The Manufacturing Digital Thread

In a previous blog I mentioned concepts including Smart Manufacturing, Manufacturing 4.0, and others that are driving manufacturing improvement toward a full digital transformation. One important segment of these efforts is something called the Digital Thread. Simply put, Digital Thread is the idea of capturing or delivering information in a 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, this blog will provide an overview of the digital thread concept within the general environment of manufacturing and associated value chain activities.

Consider this idea for a moment. What if we were to view production information from the perspective of the product rather than the software application silos that form our current environment? Actually, that is exactly what manufacturers typically do—they view the production environment from the standpoint of what do I do to make this item in my facility using the tools available to me today. For most products this will require a span of multiple systems that provide information to and from resources across the company including ERP, PLM, supplier information, production workstation data and manual input as we follow our production steps.

The Manufacturing Digital Thread

Think in terms of the production process as the unit of automation that orchestrates the information resources specific to the current instance of production, distributing and collecting data from various resources in a seamless data flow between nodes on your network as the production workflow is executed.

This executable production process model can be easily revised by the user as it evolves from the initial release to include revisions to equipment, product or production processes, always adapting to the conditions within a specific facility.

Companies are moving from manual paperwork and local data silos to focus their view on the production process/digital thread and how information that supports and is generated by production can be a digitized and used in significantly broader ways for stakeholders across the extended enterprise. Call me if you have any questions regarding the digital thread concepts or to learn more about digital transformation.

Michael McClellan 503 880 6345