Guidelines for PLM and Digital Thread Adoption

Written By: Carlos Melgarejo
  • 7/11/2022
  • Read Time : 3 min

Do you trust that your product data is up-to-date and complete?

If the answer is no and you’re dealing with unnecessary rework, poor data governance, and the inability to quickly access reliable product data, then your company needs a strategy for implementing a digital thread.  This plan of action can help unify communications and optimize processes throughout the business across the entire value chain. Product data can then be readily available, reflective of the latest design and design changes, and in the perspective of any user’s functional role. 

Why Is the Digital Thread Important?

The digital thread is a collection of upstream and downstream product and process information. It creates information continuity and allows you to access it anytime, anywhere across the enterprise. It also enables you to execute cross-departmental processes across organizations through its connectivity, allowing you to work bi-directionally across enterprise teams and systems from engineering to manufacturing, service and the field. A digital infrastructure is important because it helps your company streamline product development and create digital continuity. Significant business improvements can be realized from having a digital thread in place: your company can benefit from higher product quality, superior efficiency, lower lead-time, improved innovation, greater security, and more.

PLM Is the Foundation of the Digital Thread

Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) is a key driving force for it’s the backbone to the digital thread. In fact, a report by research firm Tech-Clarity confirms that top performing companies are 73% more likely to use PLM to support the digital thread.  PLM drives the digital definition of a product starting with engineering then extending into other functional departments. Within the engineering department, various components, parts, and embedded software are connected to requirements, bills of materials, process plans, simulations, certifications, and more. All this data and variations of it are then connected to the systems and processes used by the enterprise and value chain teams. 

Seven Considerations for Digital Thread Implementation

PLM enables companies to bring processes up to date and make information accessible under one common data infrastructure. It’s important for companies to evaluate their digital infrastructure capabilities to ensure they are sufficiently addressing their needs both now and in the future. Here’s a summary of seven requirements to consider when getting started on your journey to establishing the PLM digital thread with. 

1. Ensure Data is Organized

The first step to establishing a foundation for the digital thread is through product data management (PDM). Teams must be able to collaborate securely and globally leveraging multiple CAD tools, trusting that data is accurate, current, and under control. This data provides a unified source of truth and delivers a structure on which the rest of the digital platform is supported on. 

2. Create Accurate, Up-To-Date BOMs 

The PLM digital thread should mirror the products, their bill of materials (BOMs), and their configurations. The BOM must be a live representation of the product configuration and connected to the underlying design data. Creating correct, updated BOMs ensures downstream operations are running according to design intent and can benefit from BOM transformation. 

3. Production Planning

The PLM digital thread needs to extend to the design and execution of manufacturing processes. Manufacturing engineers should be able to work in alignment with design engineers to plan manufacturing processes, tooling, and equipment. 

4. Address Parts, Suppliers, and Reuse

The PLM digital thread should be based on a standard parts catalog as the single source of truth and enable part rationalization and reuse. Engineers should be able to easily find part data to integrate into their design. 

5. Incorporate Quality Data

Quality management processes and information should be integrated and connected in context with design data. Engineers should always design for quality with the proper controls and account for changing industry regulations. 

6. Drive Change

It’s important that digital thread processes are implemented to create and maintain data integrity. One of these key processes is a functional change management process. A digital thread provides the link between the intended change and the supporting data.

7. Ensure Participation

It’s important to consider the people who are at the center of innovation and execution of the digital infrastructure – and this team can span from CAD designers to manufacturing and supply chain users. Teamwork is key to developing, maintaining, and gaining value from connected processes. 

Establishing the digital thread is a critical step to a swift and successful digital transformation, and that can be achieved with PLM. For a more in-depth look at the requirements to help you evaluate your company’s digital infrastructure capabilities, refer to The Seven Building Blocks of the Digital Thread eBook. Or learn more about how a digital thread can benefit your various enterprise teams.                   


The Seven Building Blocks of the Digital Thread

Learn the key components needed for building a successful digital thread.

  • Product Lifecycle Management (PLM)
  • Digital Thread

About the Author

Carlos Melgarejo Carlos is a Sr. Content Marketing Specialist for PTC’s PLM technology. He comes from a broadcast journalism background where he developed a love for writing and visual storytelling. He is also passionate about developing creative content and communications, having received a Master’s degree in Marketing. He enjoys the outdoors, the beach, exercising, riding his motorcycle and car restoration.