I’m sure at least once in your life you’ve heard the saying, ‘Work smarter, not harder.’ But what a cliche, right?! Well, for those of you managing your Bill of Materials (BOMs) in Excel, it’s time to step away from the cell block prison (pun intended).
In this article, we’re going to break down what it actually means to revitalize your BOM strategy with the Digital Thread to start seeing the results you want.
What Is The Digital Thread?
First of all, let’s start with the basics. The Digital Thread is a term used to describe the seamless flow of information throughout the manufacturing process. From design and engineering to production and after-sales support. It provides a way to connect all the data and information generated at different stages and from systems of the product lifecycle.
Generally, the Digital Thread provides value by enabling better visibility and control of any processes that require or produce product data. It enables manufacturers to collaborate more effectively, automate and optimize workflows, and quickly respond to changes. All while adjusting quickly to customer needs.
Bill of Materials (BOM)
Next, let’s break down the concept of a Bill of Materials. A complete Bill of Materials (BoM) list usually contains all of the parts and components needed to create or manufacture an end product. You might think of a BoM as a recipe ingredient list. The information about each part can include details such as part names, part numbers, quantity required, and cost per unit. Not to mention, BoMs contain other relevant part details such as material type, color, or size if applicable; supplier information; serial numbers, etc.
By consolidating and organizing all the pertinent information product information, the BoM becomes a centralized resource. A critical resource that facilitates the manufacturing processes of specified products.
Ultimately, the goal of the BoM is to help track inventory and verify missing parts during assembly. Equally as important, BoMs are critical to support a healthy supply chain, as well as help with purchasing decisions and more.
The Digital Thread and Bill of Materials Working Together
Balancing a plethora of product information – it’s no surprise, the best BoM management strategy used within the industry does not leverage solely Microsoft Excel. Nor does it rely upon one Enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Instead it works to unite data from multiple systems into a single source of truth.
Sounds great doesn’t it? But, if you’re like most – your product data lives all over the place in different systems from different departments. This situation tends to create data siloes resulting in time-consuming manual tasks using outdated operational processes. Generally, these are some of the biggest problems that inhibit manufacturers from achieving their business initiatives.
Oftentimes, during our EAC Assessments, we hear multiple teams across the enterprise and different management levels are frustrated by broken processes. In short, there is a lack of key information employees need to do their jobs right, at the time they need it most.
Meanwhile, the digital thread uses advanced technology (such as product lifecycle management systems as well as the Internet of Things) to connect critical disparate processes. This, in turn, helps minimize manual tasks, and breaks down data siloes. Implementing the digital thread to your BoM strategy creates a major impact for all stakeholders involved. For instance, design teams, engineers, manufacturing, assembly, operations, finance, purchasing, and even marketing.
How The Digital Thread Supports Engineering
Furthermore, the Digital Thread plays a crucial role in supporting engineering and bill of materials (BOM) management by providing seamless connectivity and accessibility to relevant data throughout the product lifecycle. Here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:
1. Engineering Collaboration
Firstly, the digital thread allows engineers to collaborate effectively by providing a centralized platform for sharing and accessing engineering data. This facilitates cross-functional collaboration, enables real-time communication, and reduces errors or miscommunications during the design and development process.
2. Design Consistency
Secondly, the digital thread ensures design consistency by maintaining a single source of truth for engineering data. Changes made in the design phase are automatically propagated throughout the digital thread, ensuring that all related documents, models, and specifications remain synchronized.
3. BOM Accuracy and Visibility
The digital thread integrates BOM management, configuration management, and BoM transformation capabilities. This enables accurate and up-to-date BOMs, as the data will automatically reflect changes. Additionally, it provides real-time visibility into the BoM status, including component availability, sourcing information, and cost implications.
4. Change Management
Next, the digital thread streamlines change management processes. By automating change notifications, approvals, and tracking. Essentially, it ensures that engineering changes are effectively communicated, documented, and implemented across the relevant stages of the product lifecycle, minimizing errors and delays.
5. Manufacturing Process Optimization
By connecting engineering data with manufacturing process management, the digital thread enables better coordination and optimization of production processes. By in large, system and data integration allows for improved manufacturing planning, efficient resource allocation, and reduced lead times.
6. Enhanced Visualization and Analysis
Another example includes leveraging augmented reality (AR) design sharing to provide visual representations of designs. In detail, enabling stakeholders to view and analyze products in a virtual environment. It’s recommended to use AR to enhance design reviews, simplify communication, and facilitate better decision-making.
