What is the Digital Thread?

The Digital Thread is a system of interconnected data, processes and applications that create a closed loop between the digital and physical worlds. It enables a flow of data between these two worlds, creating a critical capability in model-based systems engineering (MBSE).
The Digital Thread is part of an overall MBSE approach that helps organizations:

  • Design better products faster by using models as the basis for decisions rather than documents
  • Reduce costs by eliminating rework caused by changes made after initial design stages
  • Avoid errors by ensuring all stakeholders always have access to up-to-date information about product status

Why Use the Digital Thread

The Digital Thread utilizes a communication framework that links previously disconnected elements within the manufacturing process, providing a unified view of an asset throughout its entire lifecycle. It is a fundamental aspect of model-based systems engineering and forms the foundation for a Digital Twin. Business processes, including daily tasks, activities, and decisions, are digitized and integrated into the Digital Twin through the Digital Thread. The Digital Thread also supports standardization, traceability, and automation initiatives.

This enterprise connective solution optimizes products by bringing people, processes and places together to provide traceability of the Digital Twin back to requirements and parts. The Digital Thread also provides an end-to-end view of control systems that make up physical assets across their lifecycle. This benefits a company by transforming how products are engineered, manufactured and serviced.

Enterprise Application

The Digital Thread is a powerful tool that is used to improve business processes and enhance customer satisfaction. The applications of this technology are numerous, including:


The Digital Thread in Action

The Digital Thread is a concept that’s been around for a while, but it has only recently started to gain traction. It isn’t something that you can just jump into and expect to understand immediately. Instead, it’s best to look at the ways in which companies have utilized this idea in order to get a picture of what they’ve done with it and how they’ve used it successfully. Here are some examples of companies who have made use of their own Digital Threads:

  • A retail company uses its Digital Thread to improve customer service by connecting customers directly with product experts via chatbot technology. This allows them access information on products before making purchases so they can make informed decisions about what they buy and why they buy it. It also gives them an opportunity to ask questions if anything comes up later on down the line (i.e., when they’re actually using products).

  • Another retailer uses its own version of this concept as part of its online store where shoppers can find information about any given item without having access beforehand. Instead, everything from sizing charts down through reviews from other buyers will pop up automatically once someone clicks “add” on any given product listing page (and even before then!).


Creating a Digital Thread

The Digital Thread is a new way of thinking about your business. It’s more than just data connection or enterprise collaboration, it’s an integrated approach to connecting with the product lifecycle, employees and customers in real time.

The first step in creating a Digital Thread is understanding the production journey – how your employees or customers interact with your product at each stage of the production process. You need to know what information they should be consuming and how you can provide it through all stages of the product lifecycle. Once you have this information, it’s time to put together a plan for how the data will be distributed across all departments. This could be through IoT initiatives and product lifecycle management software.

The Future of the Digital Thread

The Digital Thread is the idea that every product interaction you have, whether it’s before, during or after the creation of the product should be connected through shared data. This means when a product is designed, built and put on the field with the customer, all the information is connected together. This sort of enterprise connection minimizes process disruptions and creates a cohesive product lifecycle.

The concept has been around for years but it’s only recently started to gain traction among businesses as more of them embrace breaking down data silos and integrating technology into every aspect of the product lifecycle.

It’s easy enough to see how this could benefit both consumers and businesses: Consumers get better service because service technicians are alerted early and accurately about the performance of their products and when they need to be serviced. Customer service improves greatly when a company can minimize downtime for customers with real-time monitoring and preventative maintenance.


The Impact

The impact of the Digital Thread is not only changing the way we design and manufacture products, but also how we service them. This shift has significant implications for businesses.

The ability to track a product through its life cycle has huge potential for companies looking to improve operations and customer experience. It’s no longer enough to simply make sure that your product works when it leaves the factory; now you need to ensure that it will continue working throughout its entire life cycle and be able to respond quickly if something goes wrong along the way.

The Challenges

There are challenges to the Digital Thread, however. Data security, privacy and integrity are all important considerations when it comes to data sharing. These issues are addressed by industry best practices such as encryption and authentication protocols that protect information from unauthorized access or tampering.

