Digital Thread: An Essential Enabler of Digital Transformation

A digital thread ensures accurate, up-to-date product data is accessible, reliable, timely, actionable, and delivered in context to stakeholders across the value chain.

What is a digital thread?

A digital thread is an interconnected flow of relevant data that defines a product throughout its lifecycle. It provides a comprehensive view of a product's journey, from initial design and development to manufacturing, maintenance, service, and retirement.

It enables organizations to break down silos, streamline workflows, and achieve interoperability across departments, functions, and systems. A digital thread secures the quality and consistency of product-related data—keeping everyone up-to-date and on the same page.

Ultimately it allows organizations to extract value from, or make use of, product data that was previously inaccessible, underutilized, or hidden to unlock business value and opportunities.

Why do you need a digital thread?

A digital thread is essential for overcoming challenges and unlocking business value. It provides new ways to design, build, and service products, while it also:

  • Improves enterprise collaboration and timely, informed decision-making
  • Speeds new product introductions and helps manage complexity
  • Provides early visibility into design changes—eliminating the costs and waste of late-stage changes
  • Enables the efficient reuse of product data to increase efficiency and compress timelines

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What are the benefits of a digital thread?

By using a digital thread to leverage product data more effectively, organizations can drive innovation, optimize processes, strengthen customer relationships, and gain competitive advantage in the marketplace—ultimately unlocking shareholder value by controlling costs and delivering products and services that drive revenue.

Read our blog for more detail on digital thread benefits.

<p>By using a digital thread to leverage product data more effectively, organizations can drive innovation, optimize processes, strengthen customer relationships, and gain competitive advantage in the marketplace&mdash;ultimately unlocking shareholder value by controlling costs and delivering products and services that drive revenue. </p> <p>Read our blog for more detail on <a href="/en/blogs/corporate/digital-thread-benefits">digital thread benefits</a>. </p>

Accelerated time-to-market

By connecting data from design, engineering, operations, and customer feedback, the digital thread enables organizations to innovate and develop products more quickly and efficiently.

By connecting data from design, engineering, operations, and customer feedback, the digital thread enables organizations to innovate and develop products more quickly and efficiently.

Improved efficiency and productivity

Streamline processes across the lifecycle through concurrent collaboration, automation of repetitive tasks, and elimination of manual data entry. The result is faster, better decision-making, fewer errors, and less time wasted.

Streamline processes across the lifecycle through concurrent collaboration, automation of repetitive tasks, and elimination of manual data entry. The result is faster, better decision-making, fewer errors, and less time wasted.

Enhanced product quality and reliability

Enable the capture and analysis of quality data to identify issues faster. With feedback loops, quality, and product usage, information flows back to engineering to drive product improvement and accelerate corrective/preventative actions.

Enable the capture and analysis of quality data to identify issues faster. With feedback loops, quality, and product usage, information flows back to engineering to drive product improvement and accelerate corrective/preventative actions.

Streamlined compliance management

Help manage compliance and mitigate risks by facilitating traceability and data linkage across the product lifecycle. Quality and regulatory reporting and audits can be automated, ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations without manual reporting.

Help manage compliance and mitigate risks by facilitating traceability and data linkage across the product lifecycle. Quality and regulatory reporting and audits can be automated, ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations without manual reporting.

Enhanced customer experience

Improve service outcomes by reusing product data from engineering to speed the creation of accurate service documentation and instructions. This boosts technician efficiency, first-time fix rates, and customer satisfaction.

Improve service outcomes by reusing product data from engineering to speed the creation of accurate service documentation and instructions. This boosts technician efficiency, first-time fix rates, and customer satisfaction.

Digital thread technologies

With the digital thread, product configurations stay current, accuracy and quality are improved, change management is simplified, and portfolio complexity is managed, while optimizing cost across the entire value chain and product lifecycle.

These capabilities let companies efficiently meet and exceed regulatory compliance, time to market, and quality requirements in today’s demanding global marketplace.

PTC is uniquely positioned to enable digital thread and unlock value across your enterprise. You can rely on PTC’s heritage of product DNA experience and understanding of the value that product data can provide to your business—as well as our broad range of core digital thread offerings. 

PLM

Product lifecycle management (PLM) acts as the backbone for the digital thread—connecting product data from ALM, CAD, SLM, and other enterprise systems.

Enterprise PLM manages and orchestrates all aspects of the product development lifecycle—from concept through service and retirement. It supports change and configuration management, traceability, reuse, data integrity, and automation of manual processes to drive digital transformation success.

