Blog: The 'digital twin' is familiar, but what is the 'digital thread'?

By Shi-Wah Lin, for ARC Advisory Group

Sep 27, 2017

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As it is today, many of product lifecycle processes, from design, to process planning and engineering, manufacturing are siloed because different software tools, models and data representations are used, and often by many different teams across different organizations and geographic locations. To achieve the goals of smart manufacturing, these product lifecycle processes and manufacturing functions need to be connected and integrated to increase process automation, responsiveness and efficiency, and to reduce human errors.

Digital thread refers to the communication framework for integrating production functions across the product chain and integrating product data for digital models. It does so by enabling data flow and integrated view of the product’s data throughout its lifecycle across different stages, from design, to manufacturing, and now to operation, and even to end-of-life and recycling of the product.

With the digital thread, we can digitally streamline the production functions to increase speed and efficiency, and reduce human errors. With it, we can readily collect all relevant data about an individual product, from design specification common across product instances, manufacturing data specific to each product, data about its operation and maintenance, etc. These data can be used to build models for individual product. These models, built and supported by all the data about the product, dynamically reflecting the current state and its history of a product in its full lifecycle, constitute the so-called digital twin of the physical product.

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