Overall, the digital thread improves engineering and BoM management. Markedly, by streamlining processes, enhancing collaboration, ensuring data consistency, and providing visibility across the product lifecycle. It promotes efficiency, accuracy, and agility in engineering and BoM-related activities. Leading to improved product quality and faster time to market in the long run.
How A Digital Thread BoM Strategy Streamlines Manufacturing
Simultaneously, the digital thread plays a significant role in enhancing the bill of materials (BoM) management for manufacturing, assembly, and quality control processes. In sum, here’s how the digital thread benefits these areas:
1. Manufacturing and Assembly Planning
The digital thread enables seamless integration between the BoM and manufacturing planning systems. It provides real-time visibility into the BoM, ensuring accurate and up-to-date information for manufacturing and assembly operations. This allows for efficient production planning, optimized resource allocation, and improved scheduling in all.
2. Supply Chain Integration
By connecting the BoM with supply chain management systems, the digital thread enhances supply chain visibility and collaboration. It enables better coordination with suppliers, accurate tracking of component availability, and improved procurement processes. As a result, it minimizes the risk of production delays and ensures timely delivery of materials.
3. Work Instructions and Assembly Guidance
Thirdly, the digital thread facilitates the creation and dissemination of detailed work instructions and assembly guidance based on the BoM data. This ensures that assembly operators have access to accurate and step-by-step instructions, reducing errors and improving productivity on the shop floor.
4. Quality Control and Traceability
The digital thread enables better quality control and traceability throughout the manufacturing process. By integrating the BoM with quality management systems, it ensures that quality requirements and specifications are adhered to during production. It also enables traceability of components and materials, making it easier to identify and address any quality issues or recalls.
5. Continuous Improvement and Feedback Loop
Additionally, the digital thread supports continuous improvement initiatives by capturing data and feedback from manufacturing and quality control processes. It enables the analysis of production data, identifies areas for improvement, and facilitates data-driven decision-making to enhance manufacturing efficiency and product quality.
6. Post-Market Monitoring
Finally, the digital thread extends beyond the manufacturing phase to support post-market monitoring and quality assurance. Integrating BoM data with field service management systems and customer feedback enables organizations to identify and address product issues, initiate product improvements, and provide timely support and maintenance.
All in all, the digital thread enhances BoM management for manufacturing and assembly processes by ensuring accurate and up-to-date information, facilitating supply chain integration, enabling effective work instructions, improving quality control, supporting continuous improvement efforts, and enabling post-market monitoring. Concurrently, it streamlines operations, improves product quality, and enhances customer satisfaction.
The Polaris Story
Polaris utilized PTC Windchill, an advanced product lifecycle management system, to transform their Bill of Materials into a reliable new business model backbone. As a result, it allowed them to create a connected enterprise.
Windchill PLM combines the digital thread framework with a maximized BoM and change management strategy. This powerful product lifecycle management platform organizes all information associated with the development of its products, allowing every stakeholder to access the latest up-to-date information in a dynamic format.
Once it was clear to Polaris that they had outgrown certain tools and processes, they coordinated and synchronized a digital thread of data throughout the enterprise by leveraging PTC Windchill.
As of today, Polaris’ Windchill PLM system enables them to manage and organize the bill of materials (BoM) and implemented configuration management practices. This helped transform their BoMs as needed, effectively managing changes, overseeing manufacturing processes, and utilizing augmented reality (AR) design-sharing capabilities.
By orchestrating these elements, the digital thread ensured seamless connectivity and flow of information across different stages and departments within Polaris. This enabled improved collaboration, streamlined workflows, effective change control, and enhanced manufacturing processes. On top of giving the ability to share and visualize designs using AR technology.
To sum it up, it’s time to put Excel away and start working smarter, not harder. Successful BoM management derives from a single source of truth throughout the enterprise in regard to all the data contained in the Bill of Materials. The Digital Thread allows for the seamless automated flow of the BoM information to create a truly connected enterprise, working in sync along every step of the manufacturing process.
PTC’s LiveWorx 2023 was a huge success. EAC is proud to have been a Premier Sponsor for the leading technology trade show in Boston, MA that ran from May 15-18. LiveWorx brought over 10,000 attendees from all over the world to the Boston Exhibition Center (BCEC) to learn and share insights about today’s digital transformation for the manufacturing industry.