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CAD

As the industry standard for product design and development, CAD is an essential component for building a digital thread. 3D CAD solutions streamline the design, validation, and manufacturing of complex products, enabling model-based development (MBD), and incorporating requirements to ensure quality, compliance, and customer satisfaction.  Explore CAD

ALM

As software increasingly becomes an integral part of many products, application lifecycle management (ALM) emerges as an important consideration for the digital thread. ALM solutions accelerate the development of software-intensive products, reduce risk, and simplify complex product and software engineering at scale. It enables software engineering teams to efficiently collaborate on projects using proven agile practices and trusted, up-to-date information. Explore ALM

SLM

With a digital thread, access and reuse of relevant product data help simplify the creation of accurate, up-to-date technical information, service instructions, and part catalogs, saving time and improving productivity and customer satisfaction. With service lifecycle management (SLM), customers achieve maximum value over the entire serviceable life of a product. Explore SLM

The State of Digital Thread: How Companies Are Closing the Loop Between Digital and Physical

Our exclusive research report, which includes a survey of industry leaders, explores the trends and market influences propelling enterprises toward digital thread adoption.

More than that, this whitepaper discusses the technologies available to implement, specific applications and value drivers, as well as real-world companies achieving quantifiable results.

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Experience digital thread across the enterprise

A digital thread strategy weaves its way across a company creating an array of opportunities for business impact. With improved access to product data, employees find efficiencies, innovate faster, and improve customer service.

Explore our interactive visualization to see how the digital thread promotes engineering excellence, manufacturing efficiency, service optimization, and more.

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Digital thread examples

Vestas logo
volvo-ce-logo-margin
zf-logo-margin
Groupe Beneteau

Vestas

The leading manufacturer of wind turbines is on a digital thread journey to establish a product-centric way of working across the product lifecycle.

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Volvo CE

Volvo CE consolidated several product data management (PDM) solutions under a single PLM system to streamline product development.

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ZF

ZF adopted a single PLM system to improve the accessibility of product information without compromising security.

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Groupe Beneteau

To offer personalization at scale, Groupe Beneteau is using PTC’s PLM solution to create and orchestrate a digital thread.

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Digital thread frequently asked questions

What is the purpose of implementing a digital thread?

Throughout the product lifecycle, various stakeholders need data to perform their roles efficiently. For most companies, product data is not leveraged effectively due to:

  • Data Silos: Product data exists in all kinds of systems across the enterprise. When product data is disconnected, there is a lack of visibility and traceability across the lifecycle, and it is hard to manage changes and complexity.
  • Product Complexity: Discrete manufacturers often produce highly customizable products with many variants. Managing the complexity of these products requires sophisticated engineering, manufacturing, quality control, and service processes.
  • Data Volume: As complexity increases, greater volumes of product data are generated. Effectively organizing, analyzing, and leveraging it across the value chain is a significant challenge.

By implementing a digital thread, organizations can achieve a seamless flow of information across functional areas, improving decision-making, and fostering collaboration.

What does a digital thread do?

A digital thread provides fundamentally new ways to design, build, and service quality products—faster, better, and cheaper. It does this by making strategic use of the digital DNA of your products, transforming that product data from a static resource into a highly valuable living asset. With digital thread, stakeholders are empowered to make informed decisions at every stage of the product lifecycle.

What is a digital thread strategy?

A digital thread strategy is a plan or approach that outlines how an organization will interconnect and integrate their siloed digital data related to a product throughout its lifecycle. It involves implementing digital technologies to optimize internal processes, automate tasks, drive data-centricity, and improve overall efficiency, leading to cost savings and streamlined operations, among other benefits.

Why do customers need a digital thread strategy?

The primary goal of a digital thread strategy is to ensure that everyone across the product lifecycle has access to accurate, up to date, and contextualized product data. These efforts help to keep everyone on the same page by democratizing data and providing a continuous, connected, and easy-to-follow flow of information, leading to improved productivity, higher product quality, and reduced time to market.

What are some challenges faced when implementing a digital thread?

A digital thread implementation can start small and grow into an enterprise-wide initiative. However, regardless of the scope, barriers may exist that slow down adoption. Common challenges include securing executive buy-in, budget allocation and prioritization, overcoming internal resistance, and identifying and connecting the right systems and data.

What is the difference between digital twin and digital thread?

A digital twin is a dynamic digital representation of a real-world product or process that mirrors, emulates, and measures its physical counterpart. More than a digital copy, it includes the operational or experiential data of the physical counterpart from IoT data, real-world telemetry, service data, and more.

A digital thread provides the necessary information to create and maintain the digital twin, which can be used to optimize the performance of the physical product and process in the real world.

We have more detail on these two concepts on the blog.

What key characteristics are required for digital thread success?

Connectivity, integrations, and governance:
Frictionless integration and connectivity of siloed data sources, processes, and systems are critical to successful digital thread implementations. An open, standards-based, enterprise PLM system that governs, manages, orchestrates, and delivers data across the value chain is key.

Forward propagation of data:
The forward flow of relevant product data across the value chain enables stakeholders to share, utilize, and build upon that data, thereby creating value. Data reuse, change control, traceability, and feedback loops are critical capabilities.

Analysis and interrogation of data:
Additional value is achieved by combining data and performance metrics from multiple systems across your enterprise so that it can be easily analyzed and interrogated.

Scalability and security:
Product data not only needs to be securely shared across the enterprise, but also across geographies and the extended ecosystem with suppliers and customers.