Digital thread: Frequently asked questions

04 June 2024

What are the benefits of adopting a digital thread?

Increased productivity and effectiveness

By streamlining information flow across design, engineering, and production, a digital thread can eliminate delays and rework caused by siloed data. This can lead to faster production cycles and improved overall effectiveness.

Improved quality assurance

A digital thread can allow for real-time monitoring of production processes and identification of potential quality issues early on. This enables proactive adjustments and reduces the likelihood of defective products reaching the customer.

Increased collaboration between teams

A digital thread fosters a collaborative environment where all departments involved in the product lifecycle have access to the same information. This improves communication, reduces misunderstandings, and allows for better coordination across teams.

What kind of infrastructure is needed to support digital thread implementation?

A successful digital thread implementation relies on a robust IT infrastructure that can handle data integration, storage, and analysis across the entire product lifecycle. The key components include:

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) System: This serves as the backbone of the digital thread, storing and managing all product data throughout its lifecycle, from design inception to service and end-of-life.

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) System: The ERP system integrates with the PLM to provide data on manufacturing processes, inventory management, and financial aspects of production.

Scalable storage and computing resources: The volume of data generated from various sources within the digital thread can be significant. Depending on the complexity of operations, cloud-based storage or high-performance computing capabilities may be required to handle data processing and analysis.

Advanced analytics tools: Extracting meaningful insights from the vast amount of data collected can require advanced analytics tools like machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify patterns, predict trends, and optimise processes.

Secure network infrastructure: A secure network infrastructure is crucial to protect sensitive data within the digital thread from cyberattacks and unauthorised access.

What are the threats to digital thread adoption?

Data issues

It is difficult to gain a holistic view of a product's lifecycle and ensure every stakeholder has access to the latest data due to information across organisations often being isolated in separate systems. Inconsistent data formats and a lack of standardisation, both within an organisation and across industries, can cause confusion; data interoperability is key to creating a digital thread.

Security concerns

An interconnected system reliant on large amounts of data are vulnerable to cyber-attacks. As with all emerging technologies, unidentified vulnerabilities will be present for malicious actors to abuse. To combat this, organisations should adopt clear data governance policies and procedures to manage access and control.

Cultural and organisational challenges

Implementing a digital thread often requires significant changes to workflows and stakeholder mindsets, often leading to resistance to adoption. This can be combated by properly informing all employees, educating them on the importance of the digital thread. Additionally, organisations may need to train employees to manage data or software tools required for digital thread implementation.

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