July 1, 2021
Digital Thread is one of the most discussed topics in engineering and manufacturing software these days. You can call it a catchy new name to replace an old-school PLM, but it actually can go much further.
What is Digital Thread?
In a nutshell, Digital Thread is all about linking data. This is how it works.
Think about tracking every process throughout the product’s lifecycle from initial design and product development, from there it goes to manufacturing, services, and maintenance.
That whole process contains a lot of data and communication points. It’s no secret that companies are doing very badly in this type of communication. First, the data is fragmented, second, the communication is not holistic, and third, there are no metrics capable of using this information for decision making, traceability, and control.
Companies need a continuous information flow and are only as powerful as their data connections. Without a successful digital thread, system planning and real-time analysis is not possible.
Across organizations and their supply chains, IT architectures must integrate data from systems usually customized by role, product, vendor, or organization. This drastically hampers the ability to integrate and share data in real-time, massively obstructing the digital thread.
What Digital Thread Do You Need?
Companies are spending time and money thinking about Digital Transformation these days. Amazingly enough, many of these processes are destined to fail. This is not necessarily the company’s fault, but because companies are looking to jump from 30,000 ft height to the ground level without any specific preparation they are coming across major issues. Planning is needed and understanding of what processes and what data is about to be connected is not less important than the willingness to build a digital strategy.
Although many companies are thinking about digital thread today, their Digital Thread plans are comparable to teenagers thinking they have all the answers: They can talk the talk but when it comes to walking the walk they hardly live up to expectations.
So, what needs to be done?
The first question to answer is what type of digital thread do you need? Here are several possible categories of Digital Thread you can think about:
- Engineering Data and Complex Product Development;
- History and Traceability
- Maintenance and Operations.
I want to talk about the first one today – complex data in product development, engineering, and manufacturing. I call it engineering digital thread because it connects silos of information between engineers and also between engineering and manufacturing business functions. In a traditional sense of engineering and manufacturing software, we speak about CAD, PDM, PLM, and ERP. Those are the most typical sources of information and connecting them is a big challenge.
Engineering Digital Thread with OpenBOM
At OpenBOM, one of our main focuses is engineering data. Because engineering and related product data are a foundational part of any product development and manufacturing process.
Without this data, it is very hard to do anything related to production planning, procurement, and supply chain. Unfortunately, this engineering data is highly isolated and hardly available. This is a result of a long-time result of “over the wall” engineering to manufacturing practices. Instead of building a connection between engineering and production planning, companies were throwing some data over the wall of manufacturing with the hope of it sticking and having companies be able to actually build something.
So, how does OpenBOM do it differently? There are three main elements in this process – 1/ engineering CAD integrations and 2/ flexible OpenBOM data platform and 3/ collaboration and data changes streamline.
- CAD integrations. OpenBOM developed integrations to many engineering systems. These integrations allow OpenBOM to seamlessly extract product data from engineering systems and to build a single source of truth to share and manage the data.
- Flexible OpenBOM Data Modeling platforms allow you to dynamically store data from multiple systems, model it, classify and share with others. This data management technology is supporting the data capturing process without hardcoded mapping and long-time legacy data import.
- OpenBOM collaboration and change streamlining allows importing the data in multiple streams and merges this data together, which allows independence and synchronization at the same time.
When it comes to data management and digital transformation you need time and the proper setup to bring data together and share it with the right people. It includes building technical foundations and also aligning people and organizations to make it happen.
The digital thread is a shared information space. Every person and organization plays a specific role in the process of building and using the digital thread. It connects OEM companies, contractors, suppliers, engineers, and customers. It must be created to provide value, otherwise, it is dead and won’t survive.
OpenBOM data management platform is a powerful set of tools capable of capturing engineering information and connecting pieces of data and people together.
See how fast OpenBOM can help you to build an engineering digital thread. Visit our OpenBOM homepage and start your free 14-day trial today!