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.
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:
- Product lifecycle management (PLM)
- Supply chain management (SCM)
- Quality management
- Risk management
- Service and maintenance
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 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.
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!
We have seen many of our customers use EAC assessments as the first step to open up a world of opportunities for their company to grow and evolve its processes.
JR Automation has been an EAC customer for over a decade, and when we first started working with them, the first action was an EAC assessment. We were able to provide them a customized roadmap for success and prove how JR was going to achieve it. EAC has helped JR Automation find ways to save time, save money and increase efficiency – with savings over $1.4 million every year. JR took the first step with EAC helping them to find that starting point. Today JR continues to find new ways to innovate and evolve with growing customer demands in a highly competitive marketplace.
What to Expect from an EAC Assessment
Assessments can seem daunting at first. You may be asking yourself questions like, “Are they going to come in and tell us all the things we are doing wrong?”
In reality, our goal with assessments is to identify your current state and production/manufacturing processes, assess the maturity of your operational technologies, and work with your team to pinpoint an ideal future state. Making transformational changes to a company can be a sizable cultural shift and we help companies prepare to make that change. There are risks you take when you don’t assess your current situation, and we want to help you minimize those risks.
Functional Group Assessment (FGA)
The EAC Functional Group Assessment provides an objective format for your functional groups to truly understand their creation, consumption, and delivery of product data. These groups could consist of any cross-sectional team members from engineering, design, manufacturing, sales, marketing, or management.
During an FGA, our team of subject-matter experts will work to understand how your key team members work daily to complete the product development process. After the evaluation is complete and our experts have uncovered your current processes and technology usage, we will help you establish a roadmap that will lead your company to higher productivity and savings across the board.
After our findings have been documented and studied, we will lay out new possible methods and functions to improve overall productivity. These recommendations could include ways to improve capability gaps, business policy improvements, procedures that ensure efficiency and alignment, or strategies for training to maintain efficiency.
The benefits of an FGA could span from understanding your Functional Group alignment to business objectives and initiatives and their use of existing toolsets to examining processes and daily tasks that reflect your current state. We also uncover overall awareness of opportunities for improvement and bring alignment to Functional Vision for your desired future state.
Ultimately, we help you create a plan to achieve that desired state so you can spend less time wondering how to grow and more time-saving money through innovation. Companies like ITW Paslode and Nordco have taken advantage of the FGA and have seen the financial value in getting started on the transformational journey.
Product Development System Assessment (PDSA)
Similar to the FGA, a Product Development System Assessment is an EAC-provided service that explores an organization’s product development system functionality. Our experts look at an organization’s operations and provide broad insight into improvement initiatives and establish a strategy for achieving operational improvement of a Product Development System.
When working through this assessment, our team has candid one-on-one discussions with your team members where we uncover what is working well, any occurred costs, and evaluate optimization opportunities.
The results that stem from an EAC Assessment are unmatched. Companies are discovering data they never knew were siloed, teams that were frustrated with processes, and many other disruptions in production. After uprooting and addressing these issues, companies like JR Automation, HyrdaForce, DRS, Merrick, and Systems Control are able quote more business and respond to customers faster – increasing their profit as well as employee and customer satisfaction.
Streamlined Product Development System Assessment (SPDSA)
Similar to the functional PDSA, the Streamlined Product Development System Assessment focuses on the interviews and direct inputs from your team members. However, it does not include an online survey and corresponding metric output. This assessment is offered as one variation of the Product Development System Assessment to fit your specific needs.
This assessment is a great fit for companies that have the desire to optimize their product development system, have the approval to move forward with the optimization, but are unsure where to start or what to focus on first.
While there are a few exclusions from the full PDSA in this assessment, our team still coordinates select participants to plan and schedule the execution of individual interviews with participants involved in the assessment. This process will be a higher level approach than a full PDSA, and may not include as many details or metrics. This assessment is still an excellent tool to explore your current business functions and define a roadmap to success.
Digital Manufacturing Assessment (DMA)
The Digital Manufacturing Assessment evaluates the overall state of your current product development systems regarding IoT initiatives, provides broad organizational visibility to improvement initiatives and identifies an IoT solution roadmap to help you determine the very first steps you should take on your digital transformational journey.
After evaluating your current manufacturing practices and operations, our experts will identify the best opportunities for growth that align with your corporate goals. When Kimray did a DMA with our team, they were able to recognize technology and solutions that would integrate with their current processes and also propel them to the next level in production. Together we developed a strategic roadmap that enhanced their processes.
The opportunities and pathways are endless to how your company can achieve digital transformation in the same way – a DMA is a great place to start.
Value Stream Mapping Assessment (VSMA)
A Value Stream Mapping Assessment consists of documenting the key action steps during production, gathering information from inputs and outputs, examining the systems used to manage that information, and pinpointing key optimization opportunities at each step. After, our experts work with your team to define an ideal future state of your product development process. The future process documentation outlines key improvements needed in business principles, policies, processes, and procedures utilizing the latest systems available to you to facilitate those improvements. Our EAC experts then defines a high-level roadmap and guidance on how to achieve those improvements.
During a VSMA, your team can expect to receive an important strategy that documents your current state including process documentation, pains, and what those pains are costing your business. With this information, together we will curate the vision of your future state – what your development could be – and create a roadmap on how to get there.
The company MEANS had EAC come in for a VSMA and was able to get a roadmap on system integrations that opened up the opportunities for better processes to connect their company. With an EAC roadmap, MEANS was able to realize a future state of streamlined processes to get their product to market faster and with less downtime.
When to Start
Now that we’ve answered the “what” and “why” of EAC assessments, the next question is “when.” Knowing you want to take your business to the next level, but feeling like you don’t how or where to start is the perfect time to invest in an assessment. Our ultimate goal is to understand your unique enterprise, your corporate strategic goals, and its current state, define your ideal future state, and plan an achievable way to get there together. EAC’s Assessment services can be the stepping stones for long-term company success and digital transformation.
Want to hear more testimonials or see which assessment would fit your company best and see how we could transform the way you do business? Connect with one of our experts!