5 Examples of Digital Thread in the Enterprise

Written By: Kelly McNelis
  • 9/14/2020
  • Read Time : 4 min
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Editor's Note: This post was updated in July 2021.

Have you ever wondered what makes a company a leader in its industry? Why some companies emerge as leaders against their competitors? There are many answers to this question, but one increasingly prevalent answer is that companies are leveraging relevant digital technologies to work smarter, reduce costs, drive innovation, and more.

Finding ways to combine different technologies to yield more powerful results and business value is at the crux of digital transformation. One of the ways enterprises are achieving significant value is through the implementation of something you might have heard of before: the digital thread.

What is digital thread? A digital thread creates a closed loop between digital and physical worlds to optimize products, people, processes, and places. By “closing the loop” there is continuity of data across departments and collaboration across functions to improve the product, the physical processes, and empower the people who are involved at every step.

In this post, we will take a look at three market-leading enterprises and how they implemented a digital thread to solve business challenges, all while making them stand out against their competitors.

Digital Thread for Increased Collaboration: Volvo CE

Challenge:

In the automotive industry, there is increased market pressure to shorten product lifecycle and increase product complexity, all while managing the shifting landscapes of government regulations and supply chain. For Volvo CE, this challenge was compounded by siloed PLM systems, manual efforts, and data duplication across systems.

Project:

Within their digital transformation strategy, Volvo CE had to address its costly and complex collection of legacy systems and processes that had been established over decades of acquisitions and isolated projects. Since 2018, the company has replace three out of its four legacy PLM systems with a single PLM solution (Windchill). With PLM as a foundation for digital thread, Volvo CE has been able to work toward its ultimate vision of an end-to-end value flow.

Outcome:

With PLM, Volvo CE is able to manage digital product definitions through all stages of the product lifecycle, including anything that defines the form, fit, and function of a part, system, or machine. With a digital thread in place, Volvo CE is able to achieve:

  • Increased collaboration with one shared system between functions
  • Reduced lead time with correct first solutions in early phases of product development
  • Manufacturing requirements connected to product, process, and resources and visible for all
  • Increased reuse of already existing solutions, to reduce cost and lead-time
  • Global governance to control the global product structure

 

Digital Thread for Improved Quality: VCST

Challenge:

VCST, an automotive supplier of powertrain and brake components, is committed to digital transformation. When COVID-19 hit, their efforts accelerated to meet the high expectations of their industry. They identified several smart factory initiatives for their facility in Belgium with the goals of reducing costs, increasing quality, fueling innovation, and improving time-to-market.

Project:

VCST set out to unify its IoT and PLM systems with the goal of infusing real-time data and digital solutions across their operation by combining the connect, collect, and analyses capabilities of ThingWorx with the data governance and traceability of Windchill. The results was a digital thread that captures and relates the data of machines and processes within the factory with change management and configuration information.

Outcome:

The immediate outcome is the higher quality products at a faster rate. With digital thread connecting engineering and manufacturing operations, it estimates time to implement changes has been improved by 25%. Their ability to respond to quality concerns, regulatory requirements, and customer demands, has increased significantly with their closed loop digital thread.

Digital Thread for Product Differentiation: Groupe Beneteau

Challenge:

With over 10 brands and 200 boat design models, Groupe Beneteau needed a better way meet increased consumer demands for customization within a reasonable timeline.

Project:
Building a digital thread anchored with product lifecycle management (PLM) that democratized product data across its brands and models increased visibility within multiple functions. This allowed Beneteau to accelerate product manufacturing and improve design collaboration, all while meeting the consumer interest in customization.

Outcome:
Beneteau’s digital thread paid off. Beneteau is able to efficiently create customized products and further enhance customer relationships and satisfaction through IoT-enabled factories. With their digital thread, Beneteau has the ability to leverage additional technologies, like augmented reality, that can further enrich the brand experience in the future.

Digital Thread for Process Efficiency: Carlsberg

Challenge:

World-renowned brewer Carlsberg was looking to optimize its manufacturing processes across its production sites, floors, and machinery. The global company needed to find an effective way to access information that resided within their critical manufacturing execution systems. These systems were widely dispersed across Carlsberg’s 100 locations making it difficult to access information.

Project:

With a digital thread strategy in hand, Carlsberg integrated IIoT into their legacy systems to drill down into the factory floor and connect with interrelated factories.

Outcome:

Carlsberg can now access key performance indicators at the global factory and production-line levels. Since enabling digital thread practices, Carlsberg was able to upgrade their services to its 150 geographical markets.

Digital Thread for People Productivity: Mercedes-Benz

Challenge:

In order to continue leading the market, luxury automotive OEM Mercedes-Benz is always looking to improve its connection to the consumer. Their goal was to enhance the customer’s digital experience through augmented reality, while relying on a digital thread.

Project:

Mercedes-Benz created ‘Ask Mercedes,’ a self-service and augmented reality application between the consumer and the vehicle. Through the application, consumers can view engineering information for product education that is digitally overlaid on the car’s dashboard. Ask Mercedes relies on a digital thread to bring and display relevant design and engineering data.

Outcome:

By having ‘Ask Mercedes,’ drivers are able to intuitively learn about the vehicle and its features. Additionally, Mercedes-Benz can utilize the data from the application to understand customer needs and future product iterations.

Final Thoughts

Digital thread is a powerful concept that can be implemented in different ways and ultimately drive impact across the enterprise. With each of these examples, digital thread was implemented to solve a different challenge and made a significant business impact.

The State of Digital Thread

Learn how companies are closing the loop between physical and digital.

Tags:
  • Augmented Reality
  • Industrial Internet of Things
  • PLM
  • Chalk
  • Automotive
  • Industrial Equipment
  • Digital Thread
  • Digital Twin

About the Author

Kelly McNelis

Kelly is a corporate communications specialist at PTC. Her responsibilities include drafting and approving content for PTC’s external and social media presence and supporting communications for the Chief Strategy Officer. Kelly has previous experience as a communications specialist working to create and implement materials for the Executive Vice President of the Products Organization and senior management team members.