What is needed to turn PLM into Digital Thread?

What is needed to turn PLM into Digital Thread?

There is no lack of PLM definitions in this world. From a very simple like the version provided by Al Dean almost 10 years ago to very complex such as CIMdata’s one – A strategic business approach that applies a consistent set of business solutions that support the collaborative creation, management, dissemination, and use of product definition information. Check more here.

Manufacturing transformation these days open new horizons for PLM – Digital Twin and Digital Thread. Both are tightly connected to existing functions of PLM, but at the same time, expanding a traditional view of PLM even more.

CIMdata industry summary article – CIMdata President Peter Bilello Published on CATIA Community – “Digital Threads, Twins Playch-Up in the Factory speaks about the role of both in a new manufacturing environment.

However, my favorite passage from the article is about Digital Twin and Digital Thread:

In the factory, Digital twins are virtual representations of the enterprise’s assets, one twin for each physical production process, for example, along with its related production tools, and all that defines and supports them. The digital twin represents the asset at a specific point in time—“as-operated”—and on through the end of the asset’s lifecycle. Digital twins of assets are holistic, lifelike, and can be animated as simulations.

A digital thread is the communication framework that allows a continuous data flow into and integrated views of an asset’s digital twin. Via digital threads, digital twins are connected to the factory’s internal data networks for tooling, inspection, certifications, and much else. The digital thread gathers, secures, tracks, and moves data from where it is created or stored to where it creates value by providing insights to human decision makers, analysts, and programmers. Enabling the digital thread with lifecycle management ensures that data about the configuration of an asset is always clear, concise, and valid.

I think our understanding of digital thread is becoming more mature and there is a chance will move away from blunt marketing. My earlier concern was mostly about how existing PLM companies are calling old products using new names.

CIMdata article made me think about what is actually needed to turn a traditional PLM into a digital thread? Here is my take with 3 things you need to have to turn your PLM system into Digital Thread.

1- Full Lifecycle Support

It is important to have a system capable to manage all stages of the product lifecycle. it is true that many established PLM systems are mostly playing the role of PDM systems to manage CAD files revisions and data. To expand data management to expand to all aspects of product development with the ability to store xBOMs (or how some companies call “product structure”) for design, planning, manufacturing, maintenance, and support is needed to take the next step in product lifecycle implementations

2- Product data communication standards

Since the digital thread is potentially representing data from different products, functions, and organization to have solid horizontal data standards is absolutely important to ensure data is not locked in an old fashion PDM/PLM databases. Check on of my ideas about Product Data Commodities. In my view, we are going to see it very soon.

3- Multi-tenant data management

Last , but absolutely important. Digital Thread is spanning across multiple organizations. Modern manufacturing organization is distributed and performing as a giant web (networks) of data. Old fashion single-tenant data management is not enough to organize data in the right way to be isolated and at the same time available for many organizations. Multi-tenancy is a technology that clearly can make it happen.

What is my conclusion? We are just at a very early beginning of PLM transformations. Industrial companies are actively interested in how to improve their IT and PLM environment. Digital transformation is becoming real and as a result, the demand for digital thread implementations are growing. It is interesting to see a trajectory of today’s PLM vendors and new platforms capable to turn old fashion PDM/PLM environment into the future digital trend. 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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