The Benefits of the Digital Thread

The benefits of the Digital Thread include:

  • Cost savings. The Digital Thread allows you to reduce costs by eliminating excess inventory and reducing waste. For example, if a product is out of stock at one store, it’s not available for purchase in any other stores or online either. This means that customers won’t be able to buy it unless they go directly to the manufacturer’s website–and many will simply give up and look elsewhere instead.

  • Improved efficiency. With the Digital Thread in place, manufacturers quickly identify where there are problems with production or distribution so they can fix them immediately rather than waiting until after an entire batch is produced before finding out about any issues (and having already paid for those products). By being able to identify problems before they occur, companies save money on wasted materials while also ensuring better customer satisfaction because their products will always be available when needed most!

The Digital Thread is beneficial to manufacturers because it enables automation, traceability, and standardization efforts. It allows manufacturers to access data quickly and easily, and to make decisions based on real-time data. Additionally, it helps to reduce costs associated with product development and production, and to ensure that products are manufactured to the highest quality standards.

The Digital Thread also helps to improve the customer experience by providing them with access to real-time data, allowing them to make informed decisions about their purchases. It also improves the efficiency of the supply chain, as manufacturers track their products from start to finish, ensuring that they are delivered on time and to the correct specifications.

Overall, the Digital Thread for Manufacturing is a powerful tool that can help manufacturers to improve their operations, reduce costs, and provide a better customer experience.


The Digital Thread is the concept that all of your customer interactions are connected, and that your business uses this to its advantage. The Digital Thread has many applications, including:

  • Providing a better user experience for customers by connecting all of their interactions with you in one place

  • Enabling companies to provide better support through real-time communication with customers

  • Helping businesses understand their customers better by analyzing data from various channels

If you want to learn more about how the Digital Thread could impact your organization, chat with one of our experts!

Service organizations typically receive recurring revenue, less fixed capital, and higher margins than strictly product-centric businesses. Aftermarket services now account for almost 24% of manufacturers’ total revenue and 40% to 80% of their total profits (Pollack, B., PTC Video: Transforming Your Service Organization with SLM (part 3 of 3)). When executed properly, after-sales service and support can provide increased revenue and invaluable customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Customer relationships are both a huge benefit and a huge risk.  Companies without a comprehensive plan to ensure high customer satisfaction often jeopardize customer relationships and risk affecting their company brand. Businesses often suffer when they overlook their role in service performance. Why focus solely on putting your product into the hands of customers? Why not also focus on service, and manage the performance of your products to ensure high customer satisfaction?

Customer Satisfaction Matters

Consumers who are willing to pay a premium for a product are looking for a company that provides the best value. If your company cannot deliver the value that your customer is willing to pay for, then you are going to disappoint that customer.

To build and maintain high customer satisfaction, companies need to look beyond traditional approaches.  It is no longer sufficient to provide good customer service by staffing a call center for customer support.  Customers need more than a call center or email.  They need their product to provide that expected value and perform well.  Businesses need to figure out how to deliver that value, maintain high product performance, and keep a happy customer.

Service as the Main Course

Viewing service as an extension of the product can help companies deliver added value and improve customer satisfaction. So what, then, is the hesitation that executives face when delivering service as a strategy in their organization?

Making strategic decisions can be challenging when confronted with numerous variables. Employing an effective service strategy can be especially challenging when organizations are divided into separate silos, with each department concerned only with its own objectives but missing the main objective: the customer.

To execute a service strategy well, companies must look to transform their current approach to service. They must optimize service performance and service functions across all departments and ensure everyone is working collaboratively to deliver a unified service experience that joins parts, product and service information, remote service, and predictive analytics that maximizes the product value to each customer.

Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) is the solution to a service transformation within an organization. SLM provides a platform to deliver on-demand parts, accurate and relevant product and service information, global remote service, and predictive analytics for maximum product performance.

