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.
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!