Building a digital Thread
How to track your products from conception to end-of-Life
The Future is Here
Go digital and boost your business
Why digital thread?
When a digital thread follows a product every step of the way from conception to end-of-life, a company will know precisely what it has built, sold and serviced. This will decrease time-to-market, reduce costs and make it easier to release new products on time. Most importantly, it will enable feedback of a quality never seen before and support development and innovation.
But it isn’t easy to establish a relevant and functioning digital thread. Though Concurrent Engineering, Design for X, Product Life-cycle Management (PLM) and Engineering Change Management (ECM) have been around for decades, most companies work in sequences, and this is where tracking a product becomes difficult.
Engineering completes the design before the supply chain starts preparation and servicing is managed somewhere else entirely.
On top of this, development, production, sales and service are often scattered over several locations; each managed separately and with separate budget and culture. As a result, there is a good chance that any finished product will differ significantly from what was initially planned, and, over time, servicing will introduce even more changes.
Unfortunately, the less an organisation knows about its products, the harder it gets to use the feedback received from customers. Furthermore, it makes no sense to develop an IoT-fitted product if you can’t utilise the data it sends back.
This is why it makes sense to establish a reliable and relevant digital thread, seamlessly following every product all the way from the drawing board to end-of-service. To do this, a company needs to consider the processes between Engineering and Operations, across PLM, ERP, SLM and the business organisation, and get them all aligned digitally.
The digital twin
A digital twin describes the situation where a product is accurately followed digitally from conception through production and sales and remains accurately tracked post-sales. A digital twin is simply a digital blueprint from which an identical product with identical components, tear, wear and servicing could be produced in theory.
With a digital twin, every part of the product is traceable at all times: No substitutes are added and no servicing done without logging it. Now, by using IoT, sensors can track the product as it is deployed in the field and report back on the way the product is used. Hopefully, this will identity how and when the products fail and, in time, make it possible to predict weak points and break-downs in advance.
Feedback from a product with a genuine digital twin will help source the best components, track weak and strong performance points and help to develop and service products with a new degree of understanding. With a digital twin, rather than react to problems, you can anticipate them and perhaps learn how to avoid them altogether.
Getting consistent, relevant, high-quality data is difficult. There’s a choice of what data to collect, and then there is the challenge of making sure that the data are collected and logged correctly – all the time! – by employees equipped with different skills, languages and areas of expertise.
Next, the data needs to be transferred between the various departments and system without loss of quality. Often it’s a case of automating the transfer of information from one database or system to another (CAD, SAP, Windchill, the spreadsheet that everyone’s been using for years, etc.).
This is no easy feat, but crucial to establish a mature digitalisation of the organisation and an effective and beneficial digital thread.
Once a coherent digital thread is established, the boost to the organisation can be phenomenal. Our experience suggests an 80% reduction of errors in master data when automating the maintenance of Bill of Materials (BOM), and a 20% reduction in purchase cost prices due to suppliers qualifying at an earlier stage. We’ve seen months of reduction in time-to-market.
Once in place, the digital thread will offer efficiency costs at every level and, as data are filtered to every specific user’s needs, the product-knowledge will improve at every level in the organisation.
Why go digital?
Digitalisation is not a goal – it’s a means to an end. If your company doesn’t need digital twins, there’s no point in getting them.
However, if your organisation could benefit from an effective digital thread, IoT, augmented reality or a switch from selling products to providing a service, we can tell you how and lead the way to a more inspired future.
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Why choose BoostPLM
At BoostPLM we will work with your organisation across the divisions and systems to create a seamless flow of data following every single product. We will work with people to ensure that the new standards are adhered to. We will make sure the processes are fault proof, that the systems make sense and that the data collected are relevant and of the necessary quality.
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Peter à Porta
Senior Business Consultant