The exhibition hall was buzzing with energy as EAC’s booth was filled with great discussions and technical demos revolving around navigating the digital thread. As the #1 PTC Reseller and Solution Provider in North America, it was great to be back with PTC leaders and innovators under one roof while connecting with our customers and network, sharing how we help manufacturers in various industries.
With groundbreaking intelligence from PTC at the Global Partner Summit, to country star Dierks Bentley (wearing an EAC company ball cap), to hosting PTC’s CEO Jim Heppelmann at our EAC x Fishbowl Solutions Happy Hour, plus exciting guest speakers such as celebrity mountaineer Alex Honnold- LiveWorx 2023 was one for the (digital) books.
Navigating The Digital Thread with EAC
EAC Product Development Solutions is at the forefront of providing and implementing digital thread solutions for companies seeking to transform how they design, manufacture, connect to, and service their products. EAC’s advanced industry knowledge helps resolve pain points companies face from multiple facets throughout the product development lifecycle. Our experts at LiveWorx had seven successful IgniteTalx and Breakout Sessions that covered a wide range of topics, including:
- Creo Illustrate for AR Developers
- Minimum Windchill Implementation to Achieve Significant ROI
- Augmented Reality and Expert Capture
- Model-Based Definition
- Assessing Your Business Practices to Find Optimization Opportunities
- Rapid Prototyping Made Simple with Creo Additive Manufacturing
- Simulation-Driven Design with Creo Simulation Live
Thank you to everyone who attended our presentations and visited our booth at LiveWorx. We enjoyed meeting with you and learning about your manufacturing challenges, wins, and visions for the near future. We look forward to continuing the conversation and helping you improve your operations throughout the product development lifecycle. Thank you to PTC and our customers who joined us for LiveWorx 2023.
See you in Boston next year!
LiveWorx 2023 Photo Recap:
Digital transformation has become a buzzword in recent years, and for good reason. Companies that embrace digital technologies are more likely to stay ahead of the curve, differentiate themselves in the marketplace, and meet the evolving needs of their customers.
The benefits of digital transformation can be far-reaching, from improved customer experience to cost savings and increased efficiency.
In this blog, we will explore the various benefits of digital transformation, and why it is essential for companies to embrace this trend in order to remain competitive in the digital age.
What is Digital Transformation?
Digital transformation is a term used to describe the process of transforming an organization’s business model and operations through the use of digital technologies. It’s important because it can help you stay ahead of your competition, improve customer experience and attract new customers.
The benefits of digital transformation include:
- Improved customer experience: Digital transformation can help you better understand and meet the needs of your customers. With the use of data analytics and other digital tools, you can gather insights into customer behavior and preferences, and tailor your products and services accordingly.
- Increased efficiency and productivity: Digital transformation can automate many processes, reducing manual labor and freeing up staff to focus on higher-value tasks. This can lead to increased efficiency and productivity across your organization.
- Competitive advantage: By embracing digital technologies, you can stay ahead of your competitors and differentiate yourself in the marketplace. This can help you attract new customers and retain existing ones.
- Cost savings: Digital transformation can help you reduce costs by streamlining processes and eliminating unnecessary steps. This can lead to significant savings over time.
- Innovation: Digital transformation can open up new opportunities for innovation and growth. By embracing new technologies and ways of working, you can develop new products and services that better meet the needs of your customers.
See how JR Automation saved seven figures with embarking on their digital transformation journey:
Creating a Digital Transformation Roadmap
The first step to creating a digital transformation roadmap is to identify the scope of your transformation. What are you trying to achieve? What are the goals and objectives of your business? How will you measure success?
Once this has been determined, it’s time to set up a timeline for achieving those goals.
Once these steps have been completed, it’s time for action! You should now have a clear idea of what needs changing within your organization and how long it will take before those changes become visible.
Building a Digital Transformation Team
When you’re building your digital transformation team, it’s important to define roles and responsibilities. You’ll want to make sure that everyone understands their role in the process and what they are expected to do. For example, if someone is responsible for monitoring the performance of shop floor machines, they should know what the ideal OEE is of each machine, how they are going to collect that data, and how they are going to distribute it to enterprise decision makers.
It’s also important that you select team members who have complementary skillsets and experience levels. If one person has extensive knowledge of augmented reality while another knows nothing about it at all, this could lead to problems down the line when it comes time for them both to collaborate on projects together – and no one wants that!
