Digital Thread in 2021: 5 Takeaways from a Survey of DX Leaders

Written By: Molly Isadora Sadoff
  • 7/1/2021
  • Read Time : 2 min

Industry leaders who participated in PTC’s State of Digital Thread survey earlier this year identified top priorities for their business. Ranked ahead of the typically significant topics like artificial intelligence and cybersecurity was digital thread initiatives.

But what do digital thread initiatives really entail and why are enterprises prioritizing them?

In the latest installment of PTC’s ongoing research series, State of Digital Thread, this is explored in detail. Below you’ll find our top five takeaways:

1. There is a significant data gap between perceived value of data and the ability of companies to recognize that value.

While 74% of leaders who participated in the survey cite improving their ability to leverage data across the enterprise would be effective or highly effective at addressing disruption, less than 34% of those same leaders say that data created within their department is widely available on their enterprise system. This continues to drop to 16% for company data generated outside their department and drops even further for data from customers, products and suppliers.

Independent of the individual reason, the inability for employees to access relevant data presents a risk and missed opportunity. As digital technology continually raises customer expectations and enables innovation of products and processes, companies who fail to utilize their data for efficiency across functions and departments are at a significant disadvantage to those who do.

When we look back at the data, a large percentage understand the potential value of their data – why aren’t they able to harness it? Most often, the answer is tied to shortcomings of siloed information systems and their impediment to cross-organizational coordination. This brings us to our second key takeaway.

2. Siloed systems must be bridged.

Traditional siloed systems and the processes associated with them do enable the agility necessary to meet ever-increasing expectations of quality and efficiency. They inherently create friction – causing the following issues for companies:

  • Duplicated Efforts
  • Multiple Sources of Truth
  • Data Inaccessibility

Each of these issues take employees’ time away from their primary roles, jeopardizing opportunities for product improvement, and delaying access to data that can accelerate processes. Additionally, traditional siloed systems do not allow for shared knowledge across functions, which inhibits optimal performance of the business. With the right technology and partners, a digital thread initiative starts bridging traditional silos and propagating information across teams and systems – and ultimately, unlocking business value.

3. The digital thread closes the loop between the digital and physical.

Connecting the digital world (ex. product design data, process data and asset information), and the physical world (ex. products, components, equipment parts and physical assets) allows companies to use the digital process to analyze and manage the physical asset. When the physical asset and the digital process are connected, it enables the company to “close the loop” and expand the continuity of data across departments as well as collaboration across functions.

While digital thread initiatives are incredibly popular with today’s business leaders, industry best practices are still being learned and developed. Leading companies are seeking out partners for expertise and guidance.

Enterprise solution vendors and system integrators are often guiding others due to their experience in starting these initiatives. Similarly, industries with historically siloed systems and products that require rigorous engineering specifications, complex manufacturing and vast supply chains are often on the cutting edge of digital thread projects because they have the most to gain.

4. Digital thread produces value across the company.

As the data gaps are bridged, siloed systems are released, and the digital and physical loops are closed, companies and leaders can start realizing value across the value chain. The report goes into detail about how digital threads address cross-functional challenges and how the value can be quantified at the individual department level for engineering, manufacturing, service, and sales & marketing groups, among others. See how companies like Volvo CE and VCST unlocked the power of digital thread to address challenges and realize substantial value.

5. Digital thread adoption rates are trending upwards.

When we look at adoption rates, companies are starting digital thread initiatives across their workforce. The survey found:

  • 44% of organizations surveyed have already implemented digital thread functionality into their operations and are continuing to expand to other departments.
  • 94% of respondents have started pursuing these digital threads despite headwinds caused by COVID-19.

With the ever-increasing pressure to produce and develop products faster and more efficiently, combined with better customer service and experience, these companies are compelled to begin a digital thread strategy. These projects are typically enterprise-wide initiatives, with nearly half (49%) investing over $1 million annually and are led by C-level officers and department heads.

To learn more about these transformational projects, read the full report here.  

The State of Digital Thread

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

  • Digital Transformation
  • Augmented Reality
  • Digital Thread
  • Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • Industrial Internet of Things

About the Author

Molly Isadora Sadoff

Molly Isadora Sadoff is a project manager for Corporate Marketing at PTC. She started with the company in 2019, working on the Global Partner Marketing team, where she collaborated cross functionally with internal teams to design, develop, and manage global marketing programs. Molly previously worked for several life sciences startups running their events strategy and programs. She is a graduate of the University of Hartford and in her free time enjoys hiking, kayaking and adventuring with her dog, Henrietta.