Digital Thread – A new catchy phrase to replace PLM? 

Digital Thread – A new catchy phrase to replace PLM? 

Digital Thread was one of the top topics discussed earlier this week at ConX18 – a symposium organized by Institute of Business Process Excellence. You probably had a chance to following my social media posts. If you want to get a good summary, check the following twitter hashtag search here. The event link is here.

One of the questions I asked myself before the event – what is Digital Thread. You can find the following commonly used definition of Digital thread, but as you can imagine, it is very fuzzy and not clear.

The digital thread refers to the communication framework that allows a connected data flow and integrated view of the asset’s data throughout its lifecycle across traditionally siloed functional perspectives.

I can see an importance and significance of Digital Thread concepts and implementation. Information and communication are absolutely top priority for companies today in the world of digital transformation and business changes.

Unfortunately, multiple presentation during the event confirmed some of my concerns about what happens with Digital Thread – it is becoming a buzzword and vague definition used by corporate and analytic marketing. Few years ago I shared some of my concerns about it here –Digital Thread – another name for PLMish goodness.

Twitter discussion this year brought me the following message from David Ewing of Aras Corp, which added more to my level of concern related to Digital Thread.

I collected several definitions of Digital Thread presented by companies, analysts and vendors during the event. Check on this collection from Northrop Grumman, Siemens PLM, Bentley, CIMdata, Aras and CM2.

Northrop Gumman

Aras Corp


Bentley Systems

Siemens PLM

What is my conclusion? Companies are concerned about their business at the time of digital transformation. Digital economy brings new business models, competition and potential disruption. In my view, digital thread is an absolutely important topic to discuss. However… how to avoid some marketing stuff to come and turn rational concept into another meaningless buzzword? It is probably a good topic to discuss among vendors and PLM industry community. Time will show if the rational thinking win. Just my thoughts…

Best, Oleg

Disclaimer: I’m co-founder and CEO of OpenBOM developing cloud based bill of materials and inventory management tool for manufacturing companies, hardware startups and supply chain. My opinion can be unintentionally biased


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  • Neil Littell

    Great article Oleg. To me, the digital thread just describes PLM controlled continuity with respect to our business processes. I am starting to feel like digital twin is also morphing into a buzz word.

  • David Ewing Jr.

    Oleg – thanks for including my tweet but it seems that it may have been taken out of context. To clarify, my comment referred to the way I hear many of the legacy PLM players using the term – “Digital Thread”. Sure, it sounds great, but they have been promising integrated & connected data (Digital Thread) for years. Their fragmented architectures (built by acquisition, not design) can’t support it. On the other hand, the Aras platform (as you see in Rob’s slide) supports the entire lifecycle, including the various functions and disciplines within a firm. This allows the user to navigate configuration-specific links between all assets, subject to access permissions of course. – D

  • beyondplm

    Neil, thanks for your comment! I agree Digital twin is also kind of buzzword these days. Awful thing actually, but as I like to say – “beavers do what beavers do”. And as soon as we bring marketing people to digital thread – they will build a damN 🙂

  • beyondplm

    David, Thank you for clarification . I can see your point of comparison between Aras and other PLMs. While Aras flexible model clearly an advantage for many companies, for Digital Thread is still mono-company solution. What if you have digital thread combining multiple suppliers working with multiple OEMs? How Aras is different in such case? It is still ONE DATABASE for each company (or at least ONE DATABASE for OEM).

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