The Right-Sized Service Lifecycle Management Solutions

Service excellence prepares your organization for years of satisfied customers and service related revenue streams. Don’t miss out on revenue opportunities and the chance to provide your company with a competitive advantage. Apply service as a strategy within your organization.

We have an entire team that is dedicated to helping you manage service life cycle. Check out our services here.

One challenge when working with technical information is that publications can be very large. Several hundred pages is not unusual and in some cases over a thousand pages are necessary to describe complex service procedures and part catalogs.
Authoring and assembling large books can be a painful process as the sheer size can be taxing to software. XML, DITA, and managing content objects do ease the pain, it is what industrial strength publishing software is designed to do. However, there is only so much information the average workstation can process.

Many creative solutions have been implemented to meet unique business requirements for book assembly. The business requirements and data sources vary from company to company, such as selecting lessons individually to create a complete custom course; or selecting individual part list and image pairs to create a complete part catalog. As an application expert, I have personally coded many custom solutions to support cobbling books together over the years and I know that many other equally creative solutions exist.

Word Cloud

PTC’s Service Information Manager adds three advanced capabilities to the XML authoring and content management system:

  1. Translation Management
  2. Part List Generation
  3. Publication Structures

Publication Structures are the least sexy of the three and the one that truly revolutionizes the book assembly process. Publication Structures are used to assemble information objects that are to be published. Essentially each Publication Structure represents a book. You can add a table of contents, a parts list, or any other XML content object or images to the book right in the Windchill SIM web browser user interface.

Without Publication Structures, books are typically assembled manually in Arbortext Editor. Someone would still have to assemble the book manually in a Publication Structure, but the user experience is very different. To get a sense of this, in Arbortext Editor, if a writer wants to move a chapter to a different location, they would edit the document, select content, cut it, move to the new location, and then paste. In a Publication Structure, the user can drag and drop chapter or section objects in the structure without ever opening the book to edit it.

Publication Structures provide an out-of-the-box method of assembling publications for the technical documentation community without customizing. As a result, organizations are able to greatly improve the process of information delivery and are able to leverage dynamic publishing capabilities to bring products to market faster, and keep customers better informed.

Learn More

Refer to PTC’s web site for a complete description of Service Information Manager.

EAC information solution experts have decades of reliable XML solution experience. Explore the EAC website to learn more about our products and services or review the Product Development Information Services Brochure.

Download our PDIS Brochure

EAC Product Development Solutions (EAC), a leading provider of product development technology and services, is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Arbortext Business Unit of TerraXML. This acquisition makes EAC unique in providing a complete end-to-end systematized solution set for managing product information, executing processes within that system, and publishing relevant information both inside and outside the enterprise.

Burnsville, MN, March 19, 2014 — EAC Screen Shot 2014-03-28 at 2.46.48 PMProduct Development Solutions (EAC) expands capabilities and services through the acquisition of TerraXML’s Arbortext Business Unit. This acquisition aligns EAC with industry trends toward Service Information Management (SIM), Service Lifecycle Management (SLM), and automated publishing of technical information. The Arbortext Business Unit will operate as the EAC Product Development Information Services group or PDIS, and provide implementation, customization, development, and support for the Arbortext product line.

Thane Hathaway, President and CEO of EAC said: “Small and medium businesses (SMB’s) need to manage and publish accurate product information in real time, across multiple platforms just like the Fortune 500’s, but they’ve never had a world class and affordable solution. With this acquisition, we’ve gained the unique ability to implement and support an end-to-end PLM and publishing system specifically tailored for SMB. We look forward to satisfying this market need while continuing to grow and develop these tools.”

Cory Huey, Vice President of Services at EAC said: “This acquisition opens the doors to many new possibilities. In the future, we will develop integrated dynamic publishing products that small companies can more easily afford and deploy. I’m excited to see where the market takes us from here.”

Acquiring the Arbortext Business Unit of TerraXML enables EAC to enter new markets and provide end-to-end solutions to the product development and manufacturing industries. Arbortext allows product companies to easily create products and technical publications and make that information available to customers, dealers, and service staff.