industrial data.

CSI is focused on delivering production process management and execution through a product driven digital thread that connects each step of the production process with the necessary orchestrated set of information. Call for more information.    

Michael McClellan