Product development companies require a combination of digital thread technologies that are unique to their strategies and circumstances. Digital thread technology can encompass a mix of existing in house systems such as data management tools and external software applications.
Over recent years it has become apparent that some technologies claiming to have similar data unification goals as the digital thread fail to meet expectations for a lot of companies. Take the examples of general-purpose data aggregation and management tools such as data lakes, according to Gartner; these tools lack useful management capabilities.
To give you an idea of the global scale of the digital thread. In 2019, the Worldwide Digital Thread market size was worth $222.7 million, and it is expected to reach $3485.8 million by the end of 2026, that is a CAGR of 47.6% during 2021-2026.
We think that the stats speak for themselves. But, let’s take a look at some of the main ways the digital thread can benefit people, processes and products.
Digital Thread For People
People-centric metrics such as first-time fix rates and productivity determine daily strategic considerations and operating costs. However, there have been very few technological developments for the 2.5 billion front-line workers around the world.
Augmented reality is providing a reliable platform to transfer information between front-line workers. Service technicians who have access to augmented reality are given accurate and current repair instructions and factory worker assembly instructions. One of the most significant advantages of using AR is for training junior employees. AR can capture expert workflows which can be repurposed to get junior workers up to standard.
AR can even provide companies with the tools to manufacture life-saving products, such as ventilators used for the growing demand in hospitals due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Global companies such as Ikea and Coca-cola are implementing AR, intertwined with the digital thread today.
Digital Thread For Processes
Daily processes in factories and industrial environments rely on a varied range of data sources that are often disconnected.
These data sources can include:
- Data from machines/robots
- Work instructions
- Connectivity gateways and logic controllers
- Data management systems
- ERP software
- And, other industrial systems
IoT solutions are increasingly using the digital thread to analyse assets and data across heterogeneous industrial environments.
The digital thread continues to consolidate operations in manufacturing. 451 research cites that 53% currently use or plan to use digital thread technology to increase the speed of access to cross plant instrumentation and status.
Digital Thread For Products
Savvy manufacturers will frequently look for opportunities to create competitive products that align with changing market needs. Yet, a significant stumbling block for them is limited production capacity and limited finances.
For product manufacturers, the story of the digital thread usually starts in the engineering department and then scales its way across manufacturing processes. Being able to source varying forms of data throughout a product’s lifecycle in a single editable digital method is highly valuable. According to research by LNS, these different product data sources can include quality (59% of manufacturers are sourcing), production (58%), machine/sensors (57%), supplier (46%), materials (45%), and financial (43%).
With this valuable information, manufacturers are using PLM systems to manage their conflicting data sources and create unique products. For example, engineering departments can increase product performance feedback to improve future product iterations.
Using PLM to link manufacturing production process data with internal factory assets, including IIoT-enabled machines, external supplier and material data, can significantly increase product development and time-to-market.
Adjusting standard product models and smoothly managing product changes as they scale the value chain will solidify traditionally siloed departments. Market trends, including mass customisation and customer-centricity, will also drive digital thread adoption.
For a successful implementation of the digital thread, businesses must make their strategic initiatives a priority. Digital thread technology requires a combination of in-house traditional data management tools and new, innovative techniques capable of sourcing and scaling additional internal and external types of data. PLM, AR and IIoT will be vital digital thread technologies for industrial companies who want to differentiate products, optimise processes, and inspire people.