Finally, creating a culture where collaboration happens naturally between team members will help ensure successful outcomes throughout your digital transformation project(s).
Adopting the Right Technology
The first step in digital transformation is choosing the right technology. You’ll want to consider:
Software: What are your current needs and how will they change over time? Will you need additional features or functionality?
Hardware: Do you have enough computing power and storage space for all of your data, or does it need to be scaled up or down depending on usage patterns at different times of day/year/etc.? Do you have sensors to track data that you need for production insight?
Tools: What tools do developers use to build applications on top of this platform (e.g., Creo vs. Solidworks)? How easy is it for them to integrate their code with existing systems like databases and messaging queues? Are there any security issues with using these tools – and if so, how can they be mitigated by using another tool instead (e.g., switching from MySQL database server software to Microsoft Azure).
Developing a Digital Transformation Strategy
The first step to developing a digital transformation strategy is to define the scope of the project. What are you trying to accomplish? What are your objectives, and how will you measure success?
These questions can help guide your organization through its transformation journey by setting realistic goals for both short-term wins and long-term gains.
Once you’ve defined what needs changing, it’s time for step two: defining how those changes will happen. This involves creating an action plan that includes timelines for each phase of implementation as well as resources required for each stage (e.g., time from IT staff).
Some companies may choose to tackle multiple projects simultaneously; others might choose only one area at a time depending on their resources available in terms of money/manpower/etcetera).
Implementing the Digital Transformation Plan
Develop a timeline. The first step in implementing your digital transformation plan is to develop a timeline with milestones that will help you track progress.
Set goals and objectives for each milestone. Once you’ve established your milestones, it’s time to set goals and objectives for each one of them so that everyone involved knows exactly what needs to be done at any given time during the project.
Track progress regularly by reviewing dashboards or reports generated from data collected during testing phases of development projects (if applicable). It’s important not only for managers but also employees on lower levels within organizations who may not have access
Monitoring and Evaluating Performance
Monitoring and measuring performance is an important part of the digital transformation process. It allows you to identify areas where you are successful, and areas that need improvement.
Monitoring can be done using a variety of tools, including:
Data Analytics Dashboards (e.g., Thingworx Analytics)
Digital Twin Performance (e.g., Augmented Reality)
Adapting and Adjusting the Plan
As you progress through your digital transformation, there will be changes in the market that you need to respond to.
If a competitor introduces a new product or service, or if something happens in the industry at large, it may change how you approach your own strategy.
You might also find that your goals and objectives have changed since they were first set out; perhaps there’s been an increase in customer demand for something specific that wasn’t previously considered important enough for inclusion on the list.
The best way to handle these situations is by reviewing them regularly with other members of your team – and making sure everyone has input into decisions about how best to adjust course as needed.
Communicating the Benefits of Digital Transformation
In order to communicate the benefits of digital transformation, it’s important to understand who your stakeholders are and what they want.
If you’re working in an organization with a large number of stakeholders (such as a government agency), then there may be multiple groups that need convincing. For example:
The board wants to see results from their investment in IT infrastructure. They’ll likely be interested in metrics such as ROI and cost savings.
Executives want quick wins that will help them achieve their goals, but they also need proof that this new approach will work before they can commit time and resources to implementing it throughout the organization.
Employees want something tangible they can hold onto when explaining why this change is important for them personally (and why it matters).
Digital transformation is a powerful tool that can help you achieve your business goals. It’s important to remember that digital transformation is not just about implementing new technologies, but also about changing how you work and think as an organization.
Digital transformation requires commitment from everyone involved in the process – from the C-suite down through every level of your organization.
To be successful, it must be an ongoing effort rather than a one-time project or initiative. You will need to continuously innovate and improve what you’re doing if you want to stay ahead of competitors who are also pursuing digital transformation strategies.
In conclusion, digital transformation is becoming increasingly essential for companies to stay competitive and meet the needs of their customers in the digital age. However, the process of digital transformation can be complex and challenging, which is why EAC assessments can be extremely helpful.
By conducting an assessment of your organization’s current digital capabilities and identifying areas for improvement, you can develop a roadmap for digital transformation that is tailored to your specific needs and goals.
EAC assessments can help you identify gaps in your digital capabilities, streamline your processes, and develop new products and services that better meet the needs of your customers. By embracing digital transformation and leveraging the expertise of EAC assessors, you can position your company for success in the digital age.